Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mercy In The Name Of Justice

The Denver Post

The first thing the man wants me to do is look at a photograph of his daughter. She is gorgeous, with wide brown eyes, razor-sharp features and a syrupy-sweet smile.

He sits back and stares at me. I tell him I don't get it. If she had been mine, it might be a better thing for the state to take that girl's killer out before I laid my hands on him.

Charles Johnson shakes his head and smiles as he explains the moral reason he advocates the end of the death penalty.

"Even after what that man did to my baby, I don't believe in the death penalty," Johnson said. "Killing in my name is unjust and as morally unacceptable to me as abortion."

Johnson has attended every hearing on House Bill 1274, which would abolish the state's death-penalty statute and dedicate the estimated $1 million a year Colorado spends prosecuting capital crimes to solving the estimated 1,600 cold cases of murder. Johnson's daughter is one of those cases, which is the practical reason he wants the death penalty ended.

The bill, scheduled for a House floor vote today, has pitted those who insist the death penalty is a murder deterrent against family members of the murdered.

Johnson does what he can, which is mostly sit in on hearings and take questions when the media come around.

The body of his daughter, Regina Johnson Davis, 40, was dumped in the northbound lanes of Colorado Boulevard at East 52nd Avenue in April 2006. She had been stripped, bound and strangled.

"Regina, I must tell you, was wayward," Johnson said, struggling to hold back tears. "I couldn't get her to come in from the streets."

She suffered mightily, he said, from mental issues.

"I didn't do all the things I maybe could have for my daughter," Johnson says, finally giving in to the tears. "It pains me to say this. I couldn't rescue her."

He is 63 now and lives alone in government housing in the Five Points area.

Initially, he sought vengeance and justice for his daughter. He remembers calling the detective working the case, demanding answers.