Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

New JPI Report: The Release Report - Maryland

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Maryland could save millions of dollars by releasing onto parole many low risk individuals - like some of the oldest members of the prison population - and by expanding parole eligibility and improving supervision, according to a report released today by the Justice Policy Institute. The report, The Release Valve: Parole in Maryland, notes that in 2007 the state spent approximately $1,422 per person on parole or probation, and $33,310 per person incarcerated. Just by paroling an additional 100 people, the report concludes, the state could potentially save approximately $3 million over the course of one year while maintaining public safety.

"At a time of budget cuts and financial crises, it is important to note that, if used correctly, parole can reduce spending without compromising public safety," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute.

According to the report, the state has made real progress in its efforts to increase drug treatment and change some parole practices.
Maryland already uses effective programs like diminution, or "good time," credits to allow people in prison to earn earlier parole and has a policy for medical parole, but these and other proven initiatives are not being used to the fullest extent possible. Research shows that the state could expand the use of risk assessment instruments to determine those people in prison who could be placed on community supervision; since most people "age out" of crime, moving older people from prison to parole could safely result in significant savings. For example, by placing even half of the roughly 465 people in Maryland's prisons that are over the age of 60 on parole, the state could save over $13 million in the first year.

"People can change, and that when they do, they should be given a chance to be productive members of society," stated Walter M. Lomax, director of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, which advocates for humane and sensible criminal justice and sentencing policies for individuals who are incarcerated long term in Maryland prisons. "These policies keep many people in prison, primarily African Americans, who simply do not pose a threat to society. This report is not advocating that
Maryland be 'soft on crime;' it's saying that Maryland can save money and do the right thing for people, their families, and their communities."

The report also found that programs that emphasize support and service over a strict supervision modality are more effective, lowering recidivism rates for individuals in the project. Maryland's Proactive Community Supervision project (PCS), in particular, provides tailored supervision to people in the program and participants have had fewer rearrests or drug test failures than those not in the program. Research indicates that PCS is significantly more likely to keep people out of prison than people who are released under traditional parole terms; however, to date, the state has only used PCS on a very limited basis. Bringing PCS to scale in the entire state would reduce the number of people returning to prison from parole, resulting in a potential savings of approximately $19 million, which includes the cost of enrolling everyone on probation or parole in PCS.

This state-specific report echoes many of the findings for the recently released "One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections" by the
Pew Center on the States. This report indicated that 8.2 percent of Maryland's general fund is spent on corrections, higher than any of its neighboring states of Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware or Pennsylvania.