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.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Most Trusted Man In America Supported Drug Reform


RIP Walter Cronkite! In the summer 1992, I was told by an assistant that I had a phone call, and that “unless the person on the phone was kidding, that it was someone claiming to be Walter Cronkite.”

I took the call and it was in fact Mr. Cronkite, who wanted to talk about his concerns regarding America’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. We talked for about half an hour and he asked me to fax him some data and/or reports to support some of the information I’d related to him regarding arrest rates, racial disparity and I think the efficacy of medical cannabis. As he related his fax number to me I recognized the exchange as coming from Dukes County, MA (which is principally Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Islands). I told Mr. Cronkite that I had grown up in close proximity to his locale, across Nantucket Sound in the Cape Cod town of Chatham. That sparked an additional half hour conversation about striped bass, giant Atlantic bluefin tuna and the importance of knowing where you derive pleasure.

All in all, a most pleasant conversation with a journalist I’d grown up watching and had always generally respected.

I was heartened some years later when Walter Cronkite started speaking out strongly against the war on some drugs, including doing fundraising letters and videos for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Drug war is a war on families
By Walter Cronkite

Article Published: Sunday, August 08, 2004

In the midst of the soaring rhetoric of the recent Democratic National Convention, more than one speaker quoted Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, invoking “the better angels of our nature.” Well, there is an especially appropriate task awaiting those heavenly creatures - a long-overdue reform of our disastrous war on drugs. We should begin by recognizing its costly and inhumane dimensions.

Much of the nation, in one way or another, is victimized by this failure - including, most notably, the innocents, whose exposure to drugs is greater than ever.

This despite the fact that there are, housed in federal and state prisons and local jails on drug offenses, more than 500,000 persons - half a million people! Clearly, no punishment could be too severe for that portion of them who were kingpins of the drug trade and who ruined so many lives. But by far, the majority of these prisoners are guilty of only minor offenses, such as possessing small amounts of marijuana. That includes people who used it only for medicinal purposes.

The cost to maintain this great horde of prisoners is more than $10 billion annually. And that’s just part of the cost of this war on drugs: The federal, state and local drug-control budgets last year added up to almost $40 billion.

These figures were amassed by the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the foremost national organizations seeking to bring reason to the war on drugs and reduce substantially those caught in the terrible web of addiction.

There are awful tales of tragedy and shocking injustice hidden in those figures - the product of an almost mindlessly draconian system called “mandatory sentencing,” in which even small offenses can draw years in prison.

Thousands of women, many of them mothers of young children, are included among those minor offenders. Those children left without motherly care are the most innocent victims of the drug war and the reason some call it a “war on families.”

Women are the fastest-growing segment of the prison population, with almost 80 percent of them incarcerated for drug offenses. The deep perversity of the system lies in the fact that women with the least culpability often get the harshest sentences.

Unlike the guilty drug dealer, they often have no information to trade for a better deal from prosecutors, and might end up with a harsher sentence than the dealer gets.


Anonymous said...

In the last paragraph you brought up one of the least discussed, yet biggest injustices in our judicial system. The first and biggest one to "rat" out his buddies, gets the best deal from prosecutors (and it doesn't necessarily even have to be the truth). I always grew up being taught that a "tattle tale" and a "coward" was unscrupulous and immoral. Now, our legal system heavily rewards the loss of basic moral values. My Dad would punish the Tattler as heavily as the perpetrator (just for tattling). I believe my Dad was right. Our sytem now teaches that rats walk; I believe they should crawl on their bellies like the snakes they are.

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