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.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Education Frustration From Canon City

As I sit in my home, a Colorado State Prison cell, and read an article by Marcia Darnell that was in the Perspective section on Sunday, Sept. 28, I cannot believe the ignorance and lack of knowledge in these words.

First of all, the article says that, "Education is a high priority of the prison system, too. Inmates who lack a high school diploma or GED are required to go to class."

Well, of course the corrections department requires an inmate to go to class if they don't have a diploma or GED!

It would conflict with laws and policy they have requiring an inmate to have such a diploma or GED before they can put them to work!

How come it is that where I am at, in solitary confinement, unable to work, they don't require no such participation?

The article also goes on to say, "For those with more education, like my brother, educational and vocational programs are tied into the community college system, meaning prisoners can leave the facility and slide right into a classroom."

OK, educational and vocational programs are absolutely not tied in to the community college system!

And the idea that "prisoners can leave the facility and slide right into a classroom" is absolutely ludicrous! Such activity might be possible for no more than 2 percent of the prison population at best.

I had my diploma upon arrival in the Department of Corrections nearly two years ago and since then have made repeated attempts to receive any kind of information that could get me started in post-secondary education courses.

I have tried to find out if the system provides any educational opportunity I could participate in to receive a college degree but to no avail.

For two years, "the buck has been passed." I have exhausted the only available grievance process. I am now housed in a maximum security prison.

What better time than 24-hour lock down could there be for an inmate to occupy his time with college correspondence?

How come here, out of the general population, they do not require an inmate to participate in getting their diplomas or GED's?

I have even made attempts at participating in an outside college for correspondence courses I could participate in at my own expense. Of course, I was denied that opportunity also!

Darnell wrote: "Prisons today offer many resources to help inmates refocus and prepare for a positive future," and that these days it is "easier than it used to be" for a prisoner to refocus and prepare for this more positive future.

The "old-timers" that were in the system then and are in the system with me now beg to differ.

Let me first say that there is a very disruptive factor for any inmate to even consider focusing on anything at all.

The fact is that inside prisons, hearing committees are only required to prove a preponderance of evidence against an offender accused of violating the code of penal discipline.

Basically all they have to do is have a correctional officer say that they "pondered" and that they "believe" that you violated the COPD and you are guilty.

No real evidence or any evidence at all for that matter. What I'm getting at is that this process is a major disruption in the positive progression of all offenders.

You could say that 25 percent of the population at any given facility is the segregation unit, where inmates are continually "shuffled" to and from the "hole" to the "yard" and back again for minor incidents and no justification.

Last year, I spent just about every other month in the hole, punished for things I didn't do, provided a preponderance of evidence, with basically no evidence.

The Denver Post


Anonymous said...

Although this guy sounds pretty bitter, I would say that the comments about education are accurate. From my experience, you have to be in a minimum or minimum restricted to get access to college education, and then the access depends entirely upon the facility. At Canon City's minimum, Skyline, there is no possibility of education at all because it is a "working" prison. Inmates cannot even take correspondence courses. There has been an article recently that Pell grants may be returned to the prison system as we shift from a "lock 'em up" mentality to a "try to keep them from coming back" mindset. Let's keep pushing for that!

Anonymous said...

I know that CSPI (coming soon to our state CSP II), which this guy is talking about, does have GED courses because my friend Daniel Clark, got his GED with the highest score recorded in that prison in the past 8 years. When he got out he was accepted into two local colleges, but he chose to go back to Heroin. I pushed him off the toilet with a needle in his arm and the paramedics saved him.
He was put back into Territorial where they have college courses and he got credits from Adams College.
Yes, the COPD system is unconstitutional and is abused by the DOC correctional officers, but the worse part is when the Parole Board keeps you in prison (initially it was to be for the remainder of the sentence, then when I complained to the Parole Board about their illegal sentence of 39 months) for an additional 6 months FOR SNAPPING A DISH TOWEL!!
Daniel got out again last December and DOC refused to treat his broken hand, so he was expelled from the first drug treatment program that he had been allowed to attend in 6 years in the DOC system, and promptly went back to Heroin and DIED of an accidental overdose.mpc

Anonymous said...

Just flipped over to Denver Post to read comments. Ouch!
So if we pay for treatment for 1 inmate $10,000; Pay for an associates or tech school degree another 10,000 (yes those tuitions can be worked out); and cut the time that an inmate serves in half; we as a society have to deal with our problems (most of these inmates are in due to envionmental/economic conditions) Half of a 15 years sentence saves 7 years @ $30,000 per year, add back the $20,000 invested. The amount saved per just that one inmate is $190,000. If we apply that to the 50% of our (yes, our) inmate population not serving for crimes against the person then it is quite likely every resident of the U.S. would only be paying $20 a year in taxes to put humans in cages instead of $135 per resident. If you are a family of 4 that is $540 a year. $460 a year saved for...

Anonymous said...

To be more accurate, it costs CO taxpayors $30K just to house the inmates, not just the 1/2 billion to build the new needed prisons that we will saddle our grandchildren in paying for, as we have to borrow against future revenues in this state.
It costs the families to put anyone through more than the very limited college courses offered at only medium security prisons, and some, like Trinidad, cannot find anyone to teach the classes, because DOC never thought about it..duh..
But now they want to build over 2,000 more beds in this remote Trinidad area? mpc

Anonymous said...

Lockdown rules are very different from general population rules. Anyone who is deemed a nuisance risks permament lockdown. It is common for things to be made up to keep someone undesirable in lockdown. Accountability is impossible to get from prison staff. Being "singled out" is the definition of the treatment this inmate is experiencing. This is devastating treatment similar to torture.

Anonymous said...