Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Real World 101

Can we widen the net on programs like these? I hope that they are doing a redicivism rate anaylsis on this.

BOULDER — When Manny Gonzales Jr. first caught wind of a jail program aimed at teaching inmates the skills needed to stay out of the criminal justice system, he had doubts — serious doubts.

“I personally thought that it wouldn’t last, that it wouldn’t make it,” he said.

Gonzales, 37, is a longtime veteran of the inside of jails and prisons, and he thought the mentality of the jail population would stunt the potential of the transitions module at the Boulder County Jail.

Now Gonzales is one of 64 inmates who live in the year-old module and take a course load specifically designed for their particular needs once they are released. He and others like him consider the program a golden opportunity unlike any they have ever encountered while locked up.

“I am not just sitting here doing nothing,” Gonzales said. “I am bettering myself.


The transitions module at the Boulder County Jail was founded in April 2007 as an offshoot of the Intensive Drug Treatment Court Program. Using resources from the jail, Boulder County Criminal Justice Services and the local courts, an entire mod at the jail that houses up to 64 was dedicated to the program. Inmates who show an interest and aptitude for curriculum designed to teach them real-world skills are allowed to live in the module away from the general population.

Cmdr. Bill Black at the Boulder County Jail helps to run the new program with Sgt. Sue Yankovich. He said the idea is to help curb recidivism by teaching inmates the life skills they will need to handle their freedom and avoid the pitfalls of criminal lifestyles.

“Our target population is people who are mid-30s and have extensive criminal histories, because they are looking to finally change their lifestyle,” Black said. “People that are younger still like their lifestyles out there.”

Boulder County’s program is still in its infancy, but programs like it are still rare in Colorado. Black said El Paso County won a federal grant to fund a similar program, but it was founded after Boulder County’s in August 2007. Black and Yankovich plan to tour El Paso County’s program to learn more about its approach.

Boulder County used $75,000 from the State Criminal Assistance Program to launch the program. Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and others help to find instructors.

Black said he has a personal stake in helping inmates learn.

“I know they are coming back into the community I live in,” he said.

Meanwhile, inmates at the Boulder County Jail are keeping the module filled and active. Inmates attend classes and complete homework.

“That is what they are learning that they never have before — to think before they act,” Yankovich said.

Women in the program live in the women’s module and attend most classes separately. Yankovich said between eight and 15 women have been in the program at any one time.

Anecdotally, she said, the program seems to be working, because she doesn’t see many from the program who are released return. However, the program is still young.

Classes cover academic, psychological and physical topics. Inmates may be placed in classes covering anger management, relationship topics, domestic violence, managing emotions, post-traumatic stress disorder and coping skills. Some may take classes in art and literature, GED preparation, conversational Spanish and writing. Religious studies, yoga and mediations also are offered. Instructors from outside the system, including a University of Colorado professor, are among those who lead sessions.

Not all inmates are allowed to join the module. Those who show interest are screened through an assessment called Adult Pretrial Testing, or APT, which helps to determine whether they are serious and which classes may help them reach their goals.

Longmont Times Call


Anonymous said...

I personally doubt any program setup by police or the dept of corrections to ever work because of there past mentality of using inmates as slaves. The Colorado legislature needs to take control of the mess they created here.djw

Anonymous said...

Dear djw:

If what you're after is prison reform, please see this as a fine step in the right direction.

If what you're after is another opportunity to be a curmudgeon and contribute nothing positive, you're doing fine.

Anonymous said...

anything is better then nothing at all ,if it helps one person to not go back then its worth it,we cant fix this problem all at once but with baby steps eventaly will turn into great strides against the system and it problems...

Anonymous said...