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.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ACTION ALERT - Stop HB - 1075

Action Alert – Jan 20, 2009
HB 1075 Concerning Expansion of Criminal History Employment Disqualifications for Employees of the Department of Human Services

Sponsor: Representative Karen Middleton


Committee Hearing: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 1:30pm in House Committee Hearing Room 107 (ground floor of Capitol)

Current law:

Current law (CRS 27-1-110) allows the Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS) to permanently disqualify someone from being hired for a position that involves direct contact with vulnerable persons if they have been convicted of specific offenses that involve violence, child abuse, and unlawful sexual behavior. Under current law, there is also a 10 year ban from completion of sentence for employment in DHS for a position that involves direct contact with vulnerable persons for people who have been convicted of third degree assault, domestic violence, misdemeanor child abuse, misdemeanor sexual assault, and violating a protection order.

When the legislature enacted this law, it indicated that its intent was to “minimize the potential for hiring and employing persons with a propensity toward abuse, assault or similar offenses against others for positions that would provide them with unsupervised access to vulnerable persons.”

What HB 1075 would do:

HB 1075 would greatly EXPAND the employment disqualification in CRS 27-1-110 to:

1. Apply the employment disqualification to any position within DHS, even those that do not have direct contact with clients.

2. Apply the employment disqualification to all contract employees, even for positions that do not have direct client contact. It would also prevent any current contract employee who had a prior conviction for a disqualifying offense to CONTINUE in their position after the effective date of the legislation, July 1, 2009. (What is not clear is whether the definition of a “contract employee” only refers to individuals or whether that would also include other agencies or corporations that provide contract services, like the managed service organizations that provide substance abuse treatment services or non-profits organizations.)

3. Repeals the exception for people that had successfully completed a deferred sentence or adjudication.

4. Adds all felony drug convictions to the list of offenses that would disqualify someone from being hired at DHS for 10 years after the completion of the sentence (including parole).

5. Adds ALL class 2, 3, 4 or 5 felonies to the list of offenses that prohibits someone from being hired at DHS for 10 years after the completion of the sentence (including parole).

6. No longer would allow an exception if the person was a juvenile when convicted of the disqualifying offense.

HB 1075 would also

7. Require DHS to include a conduct a fingerprint based criminal history record check as part of the employment screening process, including contract employees.

8. Repeal the provision that requires DHS to contact prior employers of applicants and repeals the immunity provided to prior employers for information disclosed unless the prior employer knowingly provided false information.
Hearing – House Judiciary Committee

Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 1:30pm (4th bill on agenda)

Committee Hearing Room 107 – Capitol ground floor


HB 1075 is scheduled for its first committee hearing on Thursday, January 22nd at 1:30pm. Please contact the following committee members. We understand that there are some legislators that have concerns about HB 1075 and that Rep. Middleton, the sponsor, is working on possible amendments. CCJRC is not aware of the content of the amendments, though.

Talking Points:

1. While we understand that DHS needs to protect vulnerable clients, HB 1075 is incredibly broad and would prohibit employment even for positions that have no direct client contact. As we understand this bill, someone who has a drug conviction from 5 years ago couldn’t even work as a janitor at DHS.

2. DHS has not provided any rationale as to why it is necessary to so dramatically widen the employment disqualification.

3. In a state that is actively trying to reduce the recidivism rate and where obtaining employment is well understood to be a key component to successful reentry or productive living in society, DHS is setting a terrible example to other state and county agencies that may follow suit by also unilaterally disqualifying people with criminal convictions from getting government jobs. It is also hypocritical for the state to urge and expect private businesses to hire people with criminal convictions but slam the door on them for jobs at DHS.

4. There would also be a dramatic and conflicting impact where people with criminal convictions (particularly those in recovery) are able to get licensed as alcohol and drug treatment counselors but who would, under HB 1075, be prevented from working at DHS even though people in recovery are often some of the most effective treatment counselors and role models.

5. Blanket employment practices that prohibit people with criminal convictions from even applying are unfair and short-sighted. There are many talented people who made mistakes in the past but who would be great employees in DHS or elsewhere. People need to screened for employment as an individual – not as a group.

House Judiciary Committee Members:

Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), chairman – 303-866-2578, claire.levy.house@state.co.us
Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), vice-chairman – 303-966-2959, ehmccann@comcast.net
Rep. Dennis Apuan (D-El Paso), 303-866-3069, repdennisapuan@gmail.com
Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver), 303-866-2967, loiscourt@msn.com
Rep. Bob Gardner (R-El Paso), 303-866-2191, bob.gardner.house@state.co.us
Rep. Steve King (R-Delta), 303-866-3068, steve.king.house@state.co.us
Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver), 303-866-2910, joe@joemiklosi.com
Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), 303-966-2968, sal_pace@hotmail.com
Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Archuleta), 303-866-2914, ellen.roberts.house@state.co.us
Rep. Su Ryden (D-Arapahoe), 303-866-2942, su@suryden.com
Rep. Mark Waller (R-El Paso), 303-866-5525, mark.waller.house@state.co.us