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.

Monday, October 27, 2008

CCJRC Helps Vote From Jail

By Naomi Zeveloff 10/23/08 2:58 PM

Hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters are sending their mail-in ballots back to county clerks this week, and among them are several dozen jail inmates who successfully registered to vote this year.

The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition recently launched a vigorous vote-from-jail campaign. And while some counties have been more receptive than others, in Denver alone the number of voting inmates quadrupled from 20 people in 2004 to 80 this year.

“People were really excited,” says CCJRC re-entry coordinator Carol Peeples. “They said, ‘Thank you.’”

In spite of the increased interest, voting from jail is no easy task. First of all, not everyone who wants to register to vote is eligible to do so. In Colorado, felons and felon parolees are barred from voting. People who are on probation may vote. And those in jail awaiting trial or serving time for a misdemeanor crime may also vote.

The CCJRC Web site recommends that eligible detainees re-register to vote, even if they had signed on previously, because “there is a good chance that your name was removed from the Secretary of State’s list of registered voters.”

Many eligible inmates never register to vote, however, because they lack the right identification. Major Vicki Connors at the Denver County Jail estimates that 400 of the facility’s 2,000 inmates are eligible to vote. Some inmates asked a family member to bring a driver’s license or a state identification card to the jail, while others gave jail staff permission to go through their property and find an ID. But many had no paperwork whatsoever. “Quite a few didn’t have any ID, not even on the outside,” she says.

Connors and Peeples appealed to Secretary of State Mike Coffman to allow inmates to use their booking sheets — which include a photo and a birth date — as identification in order to register. But, according to Peeples, Coffman denied the request on the grounds that the sheet doesn’t include a residential address.

Coffman’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

“The rule of thumb is if it is not acceptable on the outside, then we can’t use it on the inside,” says Connors. “It was like we were going over and above [the call of duty], and that is against the rules.”

Connors says she facilitated voting for inmates in other ways. She posted CCJRC pamphlets around the jail and distributed voter affidavit forms to interested inmates, who then returned them, along with a photocopy of an ID as well as the registration form, to the county clerk.

When inmates receive their mail-in ballots, they must fill them out in the jail library, since they can’t have pens elsewhere in the building. Then they use money from their own commissary funds to pay for the ballot’s $1.17 in postage.

Colorado Independent


Anonymous said...

Thought I'd let you guys know that neither of the 2 people in my husband's unit at Denver County Jail who registered to vote are showing up on the Just Vote website. My husband was eligible to register too and I sent him a color copy of his driver's license. I can't speak for the other guy. I'm betting DCJ let them fill the forms out and then tossed them.

Anonymous said...

Coffman should not only be defeated from his run for office, he should be put into county jail for violating many provisions of the US and Colorado Constitutions. Maybe he will figure out the Denver jail is in Denver County!!

Anonymous said...