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, June 01, 2009

When Children Pull The Trigger..

The Gazette

The case of Daniel Gudino - the Colorado Springs 13-year-old accused of shooting his 9-year-old brother to death and wounding their mother - is one of those vexing cases that prosecutors know comes with the territory.

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May's office hasn't indicated yet whether they will seek to try Gudino as an adult or leave it in juvenile court.

The decision is not entirely up to the prosecutors - Gudino is a year shy of the 14-year-old mark at which a district attorney can charge someone as an adult without a judge's approval.

Whatever decision is made, it will be closely watched and criticized.

"I believe that if the young man is tried as an adult that it's going to be a huge story," said Mary Ellen Johnson, executive director of the Colorado Springs-based Pendulum Foundation, which opposes adult prison time for juveniles.

Johnson said she is encouraged that prosecutors are taking their time on making a decision.

"I think that's a pretty good sign," she said. "Ten years ago, we had a whole different mind-set," she said this week, while attending a national conference in Washington, D.C., on teens serving life without parole. 

Johnson is convinced the pendulum is swinging away from prosecuting juveniles as adults.

"Absolutely," she said. "I think people are a lot more uncomfortable now." 

The numbers statewide show violent juvenile crime is down as are cases of juveniles serving life in prison without parole.

In reaction to a spike in violent juvenile crime in the early 1990s, prosecutors in Colorado convicted 56 juveniles who were sentenced to life in prison. However, after January 2000, only seven more were added to that group.

All but one of the 56 inmates are male. None were younger than 14 when they committed their crime, according to Department of Corrections records.

Part of that trend relates to a 2006 law that diverted juveniles to the Youth Offender System.

Under that system, a judge can sentence a youth to a seven-year-term that is served in a separate state prison in Pueblo. If the offender flunks that system, he can be sent to regular adult prison to serve up to a total of 40 years.