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.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Somthings Gotta Give With Prison Reform

The Gazette

GOLDEN • David Michaud, chairman of the state Parole Board, said the guys he meets on the golf course tell him, "‘You're on the Parole Board? Good for you! Keep all those sons of bitches locked up!'"

"That's one attitude," said Michaud, a former Denver police chief. "But on the other hand, when I first started being a cop in 1963, there were two prisons. Now there's 29," and the state corrections budget is $700 million.

"Where does it end?" he asked. "Something's got to give."

Crime and punishment are big in Colorado.

In 1994, the state prison population was 9,622, according to state records, and corrections consumed 4 percent of the state's revenues. As of the end of March, the state's overallpopulation had grown by a third, but its prisoner tally had more than doubled, to 23,152. Their slice of the budget pie has swollen to 10 percent.

Lawmakers, corrections officials, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and advocates for victims as well as prisoners say the trend is economically and socially unsustainable. But there's no broad agreement about what to do.

Now the issue is in the hands of the state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, which has been tasked by the Legislature with coming up with a plan of action.

The commission, a 26-member group with representatives from all aspects of the criminal justice system, met in Golden Thursday and Friday, and the hot topic was "sentencing reform."

Supporters view the concept as making the punishment better fit the crime. Critics suspect it will amount to a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The commission is expected to take a hard look at the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders, who make up about a fifth of allprisoners, by far the largest chunk of the prison population. Also up for scrutiny will be technical parole violators - not those who commit another felony, but those who do something like skip a date with their parole officer. This group of nonviolent offenders makes up 10 percent of Colorado's inmates.

Shorter sentences are not without cost. If more people are getting out of prison, more people will be on parole, and that burden would fall on the Parole Board, which is currentlymanaging more than 11,000 former inmates.

Perhaps the most important, but least quantifiable, cost is to public safety if more convicts are returned to society only to commit more crimes.

Supporters of sentencing reform say they hope to minimize that risk by taking the savings from the reduced prisoner population and investing it in education and support programs to give former inmates a better chance of a productive life.

"Hopefully, it'll end up saving the state money," said state Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, author of the bill kick-starting the sentencing-review process. "Hopefully, it'll make the sentences more consistent. Hopefully, it will make the sentences more logical to the public and everybody else. Hopefully, it'll increase public safety. Hopefully it will increase bang for our DOC buck."

Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, said some will support reduced sentences to free up money for other state priorities. "For every dollar we spend in corrections," she noted, "it's not going to highered (education), or it's not going to health care."

Others will come to sentencing review seeking a fairer system, or one that better prepares inmates for a successful return to society, she said. The common denominator, Roberts said, is "accepting the fact that what we're doing isn't working."


Anonymous said...

End mandatory parole now! Listen to the reports that other state have already PAID for! Parole is a failure! 1 year is more than enough time for parolees to become self-sufficient! Anything longer than that is a JOKE and is just a money maker for the state!


Anonymous said...

Yes, end all parole and release the inmate to return to there familys who care about them. The system now forces the inmate to go thru a half way house, geared to take there money for there keep, (17 dollars a day) then after 90 days parole for three years designed to return them to prison without a day in court for any minor infraction of law, (like a traffic stop). djw

Anonymous said...

What "sons of bitches" are they talking about? Their own sons and daughters who are using drugs?

Anonymous said...