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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Drug Users: Problems and Opportunities

The Sentencing Project released this report last week.

On Wednesday, October 15, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) and the Administration of Justice Department of George Mason University hosted a symposium entitled “Drugs in America: Trafficking, Policy and Sentencing.”

The event featured a number of experts in the field to examine how drugs enter into the United States and how they are distributed to users; law enforcement practices pertaining to drug usage and drug-related crimes; and punitive vs. public health responses to drug abuse.

Since entering the U.S. Congress, Senator Webb has hosted two Senate hearings on the causes of America’s mass incarceration rate. He is committed to finding solutions that are both responsive to our needs for law and order, and fairer to those ensnared by the system.

Governor Presents Crime Package

The money is not being funneled into the community for reentry services, if you read the proposal you will see that it is mostly going to the Department of Corrections for treatment inside the prison. There needs to be more in the community to help people to reintegrate and provide the services they need once they get out.

After William VanOstol got out of prison the second time, he said he found a way to never go back."It's easy to get lost and get back into an unhealthy lifestyle, but as long as you got resources, you can get over the hurdles of getting back into society because you got people there to help you,” he said.At the John Inman Work and Family Center, a re-entry program is helping him find work and hope."It's constant, intensive case management," said Nicole Lewis, a community re-entry specialist.She said the program is designed to help offenders with issues ranging from housing to mental health."We can help reduce the recidivism rate because they know to come back if life happens," she said.It's that type of program that would expand under the package that Gov. Bill Ritter, a former prosecutor, presented before the Colorado Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission on Thursday."There is a group that I think will respond to substance abuse counseling, mental health services and assistance in improving their education level," said Ritter.He said the plan would improve public safety, while saving public dollars. He said his proposal to reduce the number of felons who commit new crimes and go back to jail could save taxpayers $380 million over five years, including $336 million by eliminating the need to expand a prison in Trinidad."We think we can do enough that ultimately we can avoid building a $360 million addition to a prison in Colorado," he said.But some law enforcement agents are concerned that may be jumping the gun."I don't know how how realistic those assumptions are," said John Suthers, Colorado's attorney general.
The Denver Channel

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ritter To Cut Prison Costs By $380 Million

Gov. Bill Ritter used a joint meeting with the 27-member Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice on Thursday to announce his plan to save $380 million in skyrocketing prison costs over the next five years.

His proposed 2009-10 crime prevention and recidivism package, which carries a one-year price tag of $10.6 million, is part of his fiscal year 2009-10 budget proposal. It will be submitted this weekend to the legislature's Joint Budget Committee.

Done right, the governor said, Colorado could eliminate the planned 2,061-bed expansion of the Trinidad Correctional Facility. Its projected cost, $336 million, is included in the governor's projected savings.

The governor's plan would emphasize prevention services for youth, non-prison programs for non-violent offenders, substance-abuse treatment and offender education.

Ritter also praised the crime panel, which, in turn, presented Ritter with its own 10 months' of work embodied in a preliminary set of 66 recommendations on how to cut costs. The final report is expected in December.

Ritter, a former prosecutor, assured the panel that this was a cooperative effort and details of the two plans could mesh. His own package "doesn't take the place of your work ... this is a dynamic conversation," Ritter told the gathering of more than 100 people, including commission members, corrections experts and elected officials.

The key to reducing costs, Ritter said, is reducing recidivism — repeat offenders. The bad news is that adult recidivism increased from 50 to 53 percent in roughly the last three years. Ritter said that reducing recidivism would cost money at first, but ultimately save more.

"It's important for us to get this right," he said. In a stormy economy, when taxpayers are stressed and revenue numbers are difficult to project, it's important "to be prudent, frugal and responsible with taxpayer money."

Ritter acknowledged that for taxpayers and the public, "there's a great deal of nervousness when people in public office begin talking about public safety issues ... you have to understand public safety will remain the paramount concern."

Ritter also gave some opinions on the commission's preliminary recommendations, saying, "I affirm the direction you've taken," and singled out several reforms he agreed with.

The area of technical violations needs reform, he said, noting that many felons return to prison not because they commit new crimes but because they technically violate their probation. He agreed such breaches could be dealt, for example, with jail days, "not always the sledgehammer of a prison bed."

He agreed there should be a comprehensive review of the "overworked" parole system.

He also cited behavioral issues as a needed reform, given that 78 percent of inmates have substance abuse problems and nearly 29 percent have mental health issues.

He also liked the idea of offering inmates opportunities for higher education, subject to "fiscal realities."

He was far less enthusiastic about the commission's recommendation to increase "earned time," which would let inmates out early who had earned it in some way, such as by demonstrating good behavior or reaching an educational goal.

From his experience as a prosecutor, Ritter said, he knew that idea was controversial. "The devil will absolutely be in the details and we'll have to wait for those devils — those details — to emerge," Ritter said, to laughter.

Rocky Mountain News

Governor's New Recidivism Reduction

Governor Ritter's Recidivism Reduction Package

Gov. Bill Ritter today presented the Colorado Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission with his proposed 2009-10 crime-prevention and recidivism-reduction package, which is projected to save taxpayers $380 million over five years.

The package will be contained within Gov. Ritter's fiscal year 2009-10 budget proposal, which will be submitted to the legislature's Joint Budget Committee this weekend. Gov. Ritter and Budget Director Todd Saliman will hold a news conference about the entire budget proposal at 11 a.m. Sunday in the Governor's Office.

"This package represents a strong commitment to preventing crime, keeping the public safe and protecting communities," Gov. Ritter said. "It is also a commitment to solid fiscal policy and protecting taxpayer dollars. We face economic challenges unlike any we've ever seen. Now, more than ever, we must make the wisest investments possible that ultimately will save us hundreds of millions of dollars.

"This package does just that by making strategic investments in programs and services that will keep offenders from committing new crimes, from victimizing innocent people and from returning to prison at great taxpayer expense," Gov. Ritter said.

This will be the third year of significant recidivism-reduction initiatives under Gov. Ritter.

Complaints Against Nottingham Dismissed

Will there be criminal charges filed now....or will those be dropped as well.

The chief judge of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an order dismissing complaints against former Chief U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham who resigned last week amid allegations involving prostitutes.

Chief Judge Robert Henry initiated a misconduct complaint against Nottingham on Oct. 1 alleging that he had been a client of a prostitution businesses in violation of Colorado law and had misused his court-owned cell phone in making calls to prostitutes, and had made false statements during the court's investigation. The matter also was referred to a special investigative committee.

On Oct. 8, two committees submitted a joint report to the Judicial Council.

Two days later, another misconduct complaint was filed

against Nottingham by a prostitute who said Nottingham was a client and that on Feb. 29, he had asked her to lie to federal investigators about the nature of their relationship.

Henry dismissed the complaint because it is "moot" now that Nottingham has resigned.

The Denver Post

Voting Early From Jail

Andrew Travers

Almost one-fourth of the inmates in the Pitkin County Jail have voted in Tuesday’s election by casting mail-in ballots from the inside.

Percentage-wise it may be the highest jail turnout in the state. But, being that there are only 13 inmates in the Aspen facility, the three inmate voter tally unsurprisingly falls below the numbers in counties with bigger facilities.

Statewide, the jail turnout is expected to reach new heights this year, as a Denver-based group called the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) has spearheaded the first statewide voting rights education initiative for inmates and convicted criminals.

“You’ve got a lot of people in there who are eligible to vote,” said CCJRC’s re-entry coordinator Carol Peeples. “But there is a lot confusion and they are unsure of their rights, and we don’t want anyone to be disenfranchised.”

In previous election years, the extent to which inmates were given information on their right to vote was up to the initiative of jail staff. The Pitkin County Jail has long coordinated voting for those eligible in the facility and given them information on their rights or lack thereof. But some counties do nothing unless asked by an inmate.

“We are committed to making sure eligible inmates have the opportunity to vote,” Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, who oversees the jail, said this week.

In Colorado you are barred from voting only from the day you are convicted of a felony offense until you complete your prison time and any parole sentence.

So you can vote if you are in jail on a misdemeanor conviction, free on bail for any crime, if you are a pre-trial jail detainee, or have completed your sentence and parole. Colorado felons are allowed to vote while on probation.

Colorado stands among five states with the same felon-voting law, and is decidedly moderate in comparison with others around the country: 12 states permanently ban people from voting if they’ve ever been incarcerated for a felony, 18 bar them until they have completed a sentence and any probationary period.

There are 15 states with less restrictions on felon voting than Colorado — including Maine and Vermont, where convicts are not restricted from voting in any way, and are allowed to vote from prison.

Pitkin County jailer Jim DeBerge solicited the voter-eligible inmates here before the Oct. 6 registration deadline. A 25-year veteran of the jail, DeBerge has coordinated inmate voting before, but he said this was the first time an outside group sent him information packets to help register inmates in a vote-from-jail campaign.

“It just made it a step easier than it was in other years,” DeBerge said.

None of the men who voted from the jail had driver’s licenses or any of the identifying paperwork required to vote. But DeBerge printed their jail booking photos and information, which the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s office accepted.

Denver County Jail tried the same thing for between 30 and 40 of its inmates who wanted to vote but did not have identification. They were rejected and not allowed to register, said Major Victoria Connors, who runs the 2,000-inmate facility.

Despite the rejections, Connors said she expects to more than double her 30-some inmate vote count from four years ago.

“Response has been really positive,” Connors said, though she admitted she had hoped more inmates would express interest. Just 150 of roughly 2,000 inmates requested mail-in ballots. About 400 in the jail, she estimated, were eligible.

One of their detainee voters, she said, was a man facing 19 felony accusations, likely convictions and the rest of his life in state penitentiaries.

“This is probably the last time he’ll vote in his life,” she said. “It makes you realize what a privilege it is that you’re taking away from people.”

Early voting has also opened what some might call a loophole for would-be felons, though. What happens if you are convicted before Election Day, but voted before that conviction? You’re all right, said Colorado’s Elections Communications Manager Richard Coolidge.

“If you vote while you are not a convicted felon, your vote will count,” Coolidge said Wednesday.

Aspen Daily News

DA Says Convictions Are Solid

DA: Convictions solid

Review of thousands of cases shows none need revisited


Local prosecutors have concluded that no old convictions based on circumstantial evidence need to be revisited in light of new DNA testing techniques.

District Attorney Larry Abrahamson announced the review of thousands of cases shortly after a special judge on Jan. 22 freed Timothy Masters from a 1999 murder conviction.

A jury sent Masters to prison for life, based entirely on circumstantial evidence tying him to the 1987 stabbing death of Peggy Hettrick. Masters was freed in large part because new DNA tests pointed toward another suspect in the case, a man who had initially been cleared by police.

Per longstanding local policy, prosecutors and police kept pieces of Hettrick's clothing for the intervening decades, and new tests paid for by Masters showed no physical connection to him.

Abrahamson said his prosecutors examined 3,242 cases, ultimately narrowing the list to 36 that met his criteria: identity was an issue, the convict was still incarcerated, the conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, and DNA evidence still existed.

After pulling those files, Abrahamson said none of them seemed to fit the criteria.

The Coloradoan

A Win For Purged Voters

Ballots cast by voters who have been canceled from the state's voter rolls since mid-May will get extra oversight to make sure their votes are counted, under an agreement reached late Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Common Cause of Colorado, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and the Service Employees International Union sued Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, alleging that his office had violated the National Voter Registration Act by illegally purging about 31,000 eligible voters from the rolls 90 days before the election.

The state insists the actual number is smaller.

The plaintiffs had asked Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane Jr. for a preliminary injunction that by Tuesday would reinstate voters who had been

removed from the rolls. They also asked Kane to order the state to stop removing people until after the election.

Just before Kane was set to rule on the matter, the plaintiffs and the sec retary of state's office reached an agreement.

The morning after the election, the state will generate a list of voters who were removed from the rolls since May 14 and send it to county clerks and the groups' attorneys for review.

The Denver Post

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Governor To Hear Recommendations

CCJRC has been heavily involved with this project. For a list of recommendations

2008 Recommendations

We will keep you updated on those that are approved and any other developments as they arise.

Should an inmate who cracks the books and earns a diploma get out early?

What about positive-reinforcement programs in prisons - do they work?

Those ideas are among 66 recommendations for reducing prison costs - and possibly, prison sentences - that will be presented to Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday.

The list represents 10 months of work by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, formed by Ritter in January. It would affect both adults and juveniles who make up the state's inmate population of 23,300.

The panel's overriding goals were to find ways to reduce soaring prison costs without compromising public safety or shuffling the costs from one agency to another, said Lance Clem, spokesman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

It is up to Ritter to choose which of the ideas to push. Most of the points could be implemented through directives to state agencies, such as the Department of Corrections. But 13 of them would require legislative approval.

Prison and parole costs eat up about 8 percent of the state budget and likely will grow to 12 percent in a few years.

In the last fiscal year, the Department of Corrections received more than $636 million, which, adjusted for inflation, was more than four times what it received 20 years ago, according to a report done for the state earlier this year.

The recommendations were drawn up by a 27-member panel that includes representatives of law enforcement, as well as attorneys, victims rights advocates, elected officials and corrections experts.

Clem said the actual cost savings can't be estimated until the governor decides which recommendations to act on.

The proposals that would require legislative approval include:

* Abolishing laws that keep some ex-inmates from receiving driver's licenses. Driving is a key to employment and becoming a productive member of society, the panel said.

* Lifting any statutory barriers that would prevent funding of secondary education for inmates.

* Giving inmates opportunities to reduce their sentences by completing certain goals, such as education degrees.

* Offering positive-reinforcement programs and incentives to help inmates complete probation.

Rocky Mountain News

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Texas Shakedown Leads To Phones and Weapons

HOUSTON (AP) — A systemwide shakedown of the huge Texas prison system is netting authorities more contraband than just illegal cell phones.

Officers have turned up 61 weapons, 52 instances of tobacco products and 14 discoveries of money — all prohibited for the some 155,000 inmates in the state's 111 prisons.

That's on top of the 120 phone and phone components like chargers found as the first full week of the inspections ended Monday.

A statewide lockdown of the system began hours after death row inmate Richard Tabler was caught making a call from his cell. The phone had been traced to a series of calls that began earlier this month to state Sen. John Whitmire.

Authorities said Tabler also shared the device with at least nine of his fellow condemned prisoners. Investigators determined some 2,800 calls were made from the phone from inside the Polunsky Unit near Livingston.

Tabler was moved Wednesday to a prison medical psychiatric facility after officers believed he was attempting to kill himself, and Tabler's mother and sister both have been charged with introducing contraband into the prison system, a felony, for buying minutes to keep the phone active.

Inspections at about 15 units were completed, meaning an easing of the lockdown that had confined prisoners to their cells and barred visitations of inmates by relatives. Authorities believe bribed corrections officers are responsible for a number of the contraband items.

AP Report

Conservatives Have Reshaped Appeals Court

WASHINGTON — After a group of doctors challenged a South Dakota law forcing them to inform women that abortions “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being” — using exactly that language — President Bush’s appointees to the federal appeals courts took control.

A federal trial judge, stating that whether a fetus is human life is a matter of debate, had blocked the state from enforcing the 2005 law as a likely violation of doctors’ First Amendment rights. And an appeals court panel had upheld the injunction.

But this past June, the full Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit voted 7 to 4 to overrule those decisions and allow the statute to take immediate effect. The majority argued that it is objectively true that human life begins at conception, and that the state can force doctors to say so.

Mr. Bush had appointed six of the seven judges in the conservative majority. His administration has transformed the nation’s federal appeals courts, advancing a conservative legal revolution that began nearly three decades ago under Ronald Reagan.

Earlier this month, Mr. Bush pointed with pride to his record at a conference sponsored by the Cincinnati chapter of the Federalist Society, the elite network for the conservative legal movement. He noted that he had appointed more than a third of the federal judiciary expected to be serving when he leaves office, a lifetime-tenured force that will influence society for decades and represents one of his most enduring accomplishments. While a two-term president typically leaves his stamp on the appeals courts — Bill Clinton appointed 65 judges, Mr. Bush 61 — Mr. Bush’s judges were among the youngest ever nominated and are poised to have an unusually strong impact.

They have arrived at a time when the appeals courts, which decide tens of thousands of cases a year, are increasingly getting the last word. While the Supreme Court gets far more attention, in recent terms it has reviewed only about 75 cases a year—half what it considered a generation ago. And Mr. Bush’s appointees have found allies in likeminded judges named by Mr. Bush’s father and Mr. Reagan.

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

Homeless Sweeps Suspended

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Map, News) - Colorado Springs is suspending publicly financed cleanups of homeless camps while it examines the legal and ethical issues involved in the monthly sweeps.

The Colorado Veterans Alliance claims that the cleanup campaign has illegally discarded VA paperwork, medications, IDs and service medals that belong to homeless veterans. The group has formally notified the city it plans to file a lawsuit in federal court.

Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, which cleans up homeless camps under a contract with the city, says it only discards trash left behind after police order homeless people out of illegal camps.

The group denies conducting illegal searches or destroying personal property, saying anything of value is turned over to police, where the owners can go to claim the items.

The Examiner

Felons Learning They CAN Vote

>Reporting from Baltimore -- Before Kimberly Haven set out to register voters this month, she checked Baltimore city records to find a neighborhood with a surprising feature: a large number of felons.

There, on a litter-strewn street corner, her team ran into Lonnell Burke, who was waiting to catch a bus to a local drug rehab center. With cocaine and armed burglary convictions, Burke assumed he was barred from the polls forever. But thanks to a recent change in Maryland law, he found himself signing papers to become a registered voter.

"I didn't think the doors would ever open for ex-offenders to vote," said Burke, 50, who called the unexpected encounter "a blessing."

At least a dozen states have changed their laws since 2003 to allow more felons who are no longer in prison to cast ballots, reversing a long-standing trend.

And though studies show that felons lean Democratic, states led by Republican governors have loosened their voting rules, including Alabama, Nebraska, Nevada and Florida -- where officials have learned from the 2000 presidential race just how close an election can be.
States restored voting rights to about 760,000 felons in the last decade, according to tallies by voting rights groups, but data on how many have registered to cast ballots are sketchy. Whether these voters could tip an election in a presidential swing state is a matter of speculation.
LA Times

Sunday, October 26, 2008

GEO Indicted For Murder

McALLEN, Texas — A private prison company based in Florida has been indicted in the death of a Texas prisoner just days before his release.

The indictment released Thursday alleges The GEO Group let other inmates fatally beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. with padlocks stuffed into socks.

He died four days before his scheduled release from a facility in Raymondville on the southern tip of Texas.

A jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a 2006 civil judgment. He died in 2001.

Calls to The GEO Group and the Willacy County District Attorney's Office were not immediately returned Friday. The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp.


10 Tips For Voters

Just Vote Colorado offers the following 10 tips to ensure your vote is counted this election.

Verify your registration. Before going to the polls, confirm your voter registration at www.JustVoteColorado.org.

2. Confirm your polling location. Even if you’ve voted in the same place for 30 years, polling places can change, so make sure you know where to go on Election Day.

3. Vote early. Record turnout is expected this year, Colorado voters can vote early from October 20- October 30. Take advantage of it to avoid long lines and alleviate the strain on local election officials.

4. Remember your ID. Colorado law requires that voters provide ID at the polls. Many forms of ID are acceptable; visit www.JustVoteColorado.org for a full list of IDs.

5. Don’t give anyone an excuse to keep you out of the polls. In Colorado, electioneering at the polls, such as wearing campaign paraphernalia into a polling place —shirts, a buttons, etc.—is against the law. Cover up your campaign materials to ensure a smooth voting experience.

6. Report all voting problems to Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 866ourvote.org. You can also send us an update through our Twitter Report Your Vote page http://twitter.com/866ourvote.

7. Do not be intimidated by false rumors. Eligible registered voters cannot be denied the right to vote because their homes have been foreclosed upon, they are late on child support payments, they have outstanding parking tickets, or they are students at local universities.

8. If you have been convicted of a felony, know your rights. Colorado allows people who have been convicted of a felony and completed their sentence (and parole) to vote. Don’t be intimidated by misinformation.

9. Avoid the crowds. Voting lines are shortest in the mid-morning or early afternoon.

10. Bring your family, friends and neighbors. Help elderly voters, Americans with disabilities, and people without transport get to the polls – no one should be left behind on Election Day!

Fox News

The California Prison Disaster

The mass imprisonment philosophy that has packed prisons and sent corrections costs through the roof around the country has hit especially hard in California, which has the largest prison population, the highest recidivism rate and a prison budget raging out of control.

According to a new federally backed study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, the state’s corrections costs have grown by about 50 percent in less than a decade and now account for about 10 percent of state spending — nearly the same amount as higher education. The costs could rise substantially given that a federal lawsuit may require the state to spend $8 billion to bring the prison system’s woefully inadequate medical services up to constitutional standards.

The solution for California is to shrink its vastly overcrowded prison system. To do so, it would need to move away from mandatory sentencing laws that have proved to be disastrous across the country — locking up more people than protecting public safety requires.

In addition, the state also has perhaps the most counterproductive and ill-conceived parole system in the United States. More people are sent to prison in California by parole officers than by the courts. In addition, about 66 percent of California’s parolees land back in prison after three years, compared with about 40 percent nationally. Four in 10 are sent back for technical violations like missed appointments or failed drug tests.

Later this year, the state is expected to begin testing a new system that redirects the lowest-risk drug addicts to treatment. But that will only work if the state and the counties dramatically expand treatment slots.

The heart of the problem is that California’s parole system is simply too big. Most states keep dangerous people behind bars or reserve parole supervision for the most serious offenders. California puts virtually everyone on parole, typically for three years.

Under this setup, about 80 percent of the parolees have fewer than two 15-minute meetings with a parole officer per month. That might be adequate for low-risk offenders, but it’s clearly too little time for serious offenders who present a risk to public safety.

A good first step would be to place fewer people on parole. The second step would be to reserve the most intensive supervision for offenders who present the greatest risk.

State lawmakers, some of whom are fearful of being seen as soft on crime, have failed to make perfectly reasonable sentencing modifications and other changes that the prisons desperately need. Unless they muster some courage soon, Californians will find themselves swamped by prison costs and unable to afford just about anything else.

The New York Times

Starting A Business With Skills Learned In Prison

Now here’s something you don’t see everyday: A program that helps convicted felons turn the talents they’ve learned in prison – such as making and peddling “hootch” (bootleg liquor) and re-selling smuggled cigarettes – into entrepreneurial skills they can use outside the Big House.

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program does just that, working with former dope dealers and gang leaders at the Cleveland Correctional Center, a private facility in Cleveland, Texas, to redirect their skill set, as it were, so they can run legitimate enterprises upon release. Only prisoners nearing parole are eligible for the program. Those who get accepted spend 17 hours a week in the classroom (plus homework) and get mentoring from local business leaders.

The program is the brainchild of Catherine Rohr, who quit a Wall Street job with a six-figure salary to teach convicts (mostly violent criminals) about making an honest buck. Influential convicted felons, she says, are America’s most overlooked talent pool. View a recent lecture by Rohr here.

Rohr launched the non-profit program four years ago, thanks to a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo., nonprofit that supports entrepreneurship. Kauffman likes to fund innovative programs “where no man has gone before,” says Lesa Mitchell, a vice president at the foundation.

The prison program “literally does show that people from all walks of life can be an entrepreneur,” she adds. “You don’t have to go to Stanford or MIT. If people coming out of prison can do that, you can too.”

Business Week

Medical Marijuana A Halt To Liver Transplants

ScienceDaily (Oct. 24, 2008) — The pain is debilitating. The only option: smoking medical marijuana. That's the reality for many hepatitis C patients whose road to health includes a liver transplant. Although Canadian transplant centres are more willing than those in the United States, not everyone says yes to liver patients who smoke marijuana, and a University of Alberta researcher says that decision-making process is unacceptable.

Karen Kroeker, along with three other students at various universities, sent out surveys to a number of transplant clinics across the United States and Canada. Results found that the difference between the two countries were obvious in some patient groups: around 60 per cent of Canadian centres would either do the surgery or consider it for a liver transplant patient who smoked marijuana, while 70 per cent of U.S. transplant programs said absolutely not. Kroeker also found that patients in both countries, who have no social support—meaning they have no family, friends or a social worker—aren't likely to receive the organ they need.

The problem Kroeker has with these results: the lack of literature to support the surgeons' decision. As a result of her findings, which will be published in the November issue of Liver International, Kroeker says physicians need to determine eligibility criteria for liver-transplant patients that pertains directly to the likelihood of a patient rejecting the organ and is based only on empirical medical evidence.

When a patient is being reviewed for eligibility, whether they smoke marijuana shouldn't be a factor, she says. "If we have evidence to say the patients don't do well, then I think that's a reason to exclude people," Kroeker said.

She cites alcohol use as an example. When transplants first began to be performed, those who drank alcohol weren't eligible for a new liver. Kroeker's study found, however, that surgeons conducted studies on the topic of abstinence and liver health and, as a result of that research, transplant rules changed. If the patient has been sober for six months, 94 per cent of the clinics in North America will now consider transplantation.

The same goes for HIV-positive patients. "When they first started transplanting, HIV was an absolute contraindication. No one even considered transplantation because the disease was a death sentence at that time." Kroeker adds that's no longer the case and that there is research being conducted on post-transplant HIV-patients that will help determine the viability of transplants in HIV-positive patients.

In reference to her findings, Kroeker said, "I think there should be a large-scale study," because too-little research is available on post-transplant patients whose eligibility may currently be in question.

"Unless you actually perform transplants for those people, how would you know how they do?"

Science Daily

Friday, October 24, 2008

Denver Inmates Cleaning Up....Yards

Augustine Narcisse has spent 30-some years in the tidy brick house on a well-kept Denver street.

But, as her children moved on and Narcisse grew older, then retired, it became too difficult for her to keep up the place.

The grass grew too long. The leaves piled up. Eventually, someone complained.

But instead of citing Narcisse and causing her more problems, Denver officials did something else — they sent inmates to Narcisse's home to clean it up for her.

"I don't know what I would do without them," said Narcisse, 73. "You know you get old and slow, and you do need the help."

Since May, Denver city jail inmates have been making weekly rounds to the homes of elderly and disabled residents who need help maintaining their yards.

"We take care of little minor issues," said Denver Sheriff's Deputy Michael Newtown. "If it's a tree branch that's fallen, or (at) a lot of homes, we'll take the trash out for them and stuff like that."

This winter, they'll shovel snow.

Rocky Mountain News

Protestors Get Their Day In Court

The first round of protester trials after the Democratic National Convention has ended this week with the results decidedly in favor of the accused.

The city is prepared to take as many as 60 accused protesters to trial after they declined to accept plea deals.

But of the first nine cases the city has taken this far, six were dropped by Denver city prosecutors near the eve of trial, a seventh was dismissed the morning trial was to begin this week, and two others ended in deadlocked juries.

Of those two cases, the judge, who had listened to all the testimony and arguments, tossed one for lack of evidence, saying "no reasonable person" would convict even if the case went to a second trial.

The Denver Post

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Medical Neglect Is The Norm For Women's Prisons

From the perspective of someone who has suffered from horrific medical care needlessly as the hands of prison staff, I applaud the author for bringing this subject to light.

By Betty Brink, Ms. Magazine
Posted on October 20, 2008, Printed on October 23, 2008

My name is Janice Pugh. I was released from FMC Carswell [the only federal prison facility in the U.S. that includes a hospital for inmates] on January 10, 2000. ... The reason for me being at Carswell was for medical treatment. I have a history of lung cancer. ... The last six months I was coughing up blood, and a lot of it. ... There was sputum tests done and a test where they put a scope down your nose. Well, I received NO results from these tests. ... [Pugh went home to Alabama after her release; she had served 18 months for drug possession.] On January 20 at the Southern University of Alabama Medical Center there was a test done. ... On January 24 I was admitted. ... A bacteria was found growing in my lungs ... and a mass was found on my top right lobe. They done a biopsy today, January 31, 2000. This is just a few things I have to say and proof that it's true.

On March 27, 2000, two months after I received this letter, Janice Pugh died of metastasized cancer in a Mobile, Ala., hospice. She was 52 years old. She had served her sentence at FMC (Federal Medical Center) Carswell, near Fort Worth, Texas, because of her medical needs, yet her symptoms went undiagnosed and untreated there.

"We were told by the oncologist who treated Mama [in Alabama] that she was 'very neglected' at Carswell," said her daughter, Tracy Ingram.

I wish I could write that Janice Pugh's case is an aberration. It is not. For almost a decade, I have been writing about the Janice Pughs of FMC Carswell -- women as old as 80 and as young as 18, from all races and all classes, who have needlessly suffered or died from what a former Carswell doctor described as "medical mistakes, substandard care and unconscionable delays" in treatment.

Behind the nation's razor-wire fences, egregious medical neglect has been the norm for decades. But for the most part, this dark side of prison life is ignored by the mainstream media and lawmakers, and too often accepted by the general population as just another price paid by those committing crimes. The Carswell women's debt to society, however, shouldn't have included their lives.

The hospital at Carswell is located on a former World War II Air Force base. The facility opened in June 1994 after the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) closed its women's hospital in Lexington, Ky., following a scathing General Accounting Office report that cited the bureau for failing to provide adequate medical care in its federal prisons and singled out the Lexington hospital's care as particularly egregious. Little has changed since then, critics say.

According to Bureau of Prison figures, more than 32,500 women were incarcerated in the nation's federal prisons as of this June. That's far fewer than men, but women's rates at all prisons (federal, state, local) are increasing at nearly double the men's.

Medical neglect is not the only hazard faced by women at Carswell. This May, Vincent Inametti, the prison's Catholic chaplain for the past seven years, was sentenced to four years in jail for what the judge called "surprisingly heinous" sexual crimes against two imprisoned women. He is now the eighth sexual predator since 1997 to be convicted after working at Carswell. Most were professionals in high positions, including another chaplain, a gynecologist, a counselor, a supervisor of food services and three guards.

Most women currently behind bars in local jails, state prisons, federal penitentiaries and private for-profit penal institutions will eventually return to their communities. Their health care while incarcerated can thus have a huge social impact, financially and otherwise. If not treated effectively in prison hospitals, released inmates return to their homes with a host of mental and medical problems, including untreated AIDS and hepatitis.


Masters' Sues Fort Collins

David Lane has taken on Tim Masters' case. I would imagine that now, Tim will win.

DENVER — Timothy Masters on Tuesday sued Fort Collins, multiple police officers, prosecutors and judges in a long-expected federal civil rights lawsuit claiming he was wrongfully convicted for the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick.

Masters spent nearly 10 years in prison before his 1999 conviction was overturned this January by a judge who concluded he didn't get a fair trial.

Masters did not request a specific dollar amount in his federal suit, which claims police, prosecutors and their superiors engaged in a "conspiracy" to railroad him to conviction, and then keep him locked up despite evidence showing his innocence.

"I don't think it's about punishment. I think it's about making some atonement, some compensation, for 10 years of wrongful incarceration, trying to give me back a little of what I lost," Masters said.

None of the people named in Masters' suit offered comment or reaction Tuesday, other than to say they could not comment on pending litigation or had not yet seen the suit.

Masters was 15 when Hettrick's mutilated body was found in a Fort Collins field. An expert initially consulted by police said the mutilations to Hettrick's body would have required specialized skill and were likely done by a right-handed person.

Masters, now 37, is left-handed, but jurors in the case never heard about that expert’s opinion because the information was never turned over to his defense attorneys.

Instead, police crafted an arrest warrant for Masters that specifically noted the killer was left-handed.

Additionally, a forensic psychologist who testified as a star witness for prosecutors used information given to him by police and prosecutors to build a profile of Hettrick’s killer that matched Masters.

But this summer, Dr. Reid Meloy told Masters’ legal team that had he known all the details about the scene of Hettrick’s death, he would have recommended against arresting Masters, attorney David Lane said.

Further, Lane said, a “guilt-ridden” Meloy said he would have told police to look at Dr. Richard Hammond, an eye surgeon whose house overlooked the field where Hettrick’s body was found.

“I want the citizens of Larimer County to hold a torchlight parade to city hall demanding justice for Tim Masters,” Lane said during a Tuesday news conference announcing the lawsuit. “I want to see Fort Collins do the right thing by Tim Masters. Let’s see them stand up and do the right thing.”

Lane acknowledged he wants residents of Larimer County and Fort Collins to pressure elected officials, from the county commissioners to the mayor to District Attorney Larry Abrahamson, to offer a financial settlement to Masters.

He repeatedly noted that taxpayers will foot the “very large” legal bills likely to be run up by the government defending itself.

Loveland Connection

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nottingham Resigns

A series of sexually charged allegations over the past year, including a recent claim by a prostitute that Chief U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham Jr. had asked her to mislead judicial investigators about their weekly trysts, prompted Nottingham to resign his lifetime commission Tuesday.

"He is deeply remorseful for his actions," Nottingham's lawyer wrote in a public statement that didn't specify exactly what those actions were or whether any of the publicized anonymous claims are true. "He is also embarrassed and ashamed for any loss of confidence caused by those actions and attendant publicity and sincerely apologizes to the public and the judiciary."

Nottingham submitted his resignation to President Bush and said it had become clear that leaving the bench was the only way to put the matter behind both him and the court where he had worked for almost 19 years.

The resignation came as Chief Judge Robert Henry of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was in the midst of investigating Nottingham for misconduct.

Henry, in a statement of his own, acknowledged for the first time the breadth of the investigation, which began last fall after a complaint arose from testimony in Nottingham's divorce case about how he spent thousands of dollars in one night at a Denver strip club.

Since that initial complaint, 9News has reported that Nottingham's name emerged as a client in an investigation of a Denver prostitution ring and that a prostitute had complained to the 10th Circuit that Nottingham had asked her to mislead judicial investigators about their relationship. The prostitute's identity remains secret.

The Denver Post

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bush Decides To Keep Guantanamo Open

WASHINGTON — Despite his stated desire to close the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, President Bush has decided not to do so, and never considered proposals drafted in the State Department and the Pentagon that outlined options for transferring the detainees elsewhere, according to senior administration officials.

Mr. Bush’s top advisers held a series of meetings at the White House this summer after a Supreme Court ruling in June cast doubt on the future of the American detention center. But Mr. Bush adopted the view of his most hawkish advisers that closing Guantánamo would involve too many legal and political risks to be acceptable, now or any time soon, the officials said.

The administration is proceeding on the assumption that Guantánamo will remain open not only for the rest of Mr. Bush’s presidency but also well beyond, the officials said, as the site for military tribunals of those facing terrorism-related charges and for the long prison sentences that could follow convictions.

The effect of Mr. Bush’s stance is to leave in place a prison that has become a reviled symbol of the administration’s fight against terrorism, and to leave another contentious foreign policy decision for the next president.

Both presidential candidates, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, have called for closing Guantánamo and could reverse Mr. Bush’s policy, though probably not quickly since neither has spelled out precisely how to deal with some of the thorniest legal consequences of shutting the prison.

Mr. Bush’s aides insist that the president’s desire is still to close Guantánamo when conditions permit, and the White House has not announced any decision. But administration officials say that even Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the most powerful advocates for closing the prison, have quietly acquiesced to the arguments of more hawkish advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney. New York Times

Denver OK's 885,000 For Teen Beaten By Cop

The Denver City Council on Monday approved an $885,000 settlement with a teenager who claimed that police beat him up.

But two council members said the settlement, which is one of the largest in the city's history, wasn't nearly enough.

Council members Judy Montero and Paul Lopez said the April incident in northwest Denver not only left a young man with severe injuries but unraveled decades of improved police community relations with the Latino community.

"This was a step backwards," Lopez said.

The council voted 12-1 in support of the financial settlement with the guardian of Juan Guillermo Vasquez, who was hospitalized with multiple injuries after a bloody confrontation with police.

Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the settlement was "simply too excessive."

After the meeting, Montero said she was responding to Faatz's comments that the settlement was too little when she said that it wasn't enough.

"I was just responding to her. I mean, how do you measure that?" Montero said.

The Denver Post

Masters Team Plans Federal Suit

The psychologist who created the theory that helped send Tim Masters to prison now says his opinions were manipulated by Fort Collins authorities and that a now-deceased eye surgeon better fit his profile of Peggy Hettrick's killer, according to a federal lawsuit to be filed today.

The turnabout breaks years of silence by San Diego criminal psychologist Reid Meloy, the Larimer County prosecutors' star witness at Masters' trial in 1999. Also, his belief that his opinion was manipulated is a core contention in Masters' suit.

The suit seeks compensation for Masters' 10 years of incarceration and 20 years as a suspect or defendant in the 1987 murder.

"What number could you possibly put on something like this?" said Masters' civil attorney, David Lane of Denver. "Fifty million (dollars), maybe? I don't know. It's unfathomable what Tim Masters went through."

The 81-page suit alleges that Fort Collins police and prosecutors violated Masters' constitutional rights by conspiring to fabricate, hide and destroy evidence to make the case that he killed Hettrick when he was 15 years old.

Fort Collins Police and Larimer prosecutors declined to comment Monday, citing policies to not comment on pending litigation.

The suit also points to the destruction of evidence tied to Donald Long, a former suspect, as another example of depriving Masters of his ability to prove his innocence. Long is the third known suspect whose evidence was lost or destroyed by Fort Collins authorities, preventing a new DNA analysis.

The Denver Post

Monday, October 20, 2008

Early Voting Begins

Voters in Denver can drop off their mail-in ballots — or hit a voting booth — at one of the city's 13 early-voting sites between today and Oct. 31, excluding Sunday.

The Denver Elections Division headquarters at 3888 E. Mexico Ave. will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The following sites are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday:

Barnum Recreation Center, 360 Hooker St.

• Christ Church United Methodist Church, 690 Colorado Blvd.

• Harvard Gulch Recreation Center, 550 E. Iliff Ave.

• Harvey Park Recreation Center, 2120 S. Tennyson Way

• Hiawatha Davis Recreation Center, 3334 Holly St.

• Manual High School, 1700 E. 28th Ave.

• Montbello Recreation Center, 15555 E. 53rd Ave.

• Montclair Recreation Center, 729 Ulster Way

• Rude Park Recreation Center 2855 W. Holden Place

• Scheitler Recreation Center, 5031 W. 46th Ave.

• Tamarac Square Mall, 7777 E. Hampden Ave.

• Webb Municipal Office Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave.

Voters in surrounding counties should check with their local clerks for voting-center hours and locations.

• Adams County: 303-920-7850 or www.co.adams.co.us

• Arapahoe County: 303-795-4511 or www.arapahoevotes.com

• Boulder County: 303-413-7740 or www.bouldercounty.org/clerk/elections

• Broomfield County: 303-464-5857 or www.broomfield.org/elections

• Douglas County: 303-660-7444 or www.douglas.co.us/clerk/elections

• Jefferson County: 303-271-8111 or www.co.jefferson.co.us/elections/index.htm

The Denver Post

Billion Dollar Anti-Drug Campaign A Failure

Despite investing $1 billion in a massive anti-drug campaign, a controversial new study suggests that the push has failed to help the United States win the war on drugs.

A congressionally mandated study released today concluded that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign launched in the late 1990s to encourage young people to stay away from drugs "is unlikely to have had favorable effects on youths."

In fact, the study's authors assert that anti-drug ads may have unwittingly delivered the message that other kids were doing drugs, inadvertently slowing measured progress that was being made to curb marijuana use among teenagers.

"Youths who saw the campaign ads took from them the message that their peers were using marijuana," the report suggests as a possible reason for its findings. "In turn, those who came to believe that their peers were using marijuana were more likely to initiate use themselves." [ABC News]

Stop The Drug War

Utah Prison Inmates Building Homes For State

Utah prison inmates building homes for state
October 14th, 2008 @ 10:05pm
By Lori Prichard

The State of Utah is now in the business of building and selling homes, in the hopes of providing those homes to lower- and middle-income families. The catch is some of those homes are being built by prison inmates.

Thirty-one-year-old Ervin Brafford showed off the one thing he's most proud of: a house. "Because when you get there, it's a dirt path. And at the end of it, you've got this," Brafford explained.

It's a 5-bedroom, 2-bath house in Salt Lake that a group of inmates from the Utah State Prison built. The prison system, along with the state-run Utah Housing Corporation, teamed up to build homes to offer them to lower-income families.

"We're in partnership in building affordable homes. We provide the kind of service that's just not done in the private sector," said Grant Whitaker, senior vice president of the Utah Housing Corporation.

Here's how it works: Inmates, like Brafford, who are on their way to being paroled are paid $1.50 an hour. Once the house is built, Utah Housing Corporation sells the home at a below-market mortgage rate to lower- and middle-income families.

"The equity is passed on to the homeowner by a lower mortgage amount," said Scott Harmon, housing program manger for the Utah Housing Coporation.

That means the buyer of the house will likely get $40,000 instant equity -- equity gained from paying these guys well below the $20 an hour they would otherwise get.

Brafford says that's OK with him. "I really enjoyed doing it. I learned so much. I get really excited. I think my boss is sick of hearing it because I ask a million and one questions," he said.

Brafford says the days of "sneaking his way by" are over. This house helped him turn his life around.

The house is just over 1,800 square feet and is being sold for just under $240,000. If you'd like more information, you can contact the Utah Housing Corporation at (801) 902-8200 or via e-mail by clicking here.


Real Cost Of Prisons

Four DNC Protestors Set For Trial Today

The first jury trials arising from Democratic National Convention protests are expected to begin today in Denver County Court, according to a legal defense group.

The four individuals face the municipal charge of obstruction of a street, said Brian Vicente, director of the People's Law Project, which is coordinating pro bono attorneys for the defendants.

Each individual faces up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to a Law Project release. Trials for another 60 protesters are scheduled later this year.

Monday's trials stem from a night of mass arrests on Aug. 25 at 15th Street near Civic Center.

Police at the time said they arrested 91 people for causing traffic and pedestrian disturbances. The Law Project said it will argue that police overreacted against peaceful demonstrators and bystanders.

Rocky Mountain News

Friday, October 17, 2008

Judge A No Show Today After Resignation Reports

U.S. District Chief Judge Edward Nottingham was not in court today amid reports that he is expected to resign from the bench after a new sex-related scandal.

Nottingham's scheduled cases today were handled by another judge. His courtroom clerk said he "is not here today; he's still ill." The judge is still listed on a calendar of cases set for next week, his secretary said, because "he's still chief judge. He's not resigned."

The court's top administrator, Clerk of the Court Greg Langham, told CBS4, "I'm assuming he and his attorneys are discussing what his status (on the court) is."

Nottingham, who had started a trial earlier on Tuesday, called in sick on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Rocky first reported Thursday that sources said Nottingham is expected to quit the federal bench amid the sex scandal and a closed-door judicial misconduct hearing that didn't go well.

Nottingham could not be reached for comment, and the clerk of the U.S. District Court for Colorado said earlier he had received no official letter of resignation.

"To my knowledge it does not exist," Langham said Thursday.

Nottingham's attorney did not return a phone call.

But three sources with knowledge of Nottingham's plans, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the resignation is expected this week.

Rocky Mountain News

DOC To Revisit Canon City Proposal

DENVER - The Colorado Department of Corrections is being forced to take a second look at its decision to build a new headquarters a mile away from its current facilities in Colorado Springs.

That's because Canon City, one of five finalists for the project, has filed a formal protest challenging the decision, accord- ing to City Manager Steve Rabe.

Like Pueblo officials who bid on the project, Rabe said Canon City is questioning the department's decision to change criteria it initially said it would use to determine the winning bid.

Rabe said the DOC failed to consider several factors in Canon City's bid, and then altered the weight of criteria it said it would use to make its determination.
Pueblo Chieftain

Settlement Likely For Beaten Teen

The city of Denver is poised to pay $885,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a 16-year-old who claimed a gang officer repeatedly stomped on him while he was restrained.

The April 18 incident left Juan "Willie" Vasquez with internal injuries, a lacerated liver and kidney damage, the lawsuit stated.

Family members in June said they had been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy because they had no health insurance to pay medical bills in excess of $100,000.

His guardian, Veronica Gonzales, said in an interview Thursday that Vasquez was recovering from his injuries and no longer required tubes to drain waste from his body.

"He's been doing really well," she said.

"The big question was whether he would be OK without those tubes in place. Those were removed a few months back."

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey's office charged police officer Charles Porter with felony first-degree assault. His criminal trial is pending.

Porter has been placed on unpaid administrative leave while his case is pending.

Doug Romero, the lawyer representing Vasquez, could not be reached for comment.

The Denver City Council is scheduled to consider approving the settlement Monday.

Gonzales said she plans to use any leftover money to send Vasquez to college.

The Denver Post

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NY TIMES: Drug Courts Give Addicts Time To Straighten Out

SEATTLE — It was not your usual courtroom scene. For one thing, the judge choked up as he described one woman’s struggle with opiate addiction after her arrest for forging prescriptions.

Over the last three years, she had repeatedly missed court-ordered therapy and hearings, and the judge, J. Wesley Saint Clair of the Drug Diversion Court, at first meted out mild punishments, like community service. But last winter, pushed past his forgiving limit, he jailed her briefly twice. The threat of more jail did the trick.

Now she was graduating — along with 23 other addicts who entered drug court instead of prison. Prosecutors and public defenders applauded when she was handed her certificate; a policewoman hugged her, and a child shouted triumphantly, “Yeah, Mamma!”

In Seattle, as in drug courts across the country, the stern face of criminal justice is being redrawn, and emotions are often on the surface. Experts say drug courts have been the country’s fastest-spreading innovation in criminal justice, giving arrested addicts a chance to avoid prison by agreeing to stringent oversight and addiction treatment. Recent studies show drug courts are one of the few initiatives that reduce recidivism — on average by 8 percent to 10 percent nationally and as high as 26 percent in New York State — and save taxpayer money.

Since Judge Saint Clair took over the King County drug court here in 2005, the annual number of graduates — drug and alcohol free for at least six months — has more than doubled. His court has been cited by outside experts as one of the country’s best, yet a state budget crisis is forcing a shrinkage in participants.
New York Times

Officer Pleads Not Guilty In Beating Of Teen

A Denver police officer charged with beating a teenager during an arrest this year pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Denver District Court.

Charles Porter, 41, is charged with felony first-degree assaulting causing serious bodily injury to 16-year-old Juan Vasquez in the April 18 incident.

Vasquez was hanging out with two friends at a home near West 37th Avenue and Pecos Street. Porter and other officers, who were patrolling the neighborhood, thought Vasquez was drinking alcohol, according to news reports at the time. As Porter and the other officers approached the group, Vasquez ran from them, jumping over some neighborhood fences.

The officers eventually caught up to Vasquez in an alley, where they allegedly kicked and beat the teen. Porter, a 12-year veteran, then allegedly joined in, grabbed onto a fence with both hands and proceeded to jump up and down on Vasquez.

Porter has denied using excessive force. He is suspended without pay pending the resolution of the case.
href="http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/oct/15/officer-pleads-not-guilty-in-teen-beating/">Rocky Mountain News

Canon City Bristles At The Loss Of DOC HQ

CANON CITY - City officials have joined the fray with Pueblo in crying foul about the Colorado Department of Corrections selection of Colorado Springs for its future headquarters building.

Canon City Manager Steve Rabe launched a no-holds-barred protest Tuesday by penning a two-page letter to James Ramsey, DOC facility management services director.

Rabe claims the DOC's decision to accept the proposal submitted by Mortenson Development Inc. is contrary to standard practice. He urges the DOC to take another look using evaluation criteria contained in the May 6 request for proposals.

"The city believes both offers scored almost equally up to the point that the DOC chose to arbitrarily, without notification to include travel costs as part of its evaluation," Rabe wrote. "Moreover, it appears the DOC failed to correctly analyze the contents of each offer in order to accurately and fairly evaluate each in accordance with its request for proposals."
Pueblo Chieftain

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pueblo Pushes For DOC Headquarters

PUEBLO — Pueblo City Council President Barb Vidmar believes her city is the right choice for the new state Department of Corrections headquarters and wants legislators to intervene if necessary.

The department has recommended the headquarters stay in Colorado Springs. Pueblo offered the state $1.5 million in tax incentives to build the new headquarters in the city.

Pueblo leaders say their city is the best choice for the new Corrections Department headquarters because Pueblo County is home to the largest share of the department's employees.

Corrections Director Ari Zavaras says one of the reasons for recommending Colorado Springs was a study of the travel costs to each site. He says he'll review any new information from Pueblo officials.

The Denver Post

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grand Junction: No Plan To Stake Out Voting Centers

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A mean-spirited flier that started circulating last month over the Internet and in one U.S. city shouldn’t cause alarm for local residents heading to polling booths, local law enforcement says.

The pamphlets, found in Philadelphia last week, claim undercover police will be at polling stations during Election Day in an attempt to arrest voters who are wanted on warrants or to demand payment for unpaid tickets.

That claim is false, and it appears to be a poor attempt to scare people into not voting, local law enforcement said.

“It’s not our goal to interrupt the voting process,” Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said. “We won’t do anything around voting centers to try to identify felons.”

The fliers that were distributed around a black neighborhood in Philadelphia say the author was informed by a supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama to clear up outstanding warrants and unpaid tickets before voting. On Election Day, the flier says, undercover police will be at polling stations to arrest residents wanted on warrants or to place locks on vehicles of voters with unpaid traffic tickets.

According to Snopes.com, a Web site that investigates rumors, the flier is false and is considered an attempt to intimidate voters from casting ballots for Obama.

Grand Junction Police Department officer T.J. Rix said the department has no plans to stake out voting centers.

“It’s something I’ve never seen or even heard about,” Rix said of the fliers. “We don’t have a plan for a proactive approach.”

In Colorado, felons can vote if they are not in prison or are on parole. People on probation and serving community-based sentences can vote. Also, inmates in jail on misdemeanor charges or who are awaiting trial can vote.

Only one inmate at Mesa County Jail this year requested an absentee ballot to vote, Hilkey said. Jail staff distributes information each year about inmates’ rights to vote and offers absentee voting applications, he added.

Grand Junction Sentinel

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Drug Reform Near You? National Voter Guide

With election day little more than a month away, it is time for a round-up of drug policy reform initiatives facing voters in November. Not only are there a number of state-level initiatives dealing with marijuana decriminalization, medical marijuana, and sentencing reform (or its opposite), there are also a handful of initiatives at the county or municipal level.

But after a spate of drug reform initiatives beginning in the mid-1990s and continuing into the beginning of this decade, the pace has slowed this year. Of the 139 statewide initiatives identified by the Initiative and Referendum Institute as making the ballot this year, only seven have anything to do with drug reform, and four of those seek to increase sentences for various drug offenses.

Drug reformers have had an impressive run, especially with medical marijuana efforts, winning in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, and losing only in conservative South Dakota. Reformers also scored an impressive coup with California's "treatment not jail" initiative, Proposition 36, in 2002. At the municipal level, initiatives making adult marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority have won in cities across California; as well as Denver; Seattle; Missoula County, Montana; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and Hailey, Idaho. Detroit and several smaller Michigan cities have also approved municipal medical marijuana initiatives.

Alter Net

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pedals Of Empowerment

Transportation makes such a huge difference in people's lives. I know that I rode my bike throughout this city for years, buses don't go anywhere and walking can often be difficult and time consuming. Please support operations like this if you have the chance.

Carla Quist slowly spins her pedals along the gravel driveway, testing her purple mountain bike.

It doesn't look like much, but the brakes are good. It shifts smoothly. The tires are new.

"I had to push it here," she says with a shy smile. "I don't know what I'd do without this place. I sure wouldn't be riding without them."

Thanks to a team of volunteers at the Derailer Bicycle Collective, Quist can now pedal to her doctor. To her church. To the park.

"These guys save me a lot of walking," she says.

Now in its sixth year, Derailer has helped thousands like Quist — down-and-outers who struggle to make bus fare — find some two-wheeled freedom. From a humble warehouse at 411 Lipan St., a hustling crew of volunteer bike mechanics does more than ration free bikes and parts to a steady stream of Denver's needy.

"Our emphasis is having people learn to work on their own bikes," says Benji Nelson, a five-year volunteer at Derailer.

Nelson, his hands black with bike grease and his worn blue jeans even blacker, checks a list of scribbled names on a yellow tablet and begins a new bike project, a custom build with a man named Juan. Some, like Quist, come looking for a repair. Others, like Juan, need a new ride.

Behind the warehouse, a multihued yard of miscellaneous metal provides the beginning. First-timers can pick a frame from a pile cresting the top of an 8-foot chain-link fence. A stack of wheels reaches the roof of the warehouse.

Crates of fading seats, handlebars and pedals await selection. Everything is either scavenged from scrap yards or donated.

Inside, pyramids of parts form islands in a sea of tools and bike stands. Mechanics patiently teach, starting with the most basic "righty-tighty, left-loosey" and proceeding all the way up to tricky installations of bottom brackets and bearings.

The line outside can grow a hundred deep during the busy summer season. Tattered bench seats from ancient cars provide respite for those waiting for an opportunity to pedal.

"After a few years here, I realize now how profound a difference a bike can make in some people's lives," Nelson says during a rare break in the four-hour shift. "It can get you a job and to a job. It can get you home. It can get you to a doctor, to help. A free bike is a free bike, but a free bike you built yourself means a little more. It's something you created."

There's a little hope with each bike that leaves the shop.

"These guys are doing such a good thing," says Gerardo Leyba as he tests his new-found transport, a dinged-up but functional 10-speed. "Lots of people can use this kind of help."

There are more than a 100 similar nonprofit outfits in the U.S., including at least six in Colorado.

The bike collectives in Colorado serve varying purposes. The new Bike Depot in Park Hill has distributed almost 500 rides to neighborhood residents since opening in April and teaches kids about bike maintenance. The Spokes Community Bicycle Project in Boulder fixes up bikes for communities in Africa. Boulder's Community Cycles uses donated rides to teach bike repair and maintenance as well as promote cycling. The Fort Collins Bicycle Co-op teaches bike repair and stocks the community's popular bike library.

The Denver Post

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ex-Felons Confused By Voting Laws

Thirty-nine-year-old Alex Friedmann of Memphis has never voted for president.

In 1987, he was convicted of armed robbery and assault with attempt to commit murder. Friedmann served 10 years and finished parole in 2005.

The following year, the state of Tennessee passed a complicated law requiring ex-offenders like Friedmann to pay off all restitution fees before registering to vote. "In order to regain my voting rights in Tennessee," he says, "I had to pay $900."

After months of legal wrangling, Friedmann was finally able to register last Friday. "We have a history-setting presidential election coming up," he says, "It's good to be able to participate."

But come Nov. 4, millions of former felons won't be voting. In the case of 5.3 million of them, legally they can't, because they have been convicted of a crime. In a number of other cases, however, it's simply a matter of incorrect information.

State laws regarding voting rights for ex-offenders are so varied and confusing that even election officials are unsure of the rules, according to a new study by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

Researchers found, for example, that half the election officials interviewed in Colorado didn't know that residents on probation were allowed to vote. And in New York, New Jersey and Washington state, officials had created voting requirements that made registering impossible in some cases.

"A third of the election officials said they would require individuals with felony convictions to provide some kind of documentation before allowing them to register to vote," explains the Brennan Center's Erika Wood. "Even though that documentation is not required by law and in some cases, particularly here in New York, actually doesn't even exist!"


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Moving Target: A Decade of Resistance To The Prison Industrial Complex

For the past 10 years, Critical Resistance has helped advocates imagine the possibility of a world without bars. By questioning the necessity and effectiveness of the very foundations of our criminal justice system—incarceration, surveillance, policing—Critical Resistance has furthered the notion that nothing can “fix” the criminal justice system. Instead, if our country is to truly reclaim its communities, the criminal justice system must be dismantled. There is no “fix”
for a system built on racism and fear and actualized through the social control of the poor. As a result of Critical Resistance and other groups’ community organizing, activists and stakeholders throughout the country recognize that there is no correlation between crime and punishment in this country and safe and vibrant communities. Despite evidence that investments in prisons and policing are not effective in increasing public safety, the prison industrial complex (PIC) continues to consume considerable governmental resources. In fact, history shows that states that increase their funding for the PIC do not necessarily see crime rates drop any more than states that do not. More specifically, we now know that increasing prison and jail populations
does not produce lower crime rates
Justice Policy Institute

Judge Orders DOC To Pay For Health Care - CA

(10-06) 17:25 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- The federal judge who took control of California's decrepit prison health care system in 2006 made it clear Monday that he intends to order the state to pay the first installment of an $8 billion plan to bring the system up to constitutional standards.

At the close of a hearing in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson promised a ruling later this week and left little doubt about its contents: an order requiring state prison officials to turn over $250 million to a court-appointed overseer to begin construction in February on the first of eight planned new medical facilities for about 10,000 prisoners.

Henderson removed the $1.1 billion prison medical system from state control more than two years ago after finding that shoddy health care was killing one inmate each week and that state officials were incapable of complying with the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. This June, the judge approved the plan by his appointee, Clark Kelso, to build new medical and dental hospitals and to refurbish some current facilities.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has maintained that it can't set aside bond funds for the construction without approval from state legislators, who have repeatedly rejected funding proposals.

On Monday, Henderson said it's too late for that argument. He noted that state officials took part in discussions on the construction plan and voiced no objections before he approved it in June.

Their current position "would seem to allow federal constitutional rights to be trumped any time they thought the remedy was too expensive," the judge said. "That's not the way our constitutional system works."

Kelso has asked Henderson to hold Schwarzenegger and state Controller John Chiang, who signs the state's checks, in contempt of court and fine the state $2 million a day for failing to fund the construction.

"The state has failed in its duty to provide that funding," Kelso, a veteran state troubleshooter and professor at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, told the judge.

SF Gate

Monday, October 06, 2008

Conviction No Bar To Voting

I wish we would have had this coverage for months prior to this election, but I will take what I can get.

October 05, 2008 12:46 am
Jail inmates awaiting trial can vote.

So can convicted felons who have served their time and completed parole, according to a group that supports prisoners and ex-offenders.

Carol Peeples, re-entry coordinator with the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, said state law spells out the rights of residents to vote.

“A lot of people have been given incorrect information by persons of authority: parole officers, probation officers, clerks and recorders. They have been told that once they have a felony conviction in Colorado, they cannot vote,” Peeples said.

“That is not true. The day a person finishes his or her sentence, including parole, they are eligible to vote.”

It is up to the ex-offender to affirm the right to vote, Peeples said.

“There is not a paper, no announcement, nothing to let them know that this has happened,” she said.

The coalition has mounted a statewide information campaign to alert law officers of inmate rights to vote.

“We sent a packet of information to every sheriff in the state. The Denver County jail has been proactive in getting the information out,” Peeples said. “In Boulder County, only one inmate has asked to vote.”

Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said he was unaware of any jail inmate asking to vote in November.

“No inmates have asked me, but they are supposed to ask whoever is in charge of the jail,” Ortiz said. “They would fill out an application to be registered to vote and the people in charge of the jail would send it to us.”

Ortiz said he was unaware of any ineligible felons trying to register to vote.

“I haven’t seen anything cross my desk and I have seen thousands of applications for voter registration.”

Ortiz’s office is notified when a felony conviction makes a county resident ineligible to vote.

“The Colorado Secretary of State, working the Department of Corrections, flags names in our computer of people who have been convicted of felonies,” Ortiz said. “We have sent 48 letters since August informing people that we have been notified they are unable to vote.

“They need to prove to us that they are eligible to vote,” Ortiz said. "The state wants to make sure if they are in DOC custody or are on parole, they are not eligible to vote.

“If somehow they got through, which is not going to happen, and my office found out they were a felon, they committed voter fraud,” Ortiz said.

The deadline to register to vote is Monday, Ortiz said.

The Pueblo Chieftain

Sunday, October 05, 2008

DOC Stays In The Springs - OPINION

The Colorado Department of Corrections has decided to stay put in Colorado Springs, even though Pueblo tried to lure the agency with a generous $1.5 million handout.

There's an important lesson in this, for Pueblo and Colorado Springs: Handouts are unnecessary, and they usually don't work. In some cases, requests for corporate relocation handouts and tax breaks are nothing more than a scam. Genuine, sustainable business considerations are what determine the location of businesses and organizations.

The Colorado DOC is a key player in our relatively small country's dubious accomplishment of incarcerating more people than any other country on Earth - more than even China and India, which dwarf us in size. As part of this ever-expanding prison industrial complex, the Colorado DOC needs to expand its headquarters. No matter what's going on with the markets, we can count on the public/private incarceration industry to grow and drain the economy at tremendous taxpayer expense.

The expanding prison population in Colorado and the rest of the country is nothing other than pure economic drain. Every human put behind bars represents an enormous cost liability. Little is produced beyond state license plates, in some locations, and much is lost.

As prisoners rot behind bars, their families often end up on public assistance. Their children suffer neglect and some become lifelong public liabilities. It's an endless and growing cycle of debt, motivated mostly by expedient "tough on crime" politics and economic ignorance. Yes, violent criminals belong behind bars. But our country's prison obsession isn't about safety, it's mostly about money.

The Gazette

Changing Futures

This article talks about SB 318 which was CCJRC's bill. Hopefully, we can strengthen this bill in the near future and make more funds available for long term treatment.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — A piece of 2003 state legislation has saved Colorado money on prison spending and increased funding for community-based drug treatment, said Chief Probation Officer Shawnee Barnes.

The legislative effort, Senate Bill 318, was aimed at reducing certain prison sentences to provide the extra funding.

Some of the funding from the bill going to the 9th Judicial District’s Probation Department has been spent on a contract with Roaring Fork Counseling Center, Barnes said. The judicial district covers Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.

The contract with the counseling center this year was $48,000. It pays for more specialized treatment for people on probation at the highest risk of going to jail or prison. Funds go toward counseling and other services for people on intensive supervised probation, people in drug court, and the newer female offender program and pathways curriculum.

The probation department refers people into these programs who could use the extra help.

“It’s an extra tool for the highest risk offenders,” Barnes said.

Counselor John Romero said, “The idea is to give them treatment in the community so their behaviors don’t escalate to the point where they’ll have to go to a facility.”

Pathways is a substance abuse and criminal behavior treatment program for juveniles that’s been active in the judicial district since July 2007 and has about 14 clients. So far, no one has failed out of the program, Romero said.

Romero has been a counselor in the area for years but started his own business, the Roaring Fork Counseling Center, in January.

The female offender program focuses on women. It seeks to address things like self-esteem, issues caused by abuse, living as a single mother and child care issues.

“If you don’t take care of the relationships and those things they won’t stop using (drugs or alcohol),” Barnes said. “For the first time we don’t just treat them as all the same criminal population.”

The programs involve counseling and activities to help people learn how to socialize without drugs or alcohol and learn successful life skills. For example, teenagers in pathways, people in the female offender program and drug court clients just finished trail repair work at Rifle Falls on Monday, Barnes said. There have also been things like rope courses to learn about trust and rafting trips to learn about cooperation.

The four programs had an 87 percent success rate last year, meaning that portion of people either successfully finished treatment or didn’t fail and get sent to community corrections or prison, Barnes said.

The figure is significantly higher than the rate for adult clients on regular probation.

Last year in Colorado, 56 percent of adults on regular probation successfully finished
without skipping town or getting their probation revoked.

The pathways curriculum used by probation is not to be confused with the Pathways Adolescent Recovery program that was founded around a year ago. That outpatient treatment center for adolescent substance abuse, across from Valley View Hospital, recently changed its name to the Red Mountain Adolescent and Family Center due to confusion from the similar names.

Glenwood Springs