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, April 21, 2009

Death Penalty Passes The House

The state House today approved a bill to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado by a single vote.

The House voted 33-32 to send the bill, House bill 1274, to the state Senate, with one Republican voting in favor of the bill and six Democrats voting against it. The bill would use the projected cost saving from ending the death penalty to fund a cold case unit in theColorado Bureau of Investigations.

"We ought to fund the unit we created two years ago to try to solve some of those unsolved crimes," said House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, a Louisville Democrat who is the bill's sponsor.

Weissmann said more than 1,000 homicides have gone unsolved in Colorado over the last 40 years, during which Colorado has executed only one convict. He said more than $800,000 in saved money would be left over every year after the state funds the cold case unit.

Opponents said the bill takes away a necessary tool for law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

The vote in the House today, dramatically, came down to a single vote. With the count deadlocked at 32-32, state Rep. Edward Vigil paused for nearly a minute before casting the deciding vote in favor of the bill.

Rep. Don Marostica of Loveland was the lone Republican to vote for the bill. Democrats Edward Casso, of Thornton; Kathleen Curry, of Gunnison; Jerry Frangas, of Denver; Sara Gagliardi, of Arvada; Karen Middleton, of Aurora; and John Soper, of Thornton, voted against it.

Afterward, Vigil said he struggled with the issue, saying that he tried to balance the moral good of ending the death penalty with the practical good of prosecutors having a tool to use as leverage against suspects.

"Hopefully this will make us a better society in Colorado by not having a death penalty," Vigil, a Democrat from Fort Garland, said, "though I have my reservations."