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, August 05, 2009

Life On The Street: "It Sucks"

Three years ago, in a feature titled "Over and Over Again," I looked at one of the primary reasons for the staggering failure rate of parolees in Colorado. That would be the fact that more and more prisoners are paroling homeless, with no job prospects and little preparation for what they're going to face living in a shelter or on the street. Before long the majority of them end up back in prison -- not for new crimes, usually, but for technical violations of their parole conditions, like not making curfew at the shelter or paying all the fees and restitution associated with their release.

This week, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition released a survey of parolees stashed in shelters, and the upshot of their fine work is that very little has changed since 2006. In fact, with the economy in the tank and even the kind of jobs parolees can get (asbestos removal, mine field sweeping) in short supply, it seems to be getting worse.

The Piton Foundation has estimated that a quarter of Denver's parolees are either in shelters or temporary housing. The CCJRC folks decided to survey parolees found at the eight emergency shelters in town and came back with some grim stats. More than sixty percent of them had no re-entry courses before leaving prison, "with the most prevalent reason being that a class was not offered."

More than two-thirds of the respondents were unemployed, and more than half of them hadn't had a job at all since they got out. Many mentioned ongoing issues getting mental-health treatment or staying off drugs and alcohol, especially when surrounded by winos and junkies of all kinds in shelters. When you take into account that 40 percent of all admissions to the state prisons are simply parolees coming back from a brief try at the streets, you have to wonder why our budget-conscious lawmakers aren't doing more to get these folks out of the revolving door, thereby saving hundreds of millions of dollars in additional incarceration costs.

"It sucks. I'm broke. Nobody wants to help. Every door you go to gets shut," one parolee told CCJRC. "You feel like you're getting set up for failure."

Carol Peeples, the CCJRC re-entry coordinator who put together the report, says it's a combination of various hurdles that prevent the homeless from completing parole, including a 2001 city ordinance that makes it difficult for them to find temporary housing. "I was struck by the number of changes that could help," Peeples says. "Nothing glamorous, but small things, from case management to the way parole officers handle certain situations."

Although she surveyed eight locations, Peeples discovered that more than eighty percent of the shelter parolees were concentrated in one location -- the Salvation Army's Crossroads Overnight Shelter for Men on 29th Street, which happens to be the only one that accepts sex offenders. That isn't a good situation, not only because of the drug use in the immediate vicinity, but also because Crossroads recently announced that it will be closing down its shelter functions and turning into a transitional living facility. That will leave parole officers scrambling to find new beds for people already teetering on the edge of nowhere.


Barney said...

Teh parolees are "set up for failure". They are turned out on the streets with $100 to last for however long it takes to find employment. They have not had re-entry classes or prepartation in most cases. According to the Administrative Regulations of the Colorado Department of Corrections (https://exdoc.state.co.us/secure/comboweb/weblets/index.php/regulations/home), it is the job of the parole officer to help parolees to succeed by helping with job placement, rehabilitation assistance, housing, transportation, etc. However, does it happen? That would be a resounding . "NO!!". They are actually there only to police and violate.
In addition to having no money and no job ( and little or no chance of finding one) and no money, parolees are required to pay, pay, pay in order to comply with parole (ie parole supervision fees, restitution, drug and alcohol screening, classes, etc.
It is obviously to the advantage of the Department of Corrections to keep them in the system ($$$$$$) and they do everything they can to make sure that happens. They are not there to help the parolee to succeed in any way (maybe a small handful might - I don't know of any). If the system wanted parolees to succeed they would prepare them for release while still incarcerated. They would provide counseling and rahabilitaion while inside. They would provide transitional options. and number one, they would do away with mandatory parole. It's all about the $$$$$$$, with no care for parolees as humans.
My son was released on parole a couple of years ago. I lived alone in a 4 bedroom home and had every intention of helping him any way I could. Parole determined he could not parole to my home, as I was on probation for a DUI and DUR. Instead, they wanted to place in the downtown Denver Rescue Mission. His charges were Meth charges. He ws raised in a very small town and has no concept of living on the streets in downtown Denver. Now where do you suppose he would stand a better chance of succeeding? Duh!?!?! They did not care about his success, only their little power trip. I was able to come up with the money and use my name to get him into an apartment outside of Denver, but what if I hadn't been able to? What kind of life or influences would he have had left to their desires? None; and they flat don't care.

Anonymous said...

Barney. I'm sorry to read about all that you and your son went through. I most certainy believe you. What you have to say about the system is true. It is beyond reprehensible. What judges and CDOC depend on is the avidity of the average populace to incarcerate. The "tough on crime" stance instead of humane treatment. Without any shadow of a doubt, money is the motivating factor (along with the 'scare' tactics fed to the citizens) for the deliberately orchestrated chaos and desired failures among (never ex) felons. The entire system is demonic.