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, June 17, 2009

Panelists Agree That The System Requires Review

The Sentencing Project

Chairman Arlen Specter lead the hearing which assembled a wide ranging panel consisting of Chief William Bratton of the Los Angeles Police Department; Pat Nolan, Vice President of the Prison Fellowship; Professor Charles J. Ogletree of Harvard Law School; and Brian W.Walsh, Senior Legal Research Fellow, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation. Despite the different political leanings of the panel members, they all agreed that the criminal justice system requires a comprehensive review.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing PolicyIncarcerationRacial DisparityDrug Policy 
“Our problems are systemic, widespread, and growing,” said LAPD Chief Bratton. “Only a singularly focused blue ribbon commission comprised of informed practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and civil rights activists can adequately address the calculated formation of intervention and prevention strategies.” Bratton emphasized the need for creative methods for preventing crime, some of which already exist in some cities, and could be expanded with city specific modifications.

Professor Ogletree emphasized another point on which there was widespread agreement when he explained that the current criminal justice system is not cost effective, and that a new system which was aimed at that causes of crime would save both Federal and State governments huge amounts of money. One example came out of the state of California where an after school program called L.A.'s BEST was introduced at no cost to parents. 

“Students enrolled in LA's BEST are 30 percent less likely to commit juvenile crime than their peers, for every dollar invested in the [program], Los Angeles saves $2.50 in costs associated with crime.” Professor Ogletree and others presented similar examples of programs such as these from all over the country, showing that preemptive measures can be highly effective.

Nolan, formerly incarcerated himself, testified about the problems within the prisons which he described as breeding grounds for crime.

“I saw that the skills the inmates learned to survive inside prison made them more dangerous when they were released.” When the government puts low-level and non-violent offenders in prison with more serious offenders the result is that upon release, the initially non-violent offenders who have, for the most part, been taught no skills during their sentence other than violence, face a high risk of recidivism.

Senator Specter stated the issue most simply when he said, “We call it a correctional system, but we all know that it doesn't correct.” This bill is the first step towards creating a system that not only corrects but also prevents crime, while simultaneously cutting costs to tax payers and ensuring them a higher level of safety in their community.


Marcia McGuire said...

So very true. I'm convinced that DOC members don't get it, or they are purely apathetic about progressive reform. This statement sums it up: "I saw that the skills the inmates learned to survive inside prison made them more dangerous when they were released."

I'm no Einstein, but I am quite certain that DOC officials, all court servants and law enforcement are fully aware of the damage low-level and non-violent inmates are exposed to by integrating them with higher levels. This causes further damage to ex-inmates; forever labeled as felons (and accepted discrimination in society that shreds hope). The DOC (and others) KNOW this to be true, yet show no concern for removing damaging behaviors by so-called upstanding citizens who blatantly discriminate. NO concern. Civil Rights has a long way to go.

Anyone who agrees with mandatory minimums (parole; extended sentencing; double jeopardy) shows a lack of compassion and concern for productivity by 'former' inmates. It also shows a lack of knowledge and education among the DOC population. It's beyond shameful. George Orwell's book "1984" was more than prophetic. Chilling.

Pat Nolan needs to be taken seriously. He has first-hand experience. The ones that simply head the system don't have the slightest clue as to how much harm is done using their archaic practices.
The system, as it is today, actually jeopardizes public safety. This needs to be fully comprehended by the leadership in DOC. Better yet, high level DOC positions should be filled by former inmates who have integrity, passion and a quest for justice in constructive reform. It is THEY who comprehend what NEEDS to be changed in order for crime to be reduced istead of increased. The present policies of DOC provide a breeding ground for more criminal activity. It begs to question if that is what their agenda is. More and more incarcerations ... to what gain?

The victims of criminal actions are not being fairly represented by the inactions of DOC to progress their policies. Ultimately, the massive incarcerations and excessive sentencings harm the victims of crime and the inmates who wish to create a positive future; obstructed by discriminative procedures due to inexperienced, superstitious and/or vengeful attitudes.

From a personal viewpoint, I see nothing Christ-like coming from those who refuse to let go of the hate and labeling directed at our ex-inmates and instead apply genuine Spirituality by giving them chances to prove themselves to be enlightened members of society.

Only a very, VERY small percentage of human beings that have committed crimes can't be reformed. These few fall in the category of psychological damage; mental health deficiencies.

Now. ***Research the wrongful convictions and disparities in sentencings and we have a recipe for national disaster in constitutional rights for the victims, inmates, family members and society in general.

ALL of us are victims of a flawed system in the United States of America.

Anonymous said...

Marcia, well said! As a family member of a wrongfully convicted inmate of a non-violent crime who is incarcerated with those who were convicted of violent crimes, i.e., murder, rape, etc., I have seen a side of the "justice" system in the United States that I would never have believed existed had I not seen it.

This young man from my family will "celebrate" a fifth birthday behind bars this month for a crime he didn't commit. When he is released later this year, after four years and seven months in prison on a five-year sentence, he will be subject to two years of mandatory parole. Essentially, he will serve six years and seven months on a five-year sentence.

Prison and sentencing reform is desperately needed in this country. The District Attorney's office needs citizen oversight. Too many are like the DA in the Duke rape case -- out for a conviction at any cost. Justice be damned! It's the conviction rate that will get the DA re-elected.

Please keep up the good work on behalf of families and inmates!