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.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Savoring a Taste Of Freedom After 14 Years

The Denver Post

The gray-bearded guy at the Outback could have been anyone kicking back over steak with friends on a Friday.

But he wasn't.

He was a man who had just walked from two life sentences for a double-murder conviction that a court has overturned.

"Real people actually live this way. Free. It's kind of neat," said Tim Kennedy over the ribeye and Coke he had dreamed of for 13 years.

Freedom came for the 52-year-old carpenter by posting a $250,000 bond late Friday.

El Paso County district attorneys aim to retry him in September despite a state Supreme Court probe into their mishandling of the case. DNA tests and other new evidence support his claims that he didn't kill his friends Jennifer Carpenter and Steve Staskiewicz in their Colorado Springs trailer home.

But Friday wasn't about that.

It was about Kennedy taking off his orange jumpsuit, putting on a crisp striped button-down and neat black dress pants, and stepping without shackles into a world that views him — at least for the next four months — as innocent.

"Goodbye inmate #94886," he said as his attorney, John Dicke, drove him from the El Paso County jail north through a curtain of sun showers.

"Man, that's just surreal, it's so gorgeous," he said of the view of Pikes Peak in the rain. "Thank you, John. More than I can say."

Kennedy is moving with his sister into the Arvada home where they grew up. John and Lois Kennedy died while their son was in prison, having spent

their savings on a lawyer whose defense work was grossly ineffective.

Prison officials didn't allow Kennedy to attend the funerals of the parents he still speaks of in the present tense.

"She's a great mom and I know she can see this day," he said of the woman who five years ago stocked his dresser drawer with eight pairs of thick new work socks for the occasion of his homecoming.

The world according to Tim Kennedy will take some getting used to after living his 40s and early 50s in what he calls "virtual nonexistence." It's a world of satellite radios, $2.49 a gallon gas and cellphones with computers in them and cameras too.

He plans to use his freedom looking for work in construction, fixing what's broken at his family's home and relishing not having to explain to a guard every time he needs a wrench or piece of sandpaper.

"Wow. There are knives on the table," he noticed when arriving at the steakhouse, his pick for his first meal out. "You've gotta know that I've been using nothing but a spork for years now."

Throughout the evening, Kennedy was far less interested in eating his ribeye than in holding his sister's hand and thanking his legal team over and over again for winning his appeal. With incredulity, yet calm, he sat back in his chair and breathed deeply, taking in what it meant to be living a moment he had hoped would come for so long.

Finally, he boxed up his leftovers, glanced at the Denver Nuggets' score and said his goodbyes in the Outback parking lot.

"This morning, they gave us biscuits and baloney gravy in jail. Tomorrow, I think I'll have steak and eggs for breakfast. How about that?" he said.

"I want you all to know that I didn't know how much more of it I could take," he added, grasping his sister's arm and heading home for a summer, at least, of anonymity.