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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rule Bars Hearing For Juvenile Lifers

When it was established last year, Colorado's Juvenile Clemency Board was held out as a last ray of hope for young prisoners serving time for crimes they committed in their teens.

But 24 young prisoners serving life without parole - and many more serving lesser sentences - are ineligible to petition the board to reduce their sentences.

A misunterstood eligibility rule appears to be the problem.

It recently came to light when Christopher Selectman, 30, who is serving a life sentence for gunning down a man during a drug deal when he was 16, asked for an application and was told he wasn't entitled to one.

That's because he was 18 - an adult - by the time he was sentenced, according to his prison case manager.

In his executive order establishing the juvenile clemency board last fall, Gov. Bill Ritter said it was designed for juvenile offenders who had been tried as adults.

Selectman certainly appears to fit that designation.

But criteria adopted by the board state that to be eligible for clemency, an inmate must have been a "juvenile when he was tried and convicted as an adult."

In other words, officials didn't consider Selectman's age when he committed the crime, but rather his age when he was tried.

In practice, prison case managers are using the final court sentencing order to determine eligibility, a date that may be even later than the conviction date. This is what happened to Selectman.

Since many cases, especially murder charges, can take a year or more to get to trial, a number of young prisoners become ineligible under this definition.

Rocky Mountain News

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Albert Hofman Dies At 102

Albert Hofmann, 102, a Swiss chemist and accidental father of LSD who came to view the much-vilified and abused hallucinogen he discovered in 1938 as his "problem child," died April 29 at his home in Burg, a village near Basel, Switzerland, after a heart attack.

His death was confirmed by Rick Doblin, the Boston-based founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit pharmaceutical company developing LSD and other psychedelics for prescription medicines.

Washington Post

Fixing Criminal Sentencing

Thanks to everyone who sent me this...

A NUMBER of news stories this spring have shown us that the criminal sentencing system is out of line - both in Massachusetts and in the nation as a whole. The United States has not just the highest rate of incarceration in the world, but also one-fourth of all of the prisoners in the world.

What has led us to this? And what is it about our priorities that has us spending more on incarceration than higher education?

In Massachusetts, we have over 25,000 inmates serving time in county jails or state prisons. Governor Deval Patrick's proposed 2009 budget seeks $1.4 billion for the sheriffs' departments and the Department of Correction. This money is primarily for incarceration. The same budget proposes $963 million for higher education.

The prisons and jails are seriously overcrowded, not just with convicts but also with hundreds of additional pre-trial detainees who either cannot make bail or are being held without bail pending their trials. A federal lawsuit has forced one county sheriff, in Worcester, to choose which inmates will be released before their sentences are completed. Some detainees are left in local lock-ups because of space shortages.

Incarceration rates increased dramatically when the "War on Drugs" was launched in the 1980s. In Massachusetts and elsewhere, strict mandatory minimum sentences were enacted for drug dealing. One of those sentences, for selling any type or quantity of drug within 1,000 feet of a school, annually sends more than 300 people to jail for a mandatory minimum of two years.

Boston Globe

Argentina Decriminalizes Drug Use

This just in… A federal court in Argentina has decriminalized the personal consumption of drugs in that country. According to the court’s ruling, punishing drug users only “creates an avalanche of cases targeting consumers without climbing up in the ladder of [drug] trafficking.”

Last month at a UN meeting in Vienna, Argentina’s Minister of Justice, Aníbal Fernández, said that the policy of punishing drug consumers was a “total failure.”


Suing The DA - Should Prosecutors Be Immune?

Thanks to Doc Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy for pointing to this article about how prosecutors and immunity should not be an absolute.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Thomas Goldstein, an ex-marine who was convicted of murdering his neighbor.

Goldstein served 24 years before his conviction was thrown out when the main witness against him was shown to have lied. That witness was a lifelong criminal who was given a deal on his own charges in exchange for testimony that Goldstein confessed to him in a jail cell. Goldstein alleges that the district attorney's office that prosecuted the case routinely used the testimony of so-called "jailhouse snitches" prosecutors knew or should have known weren't reliable.

Goldstein's case is unusual because he's not suing the prosecutor who convicted him, but John Van de Camp, the district attorney who supervised that prosecutor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has allowed Goldstein's case to go forward, causing the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to hear it.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Record Sealing Bill Needs Your Help

Legislative Action Alert – from Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition

Record Sealing Bill (HB 1082)

sponsored by Representative Mark Ferrandino and Senator Bob Bacon


The Record Sealing bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 5-2, bipartisan vote today (4/28). The bill will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be voted on by the full Senate Appropriations Committee and will be voted on by the full Senate as early as Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATOR TODAY!

History: Last year, a similar record sealing bill was passed by the House (46-18) and Senate (26-8) but vetoed by Governor Ritter. Governor Ritter has indicated that he will only support minor drug offenses as crimes that would be eligible for sealing. Subsequently, the list of crimes eligible for sealing has been significantly narrowed.

What the record sealing bill does:

Current Colorado Law prevents any person with a criminal conviction of any type (petty offense, misdemeanor or felony) from sealing their records from public disclosure.

HB 1082 allows people with certain convictions who have successfully completed their sentences and have been offense-free for ten (10) years from the completion of the sentence to petition the court for a sealing of their records. The Court does NOT have to order the sealing. The court will conduct a balancing test to determine if the sealing is fair considering the public’s right to know.

· Only people who have been convicted of drug offenses that are petty offenses, misdemeanors, and minor felonies (Class 5 and Class 6) are eligible to apply for sealing.

· For offenses committed before July 1, 2008, the Prosecuting Attorney will have to consent for the sealing to occur.

· The petitioner is required to pay ALL costs of the sealing, including attorneys’ fees to the Prosecuting Attorney, for the sealing to take place.

· Law enforcement will always have access to convictions (and dismissed cases as well) and convictions to always be available for use for any lawful criminal justice purpose. Convictions will still be available to all employers who have a statutory mandate to conduct a criminal background check.


Even after people have completed their sentence and been law abiding for years or even decades, they are forever stigmatized by having a criminal record.

Even minor offenses, committed many years ago, can prevent someone from obtaining housing and meaningful employment or advancement in his/her career field.

The possibility of being able to seal a criminal record is a strong and real incentive for a person to turn his/her life around.

A recent study found that after six or seven years from an arrest, the likelihood of offending for young men with criminal records is similar to those with no criminal history. For employers concerned about hiring people with criminal records, a criminal record offers little relevant information once a critical period of time has passed. Therefore, over time a criminal history is both less relevant and less accurate in predicting future criminal activity. However, the stigma and bias remain. Scarlet Letters and Recidivism: Does An Old Criminal Record Predict Future Offending?,Kurlycheck, Brame and Bushway, Criminology and Public Policy, Vol 5, No 3 (August 2006)

Additional Supporters: National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Colorado, ACLU, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Matthews Center for Excellence, SAFER, Colorado Springs Black/Latino Coalition, Road Called STRATE, Colorado CURE, Sensible Colorado, The Council, Bayaud Industries, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Harm Reduction Project, Metro CareRing, Pendulum Foundation, Capitol Hill United Ministries, Alternative Defense Counsel, TASC, New Foundations, Center For Spirituality at Work, Probation Advocates, Denver Inner City Parish, Advocates for Recovery, Denver Urban Ministries, First Congregational Church-Justice and Peace Ministry, National Lawyers Guild, Progress Now, Colorado Social Legislative Committee, The Center for Progressive Leadership, Justice and Social Professionals Network.

The following is a list of Senators that have already voted in favor of the record sealing bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If you contact any of these Senators, please THANK them for their support.

Bacon, Bob





Cap: 303-866-4841
E-mail: bob.bacon.senate@state.co.us

Boyd, Betty




Cap: 303-866-4857
E-mail: betty.boyd.senate@state.co.us

Gibbs, Dan


Clear Creek


Cap: 303-866-4873
E-mail: dan.gibbs.senate@state.co.us

Shaffer, Brandon C.




Cap: 303-866-5291
E-mail: brandon@brandonshaffer.com

Ward, Steve




Cap: 303-866-4846

E-mail: steve.ward.senate@state.co.us

Here’s a list of the other Senators that will be voting on the bill. Please call them today and ask them to support the record sealing bill, HB 1082.

Brophy, Greg


Kit Carson


Cap: 303-866-6360
E-mail: greg@gregbrophy.net

Cadman, Bill


El Paso


Cap: 303-866-2737
E-mail: bill.cadman.senate@state.co.us

Gordon, Ken




Cap: 303-866-3341
E-mail: ken@kengordon.com

Groff, Peter C.




Cap: 303-866-4864
E-mail: peter.groff.senate@state.co.us

Hagedorn, Bob




Cap: 303-866-4879
E-mail: SenBob@msn.com

Harvey, Ted




Cap: 303-866-4881
E-mail: ted.harvey.senate@state.co.us

Isgar, Jim


La Plata
San Juan
San Miguel


Cap: 303-866-4884
E-mail: isgarsenate@frontier.net

Johnson, Steve




Cap: JBC: 303-866-2586
E-mail: steve.johnson.senate@state.co.us

Keller, Maryanne "Moe"




Cap: 303-866-4856
E-mail: senatorkeller2002@yahoo.com

Kester, Ken


Las Animas


Cap: 303-866-4877
E-mail: electkenkester@hotmail.com

>Kopp, Mike




Cap: 303-866-2638
E-mail: mike.kopp.senate@state.co.us

McElhany, Andrew


El Paso


Cap: 303-866-2318

Mitchell, Shawn




Cap: 303-866-4876
E-mail: shawnmitch@aol.com

Morse, John P.


El Paso


Cap: 303-866-6364
E-mail: john.morse.senate@state.co.us

Penry, Joshua "Josh"




Cap: 303-866-3077
E-mail: joshpenry@gmail.com

Renfroe, Scott W.




Cap: 303-866-4451
E-mail: scott.renfroe.senate@state.co.us

Romer, Chris




Cap: 303-866-4852
E-mail: chris.romer.senate@state.co.us

Sandoval, Paula E.




Cap: 303-866-4862
E-mail: nwden34@yahoo.com

Schultheis, David C. "Dave"


El Paso


Cap: 303-866-4835
E-mail: senatorschultheis@gmail.com

Schwartz, Gail


Rio Grande


Cap: 303-866-4871
E-mail: gail.schwartz.senate@state.co.us

Spence, Nancy




Cap: 303-866-4883
E-mail: nancyspence@qwest.net

Takis, Stephanie




Cap: 303-866-4855
E-mail: stephanie.takis.senate@state.co.us

Tapia, Abel J.




Cap: 303-866-4878
E-mail: abel.tapia.senate@state.co.us

Taylor, Jack


Rio Blanco


Cap: 303-866-5292

Tochtrop, Lois




Cap: 303-866-4863
E-mail: lotochtrop@aol.com

Tupa, Ron




Cap: 303-866-4872
E-mail: ron.tupa.senate@state.co.us

Veiga, Jennifer




Cap: 303-866-4861
E-mail: jennifer.veiga.senate@state.co.us

Ward, Steve




Cap: 303-866-4846

E-mail: steve.ward.senate@state.co.us

Wiens, Tom J


El Paso



Cap: 303-866-4869
E-mail: tom@tomwiens.com

Williams, Suzanne




Cap: 303-866-3432
E-mail: suzanne.williams.senate@state.co.us

Windels, Sue




Cap: 303-866-4840
E-mail: senatorwindels@comcast.net

Ritter Open To Compensation For Tim Masters

Gov. Bill Ritter said Friday he is open to legislation that would financially compensate Tim Masters for serving nearly a decade in prison on a murder conviction that was ultimately overturned.

Ritter made the remarks after giving a speech to the Larimer County Bar Association on Friday.

Masters was released from in January after serving more than nine years for a 1999 murder conviction in the 1987 death of Fort Collins resident Peggy Hettrick after DNA evidence pointed to a different suspect.

Masters was 15 years old and a sophomore at Fort Collins High School when Hettrick was killed. Authorities have reopened the murder investigation.

Ritter, who served as a Denver district attorney before being elected governor, said he wouldn't give blanket support to a compensation bill without seeing it first

The Coloradoan

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seeking Employment - Ex-Cons in Newark

NEWARK — Over the past two years, Peter Santos has hired 40 ex-convicts to help him build and renovate apartments here; 36 did not last, many of them doing unacceptably sloppy work or simply disappearing after a few weeks — or a few days — on the job.

One worker, Ronald O’Reilly, 41, had spent more than half his life in prison, for burglary, drug sales and weapons possession, when Mr. Santos last summer gave him not just a job but a cheap apartment and the furnishings to make the place feel like home. He even paid to repair Mr. O’Reilly’s neglected teeth. “I gave him my all,” Mr. Santos said. “I really thought Ron would be different.”

But within five months, Mr. O’Reilly had rekindled his love affair with crack cocaine, said Mr. Santos and others who knew him. He stopped coming to work, ceased paying his $500 monthly rent, and by the time he was evicted, had not only sold off the contents of the apartment, but also the items in an adjacent storage space that belonged to his erstwhile patron, they said. He was arrested soon after and charged with sexual assault.

The situation epitomizes the way Newark’s two leading problems, crime and unemployment, are intertwined with the huge number of ex-convicts in the city. Some 2,300 men and women pour into the city from prison each year, and 65 percent are rearrested within five years. One in six adult residents of the city has a criminal record.


America's Gulag Keeps Growing

Ethan Nadelman, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance wrote this piece in response to Adam Liptak's article in the NY Times last week.

We're No. 1! We're No. 1! The New York Times' Adam Liptak wrote a disturbing front-page story on Wednesday about how the United States dwarfs the rest of the world when it comes to locking up its citizens. The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population, but a quarter of the world's prisoners. There are now 2.3 million people behind bars in the United States. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics' most recent report, the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails jumped by more than 60,000 in the year ending June 30, 2006. That jump represents the largest increase since 2000.

The United States continues to rank first among all nations in both total prison/jail population and per capita incarceration rates. The United States has held first place for decades, followed by China (with more than four times our population) at 1.6 million and Russia at 885,670, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London.

America's prison population explosion is fed in good part by the failed drug war policies of the past 30-plus years. Back in 1980, around 50,000 people were incarcerated for drug law violations. The total is now roughly 500,000. And this number does not even include hundreds of thousands of parolees and probationers who are incarcerated for technical violations, such as a drug relapse, nor does it include nondrug offenses committed under the influence of drugs, or to support a drug habit, or crimes of violence committed by drug sellers.

The Liptak piece describes criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized countries as being mystified and appalled by the number of Americans incarcerated and length of the prison sentences. "The U.S. pursues the war on drugs with an ignorant fanaticism," said Vivian Stern, a research fellow at the Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London. In the past Europeans came to America to study the prison system, but now they look at U.S. policies to see what not to do.


Learning the Hard Way - Ex-Con Earns Two Degrees

The future's so bright, Alex Matheson can put his shady past behind him.

On May 23, the twice-convicted felon paroled after spending a couple of years in prison will join about 700 others in a cap-and-gown procession at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He'll leave with degrees in English and philosophy, as well as a second chance at life.

Matheson, 26, was assigned to Colorado's Youthful Offender System but left, resulting in a felony escape conviction. After that, it didn't take long for him to get busted for second-degree burglary, a case that landed him in the Crowley County Correctional facility.

It was bad, but not all bad.

"Once I got sober in prison, I figured out I wasn't being the person I am," he recalled. "My drinking and using drugs was getting in the way of my thinking."

Matheson started reading.

"I was primarily reading Buddhist philosophy in prison," he said, explaining that through a library lending program he could get the books he needed. Now he leans toward French existentialists "from the 1940s up through today."

When he became a full-time student in early 2005, he was newly released from six months in the Community Corrections program. He wore an ankle monitor, but he thinks few noticed.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Police Acquitted In Sean Bell Shooting

A Queens judge on Friday acquitted three detectives charged in the shooting of Sean Bell, who died on his wedding day in a hail of 50 police bullets. He said that prosecutors had failed to prove their case and that wounded friends of the slain man had given testimony that he did not believe.
New York Times

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Diversion Works - The Connecticut Study

This report was just released click on the bottom to read the whole report

It is time for Connecticut officials to renew their efforts to reduce the size of the
state’s exploding prison population. Connecticut’s prison system continues to take in
thousands of nonviolent offenders with mental health and/or substance abuse
problems who would fare much better in alternative settings that draw on
community resources. Two-thirds of Connecticut’s prisoners have serious addiction
problems and the number of prisoners with moderate to severe mental health
impairment has risen by four percent in the last fi ve years.
After leading the nation in prison population reduction in 2003, Connecticut’s prison
population reached record high levels this year, with more than 19,800 men and
women behind bars. A recent prison population forecast by the Connecticut
Statistical Analysis Center indicates that, unless measures are quickly taken to bring
prison population levels back under control, taxpayers are likely to be burdened with
excessive and rising costs to pay for capacity expansion.
State offi cials are struggling to avoid costly prison expansion. In the process,
policymakers are starting to address the need for full-scale community interventions
for offenders experiencing mild to severe mental health problems. National studies
peg the proportion of mentally ill prisoners at 10-20 percent. As Connecticut’s prison
population inches closer to the historic 20,000 mark, strategies for lowering the
prison population and strengthening treatment services in the community are looking
more attractive.
A new consensus is emerging that community-based treatment options for mental
illness, substance abuse problems and co-occurrence are more likely than civil or
criminal confi nement to achieve the twin objectives of increasing public safety and
reducing recidivism. Many prisoners with mental illness can be treated more
effectively in community settings. They do not require incarceration for public safety
reasons. Two practices exist to minimize the use of imprisonment: diversion keeps
defendants or convicted persons out of prison in the fi rst place; decarceration
deinstitutionalizes or displaces them from confi nement once they have been put
behind bars. Diversion programs and “alternatives to incarceration” aim to divert
those persons subject to pretrial release or sentencing decisions.

Let Electrician Do His Job

Re: “Electrician did time, gets shock,” April 20 Susan Green column.

I read Susan Greene’s article about Marke Bogle, who is currently negotiating with an obviously ungrateful state of Colorado in order to keep his license to practice his trade.

No wonder we have such a high recidivism rate when it comes to crime. We already have more people in jail than any other society in the world, and now the system responds to a man who has done his time by telling him he can’t practice his trade, like he did when he was incarcerated. Colorado must have the most shortsighted, hypocritical, selfish bureaucrats in the world. It’s amazing to me how anyone would even think to take this action against Mr. Bogle.

I am shocked and dismayed by this situation. I am 64 years old and I have seen our society become much more selfish and vindictive in the last 20 years. Someone in state government with some intestinal fortitude needs to find the person who made the decision to take away Mr. Bogle’s credentials and take that person into a room and teach them about common sense and compassion.

John McElrath, Arvada

The Denver Post