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, February 28, 2009

Meth Goes Bust

This is why the conversation about the War on Drugs is so important.  Even law enforcement agrees that when you take away one another will take it's place.  Addressing the issue of treatment, intervention and prevention needs to be on the table.
The Denver Post

Methamphetamine is on its way out of Colorado after a decade of ravaging the state, leaving law enforcement worrying whether the money and drive exist to tackle the next scourge.

The number of meth-lab busts in the state dropped from a high of 450 in 2002 to just 46 in 2007, according to the National Clandestine Laboratory Database.

Last year the North Metro Task Force busted two small, mobile meth labs, compared with about 100 a year from 2002 to 2005.

Home-cooked meth is virtually gone. Colorado meth treatment centers saw a 10 percent decline between 2007 and 2008.

Only a few years ago, the deluge of meth in Colorado seemed unstoppable. The highly addictive drug — which demolishes the body, rots teeth and creates unbridled paranoia — was being brewed in hundreds of homes. The threat of suburban explosions from toxic drug cookeries grew daily.

"We have turned the tide on methamphetamine in the United States," said Jeff Sweetin, the agent in charge at the Drug Enforcement Administration's Denver office. "I think when you look at methamphetamine, what you have is a model. When communities say 'No more' and when law enforcement and retail and all these other things come together, we can have a huge impact."

Colorado's 19 drug task forces cracked down on dealers as retail and federal restrictions on the sale of the drug's base ingredient — ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, commonly found in cold medicines — crushed the supply of locally brewed meth. A recent ban on imported ephedrine imposed by the Mexican government and increased border security have crippled the cartel-controlled Mexican "megalabs."

That lack of supply also has created a cost deterrent for users: An ounce of meth in early 2006 cost about $900. Early last year, an ounce was more than $2,000.

Jim Schrant, head of western Colorado's DEA office, said the rising cost of meth is "the most pure, empirical data we can use to judge success" in the war against meth.

But even as meth is disappearing, the hole it's leaving is being filled by cocaine, heroin and narcotic pharmaceuticals. Last week, federal agents seized 17 pounds of heroin and 5 kilograms of cocaine, marking the biggest haul of narcotics in Mesa County's history.

"Whac-A-Mole is exactly how it is," said Sgt. Jim Gerhardt, a longtime investigator with the 17-year-old North Metro Task Force. "Respond to a trend, stomp it out, and something else pops up. People are just switching to other types of drugs."

Denver Police Kills Man At A Traffic Stop

The Denver post

Police, witnesses and a man who said he was involved in a fatal police shooting Thursday night offered different versions of what took place when an officer stopped a car for speeding at East Fifth Avenue and Lafayette Street.

Denver police released a brief statement Friday reporting that an officer attempted to stop a speeding car about 10:25 p.m., without saying where. The driver refused to stop, then lost control of his vehicle, according to the release. It came to rest facing north on Lafayette, just a few feet south of East Fifth Avenue in Denver's Country Club neighborhood. The officer, headed east on Fifth Avenue, stopped his cruiser about 15 feet from the car, with his front bumper at right angles to the suspect's front bumper, police said.

Police said the officer got out of his cruiser and approached the vehicle on foot. The suspect raced his engine, causing the officer to think he was about to be run over, so he fired "several rounds" into the vehicle's windshield. The suspect was transported to Denver Health Medical Center, where he later died.

A police press release said the suspect had a lengthy arrest record and was wanted for a parole violation and escape. Neither the coroner's office nor police released the suspect's name.

A witness who didn't want to be identified said he saw a car weaving slowly eastbound on Fifth Avenue, followed by a police car that wasn't using its siren or flashing lights. The witness ran from his kitchen out the front door, temporarily losing sight of the two cars. From his porch, he saw the suspect's car when it stopped, facing north on Lafayette, and the cruiser stopped on Fifth Avenue, perpendicular to the suspect's car. He heard multiple gunshots, then saw the officer standing "weapon drawn and pointed at the windshield of the stopped car," he stated in an e-mail to family members.

"The cop was standing in front of his left front bumper, facing the other car," the witness stated. "There were seven holes

grouped pretty tightly through the windshield of the second car, right above the steering wheel.

"The cop must have been 4 to 6 feet in front of the car when he fired. Very close range."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Second Chance Act Appropriations

February 26, 2009

U.S. House of Representatives Approves Over $133 Million for Prisoner Reentry in FY 2009, Including $25 Million for the Second Chance Act

On February 25, 2009, the House of Representatives passed an omnibus appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2009, which includes funding for the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services. The omnibus bill (H.R. 1105) is now under consideration in the Senate. Democratic leaders hope to take action on this bill by the end of next week, as the continuing resolution currently providing funding expires on March 6, 2009.

The omnibus bill passed by the House includes funding for the following criminal justice priorities:

  • $25 million for the Second Chance Act, including $15 million for state and local demonstration grants and $10 million for nonprofit grants
  • $108,493,000 for Department of Labor ex-offender activities
  • $10 million for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (which represents a $3.5 million increase over the FY08 appropriation)
  • $532 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
  • $30 million for the Byrne Competitive Grant Program
  • $40 million for drug courts
  • $400 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP)
  • $10 million for Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT)

The Justice Center will send out an update on the omnibus bill when it passes in the Senate.

President Obama Requests $75 Million for the Second Chance Act in FY 2010

In the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2010 released on February 26, 2009, President Obama requested $109 million for prisoner reentry programs, including $75 million for Second Chance Act programs. "I am indeed pleased that the President's proposed budget includes $75 million for Second Chance and I applaud him," said Second Chance Act sponsor Rep. Danny Davis (IL). "This investment of $75 million will bring tremendous returns. However, throughout the budget and appropriation processes, I shall be advocating and working for more."

For more information about the Second Chance Act, visit the Reentry Policy Council website.

CSP: No Money To Staff It


FREMONT COUNTY - Lawmakers say right now there's no money available in the state's budget to fund a new maximum-security prison.

The East Canon City Correctional Facility is scheduled to open in July of 2010. It will house 948 inmates and will require around 500 employees.

"We are going to have to really work to find the money to staff this facility," State Representative Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West says.

Representative McFadyen toured the facility for the first time Thursday. It's just east of the Canon City Women's Correctional Facility, scheduled to close at the end of May.

"We're in a budget crisis and we know in our state legislature, anywhere else in the community where the economy falls, we know we have an influx of people who commit felonies."

McFadyen says in Colorado, fewer women are going to prison, but the number of male offenders is steady. The new facility would house some of the state's most dangerous male criminals.

"It's going to be a lot of pressure on the legislature to find the finances to staff this facility."

The prison, just off Highway 50, sits on a 56-acre site and will provide state of the art security. McFadyen is optimistic the money will come in time for the July 2010 opening date.

Earlier in the day, McFadyen toured the Canon City Women's Correctional Facility, just west of the new prison under construction. On Thursday, the facility's 92 employees learned they would be able to stay in the Canon City area. The facility's 200 female inmates will be placed in other facilities. There's still no word on what will happen to the building once it is closed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rocky- Last Edition on Friday.

This really breaks my heart...
Rocky Mountain News

Tax and Regulate - California

There is no time like the present as we look for alternative and smart ways to stimulate the economy.
Drug Policy Alliance
California could become the first state to tax and regulate marijuana.

With the state facing the worst budget deficit in generations, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill earlier this week to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. Marijuana is California's number one cash crop worth multiple billions each year. Assemblyman Ammiano's bill would regulate that market like beer, wine and liquor while barring access to those under 21.

Hundreds of drug policy reformers in California are supporting his commonsense plan by writing letters to their local papers.

Annual revenues from fees and excise taxes could be in the billions, and Californians could save another billion a year that they now spend on marijuana prohibition. Plus, this bill will put an end to tens of thousands of marijuana arrests made each year statewide.

Marijuana reform has a new champion in Sacramento. Supporters can help by telling their local paper that they support Tom Ammiano's landmark bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Last November, DPA put Proposition 5 on the California state ballot, a proposition that would have rehabilitated California's broken prisons and cut spending by at least $2.5 billion. While we didn't win, with the help of hundreds of supporters we educated California on the need for real prison reform.

As the state now faces an imminent federal takeover of the entire prison system, California elected officials know that we were right in calling for real reform, and that the solutions we fought for last year are the same ones the state needs now.

DPA will continue working in Sacramento to keep the pressure on, promoting real prison reform and working for the taxation and regulation of marijuana.

Time For Marijuana Legalization?

CBS News

Apparently, it was nothing personal after all. Apparently, it was strictly business all along. 

After generations of defending capital punishment and marijuana possession laws on moral, ethical and religious grounds, after years of declaring that the death penalty acted as a deterrent against violent crime and that pot smokers were more dangerous to society than, say, alcohol consumers, all of a sudden thanks to our economic crisis more and moremainstream powerbrokers are considering dramatic changes to our criminal justice system. 

The New York Times today has a late-arriving pieceby Ian Urbina which posits that lawmakers in several states are considering abandoning the death penalty because it’s just too expensive and cuts into other law enforcement priorities. State officials are beginning to acknowledge that they can more productively spend their budget funds on cracking unsolved cases or ensuring better police protection than on keeping pot smokers in prison or fighting for decades with capital defendants. This, Urbina writes, is forcing a sea-change around the nation: 

Citing Costs States Considering Ending Death Penalty


ANNAPOLIS, Md. — When Gov. Martin O’Malley appeared before the Maryland Senate last week, he made an unconventional argument that is becoming increasingly popular in cash-strapped states: abolish the death penalty to cut costs.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic who has cited religious opposition to the death penalty in the past, is now arguing that capital cases cost three times as much as homicide cases where the death penalty is not sought. “And we can’t afford that,” he said, “when there are better and cheaper ways to reduce crime.”

Lawmakers in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and New Hampshire have made the same argument in recent months as they push bills seeking to repeal the death penalty, and experts say such bills have a good chance of passing in Maryland, Montana and New Mexico.

Death penalty opponents say they still face an uphill battle, but they are pleased to have allies raising the economic argument.

Efforts to repeal the death penalty are part of a broader trend in which states are trying to cut the costs of being tough on crime. Virginia and at least four other states, for example, are considering releasing nonviolent offenders early to reduce costs.

The economic realities have forced even longtime supporters of the death penalty, like Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, to rethink their positions.

Mr. Richardson, a Democrat, has said he may sign a bill repealing capital punishment that passed the House last week and is pending in a Senate committee. He cited growing concerns about miscarriages of justice, but he added that cost was a factor in his shifting views and was “a valid reason in this era of austerity and tight budgets.”

Capital cases are expensive because the trials tend to take longer, they typically require more lawyers and more costly expert witnesses, and they are far more likely to lead to multiple appeals.

In New Mexico, lawmakers who support the repeal bill have pointed out that despite the added expense, most defendants end up with life sentences anyway.

That has been true in Maryland. A 2008 study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan public policy group, found that in the 20 years after the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978, prosecutors sought the death penalty in 162 felony-homicide convictions, securing it in 56 cases, most of which were overturned; the rest of the convictions led to prison sentences.

Since 1978, five people have been executed in Maryland, and five inmates are on death row.

Tim Masters : Bogus Conviction Makes Job Hunting Difficult

Of Course if Ft. Collins paid him for the time he did, he'd have less to worry about..
(CNN) -- Tim Masters squarely blames Fort Collins, Colorado, police and prosecutors for his inability to land gainful employment and for his not having a wife and kids at this stage in his life.
">In 1987, Masters became the prime suspect in the slaying of Peggy Hettrick, a 37-year-old found in a field near his house. Among the reasons police said they focused on Masters was that he failed to report the body after he found it and his childhood drawings and stories suggested he was fixated on death.

Masters was convicted of murder in 1999, but a judge last year threw out the conviction and released him from prison, citing new evidence that did not implicate Masters. Masters now has a lawsuit pending against several police officers, ex-prosecutors and the city.

The city of Fort Collins has asked a federal judge to dismiss the case.

Now 37, Masters sat down for a phone interview with a CNN reporter who covered his case and subsequent release. He said he still holds a grudge against the police and prosecutors who put him behind bars. Video Watch Masters the day after his 2008 release »

He's living in Greeley, Colorado, and doesn't get back to Fort Collins much, but he does love traveling. Most notably, he's traveled to Amsterdam, Netherlands, to appear on a talk show with Richard and Selma Eikelenboom, the Dutch forensic scientists who discovered the DNA evidence that ultimately freed Masters.

Things can be tough sometimes, but anything is better than prison, Masters said of his first year as a free man since being imprisoned.

CNN: How have things been in the year since your release?

Masters: It's a struggle to earn enough money to pay my bills and everything, make a living. Other than that, life is good.

CNN: Do you have a job?

Masters: I buy stuff at auction and I sell it on eBay.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Medical Marijuana - Action Alert

Colorado's Medical Marijuana Patients and Caregivers Need Your Help!

On March 18, the Colorado Board of Health will hold a public hearing to consider changes in Colorado's medical marijuana law proposed by the Department of Public Health and Environment. In particular, they are considering limiting the number of patients a caregiver can assist to five. Currently, caregivers in Colorado can assist however many patients need their help, which makes it far easier for patients to find a suitable caregiver and maintain safe access to a reliable supply of medicine.

Could you imagine going into a pharmacy to pick up a medication that your doctor said you need, only to have the pharmacist say, "Sorry, we're already helping five patients and cannot take on any more?" If you agree this is ridiculous and would like to help defend Colorado's medical marijuana program, please take one or both of the following actions.

Sensible Colorado is organizing an effort against the imposition of these harmful new rules, which is receiving national support from Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

1. Take one minute to send a message to the Colorado Board of Health, urging them to leave Colorado's medical marijuana law alone.

** The Board is only accepting public comments through March 2, so please send your message today! **

Visit ASA's "Take Action" page to send your message: http://www.SafeAccessNow.org/COhealth

Visit MPP's "Take Action" page to send your message: https://ssl.capwiz.com/mpp/issues/alert/?alertid=12733646

2. Attend the hearing on March 18, at which the Board will vote on this rule.

WHAT: Board of Health hearing on potential changes to Colorado's medical marijuana law

WHEN: Wednesday, March 18, Noon (12 p.m.)

WHERE: Colorado Health Department Building, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver

IMPORTANT: This is NOT a rally -- it is a formal hearing and supporters are encouraged to dress and act in a professional manner.

HB 1262 and 1263 Make It Through Second Reading


Issue Summons Instead Of Arrest Warrant
All VersionsHistoryFN1 - 2/16/2009
CR1 - 2/20/2009


Time Deductions Corrections County Jail
All VersionsHistoryFN1 - 2/13/2009
CR1 - 2/20/2009

War On Drugs A Failure

Wall Street Journal

We should focus instead on reducing harm to users and on tackling organized crime.

The war on drugs has failed. And it's high time to replace an ineffective strategy with more humane and efficient drug policies. This is the central message of the report by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy we presented to the public recently in Rio de Janeiro.

Prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and criminalization of consumption simply haven't worked. Violence and the organized crime associated with the narcotics trade remain critical problems in our countries. Latin America remains the world's largest exporter of cocaine and cannabis, and is fast becoming a major supplier of opium and heroin. Today, we are further than ever from the goal of eradicating drugs.

Over the last 30 years, Colombia implemented all conceivable measures to fight the drug trade in a massive effort where the benefits were not proportional to the resources invested. Despite the country's achievements in lowering levels of violence and crime, the areas of illegal cultivation are again expanding. In Mexico -- another epicenter of drug trafficking -- narcotics-related violence has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the past year alone.

The revision of U.S.-inspired drug policies is urgent in light of the rising levels of violence and corruption associated with narcotics. The alarming power of the drug cartels is leading to a criminalization of politics and a politicization of crime. And the corruption of the judicial and political system is undermining the foundations of democracy in several Latin American countries.

The first step in the search for alternative solutions is to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of current policies. Next, we must shatter the taboos that inhibit public debate about drugs in our societies. Antinarcotic policies are firmly rooted in prejudices and fears that sometimes bear little relation to reality. The association of drugs with crime segregates addicts in closed circles where they become even more exposed to organized crime.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Abolish The Death Penalty Passes Through House Judiciary

After hours of testimony concluded and the votes were cast the abolition of the death penalty moved out of House Judiciary with a favorable recommendation on a 7-4 vote.

eath penalty in Colorado.

In a more than six-hour hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, families of murder victims along with former prosecutors and others argued for and against HB 1274, which would make life in prison without parole the highest punishment available to prosecutors.

Under the bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, any savings from not trying the expensive cases in court would go to investigating unsolved homicides.

"You can debate the morals (of the death penalty) forever," Weissmann said. "You can debate the question of deterrence forever."

But what can't be debated is the cost savings from not pursuing the death penalty, which Weissmann estimated to be millions of dollars per year. A legislative analysis, though, estimated the figure at $369,041 per year, a sum Weissmann said was far too low.

Deal Reached On Justice Center Names

The Denver Post

Denver City Council members appear to have worked out a deal that will ease ethnic tensions over naming rights at the new Justice Center complex.

Much of the wrangling over how to resolve the issue occurred in a meeting Friday with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and the three Latino council members: Judy Montero, Rick Garcia and Paul Lopez.

During that meeting, Hickenlooper said he would support a push to name the jury room in the new courthouse after retired District Judge Roger Cisneros.

That move would free up Council President Jeanne Robb to proceed with her effort to have Hickenlooper name the plaza at the Justice Center after former Denver District Attorney Dale Tooley.

Montero expects two proclamations to pass at a meeting tonight, one in support of naming the jury room for Cisneros and another in support of naming the plaza after Tooley.

On Wednesday, Montero put the brakes on an effort by Robb to urge the mayor to name the plaza after Tooley.

At that time, Montero said she did not think Latinos had been given enough time to weigh in on the process.

She said naming the jury room after Cisneros made sense.

"It is a place where they weigh out fairness," Montero said. "It is a neutral place and a positive space where justice will be served."

New Trial For Nathan?

The Denver Post
Rocky Mountain News

CASTLE ROCK — A Douglas County judge is listening this morning to lawyers arguing whether Nathan Ybanez should be granted a new trial.

In 1999, Ybanez was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his mother, Julie Ybanez. He was 16 years old at the time and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Ybanez's attorneys asked Douglas County Judge Nancy A. Hopf to grant him a new trial and vacate his sentence, arguing that his trial attorney, Craig Truman, did not adequately represent him.

The defense told the judge that Ybanez's father, Roger Ybanez, hired Truman and that it presented a conflict of interest.

Nathan Ybanez's new lawyer, Michael Gallagher, said that his client was physically

abused by his parents and that abuse was not explored as a motive during trial because Truman was hired by the father.

"He needed an adult to act as his guardian," Gallagher said. "The next thing he needed was a lawyer. He did not get either."

Truman also did not file an appeal on Nathan Ybanez's behalf even though his new defense team says he requested one.

Prosecutors say Nathan Ybanez told Truman there was no abuse and psychological testing showed he was a "psychopathic deviant."

Boulder Based BI Offers Alternatives

Daily Camera

 — With jail and prison systems overcrowded across the country, Boulder-based company BI Inc. is in the business of providing alternatives to incarceration.

Specializing in GPS and radio tracking for parolees, probationers and pre-trial defendants, BI focuses on providing equipment that allows non-violent offenders to stay out of jail, but still under the watch of local authorities. For example, DUI arrestees can receive constant monitoring and sobriety tests without having to go to jail.

“That person continues to be viable by having a job, paying taxes and remaining in the community,” said Bruce Thacher, CEO of BI Inc.

The devices are about the size of a pager and are strapped to one’s ankle with tampering detectors. The most accurate units can track people down to about a 10-foot circle in near-real time. Future devices may be able to check alcohol levels from perspiration.

BI was founded in Boulder in 1978 originally as a cattle-monitoring service, but shifted its technology to defendant tracking from the urging of a local judge. Today, the 30-year-old company has expanded its services to correctional agencies across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam and Australia.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Death Penalty Not Easy

Few things in the justice system raise passions like the death penalty. District Attorney candidates state their stands during their campaigns, Web sites in the thousands have been launched, candlelight vigils are conducted, polls are taken, articles are written.

Colorado is one of 36 states that maintain a death penalty statute. Two men sit in the Colorado State Penitentiary awaiting execution. The state has executed one man since the penalty was reinstated nationally in 1976.

A bill that has been introduced in the State House — House Bill 1274 — would abolish the death penalty and move the money spent on it to fund the Colorado Bureau of Investigation cold case unit.

District Attorney Thom LeDoux said he opposes the bill, as do several other D.A.s in the state.

“I think it serves as a deterrent, there are some circumstances where it is appropriate,” LeDoux said.

While the death penalty raises ethical and religious issues for many people, the legal process of reaching the penalty, appealing and ultimately getting an execution is extremely complex.

“It’s like me explaining how to do brain surgery,” said Denver defense attorney David Lane, who has defended about 50 death penalty cases.

Capital punishment has a long history in Colorado. Noverto Griego was the first person executed in the state in 1890.

According to the Colorado Department of Corrections Web site, executions were performed by hanging until 1933 and then by the gas chamber until 1967. Colorado executed 77 men between 1890 and 1967.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972 and then reversed itself in 1976. The Colorado General Assembly revised its statutes in 1984 to reinstate the death penalty.

On Oct. 13, 1997, the state executed Gary Lee Davis by lethal injection. It was the first and only execution since the death penalty was reinstated.

“This state has spent tens of millions of dollars since 1980 all for the fun of executing Gary Lee Davis,” Lane said.

The death penalty is only a sentencing option for first degree murder, and the district attorney can choose whether or not to seek it.

Canon City Record

Rifle To Stay Open

GJ Sentinel

Gov. Bill Ritter has commuted the death sentence of the Rifle Correctional Center.

Ritter and the Colorado Department of Corrections reversed a decision to close the minimum-security facility after state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, pushed to keep it open.

“That’s awesome. That’s great. That is great,” said Mike Morgan, who is chief of the Rifle Fire Protection District and one of many Garfield County residents who had spoken out against the proposed closure.

Morgan had been particularly concerned over the prospective loss of an inmate wildland firefighting team.

The state Department of Corrections had proposed closing the 192-bed facility as one way of helping deal with Colorado’s fiscal shortfall.

White said the decision to keep the prison open followed negotiations with the governor’s office and state Department of Corrections. Before that, he said, he had to persuade fellow members of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee to support keeping the prison open.

“I’m just glad that we’re able to accomplish what I think is a laudable goal,” he said.

He said it made no sense to close the prison when the state is sure to need more prison beds. He worries that Colorado could end up at the mercy of whatever rates private prisons might charge.

The closure also would have meant the loss of 57 jobs at a time when the Rifle-area economy is slowing down amidst a cutback in natural gas development. The city and Garfield County had opposed the closure, which would have saved the state an estimated $600,000 a year.

Several hundred people turned out for a recent meeting in Rifle to oppose the prison’s closure.

Ritter said in a statement, “After listening to the concerns of people in Rifle and working closely with the department and the JBC, we believe we can close the budget shortfall without closing this facility. The community played a valuable role in sharing its concerns, and I’m pleased we were able to find common ground and reach consensus.”

Rifle City Councilman Alan Lambert said inmates have provided work worth probably hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city’s parks department. Also, prison employees volunteer as coaches, on community boards and in other capacities, Lambert said.

“They’re really tied to the community, and they’re supporting us not only from a job’s sake, keeping that paycheck here, but with their knowledge and their place in the community,” he said.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pot Booming

Rocky Mountain News

 — Alan Gallegos crushed a pinch of marijuana into a vaporizer, then slowly inhaled through a tube.

The marijuana vapor eases the pain from bone spurs in Gallegos' back, quells his nausea and levels out the mood swings from his bipolar disorder.

"It's worked better than any pill I've ever taken," Gallegos said. "I've been a lot better ever since."

More than eight years after Colorado voters approved the use of medical marijuana for patients like Gallegos, who suffer from debilitating medical conditions, the issue has again taken center stage. The state is seeking to crack down on caregiver/patient ratios at the same time federal officials are debating whether to continue raiding med-pot dispensaries in states that allow them.

Against that backdrop are the numbers: Colorado's medical marijuana registry has swelled to nearly 5,000 patients. In just the last year, the number of patients registering to use the drug more than doubled.

State officials say they are seeing more cases of forgery within the registry system, and they are concerned that some caregivers who are supposed to have "significant responsibility" for patients now are juggling more than 200 people.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rehab Instead Of Prison Seems To Be Working

Texas Statesman

Texas’ prison population has stopped growing for the time being, thanks in part to a controversial changes in corrections policy two years ago that ballooned funding for rehabilitation programs, new statistics indicate.

That means Texas will not have to consider building new prisons that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when the economic collapse is pinching the state budget, officials said today.

”We put 6,000 treatment beds on line in the past two years … and this is the initial result: Just what we expected,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, who co-authored legislation mandating the greatly-expanded treatment programs in 2007.

Echoing sentiments from colleagues, Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said the statistics show “a dramatic turnaround.”

Today’s Legislative Budget Board testimony to the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee marked the first public report card on the new programs, which two years ago were championed by corrections advocates as a step forward and opposed by some prosecutors and police groups as too soft on crime.

“Crime is down, the programs are working,” said Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice what operates the 112-prison system. “It’s been proven before that these types of programs have an impact on recidivism, so these new numbers are no surprise.”

Action Alert: Abolish The Death Penalty

Legislative Action Alert! HB 1274 (abolition of the death penalty)

House Judiciary Committee, Monday, Jan. 23rd at 1:30pm

(Old Supreme Court building at the Capitol)

This action alert comes from the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, a coalition partner of CCJRC. The CCJRC Board of Directors unanimously voted to support HB 1274, which would abolish the death penalty in Colorado and use funds not spent on death penalty prosecutions to fund a cold case unit in the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to try and solve some of the 1,400+ unsolved murders that have occurred in Colorado since 1970. Sponsored (again) by Rep Paul Weissmann (D-Louisville), this bill is supported by a broad coalition of criminal defense attorneys, faith communities, and Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons.

Historically, CCJRC has not weighed in on the death penalty legislation since it is outside of our direct mission. However, in the fall of 2008, the CCJRC Board of Directors developed a new policy so that CCJRC can be more of an ally to our coalition partners. After consideration by the CCJRC Board, it was decided that HB 1274 aligns with our values and purpose as an organization, even though it doesn’t directly align with our mission of reversing the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We understand that all of our members may not support the abolition of the death penalty.

Thank you. Pam, Carol and Christie

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Help us abolish the Death Penalty!

This year, Rep. Paul Weissmann is once again working on abolishing the Death Penalty in Colorado. Building off of success from previous years, Rep. Weissman recently introduced House Bill 1274. This bill would fund a statewide cold case unit by shifting some of the savings freed up by abolishing the Death Penalty in Colorado. HB 1274 is being heard by the House Judiciary Committee this Monday, February 23, at 1:30pm in the old Supreme Court Room.

Please show your support for HB 1274 by contacting the committee members today!

We know that most of you can articulate strong philosophical, moral, and legal arguments against the death penalty, but please try to focus your emails on the monetary cost of the death penalty in Colorado, particularly the fact that the Death Penalty is a failed public policy. With only one execution in the last forty years, over 40 million dollars spent on it in the last ten, and no actual proof that the death penalty works as a deterrent, there is no coherent argument that life without parole is not a more effective and efficient public policy.

HB 1274 is also sponsored by a victim right's group that is asking that a portion of the money saved by abolishing the death penalty be used to help solve cold cases. In light of this, please encourage the committee members vote of support for HB 1274 because it will save money by eliminating a failed public policy and will use part of this money to help families of unsolved murders try to obtain resolution of their cases. Here are a few points to focus on:

· There are 1430 unsolved murders in Colorado since 1970 according to the Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons.

· The cold case unit established in 2007 to solve these murders was funded at $67,800 a year.

· It is estimated the Cold Case Team at CBI — with expanded lab facilities and administrative support—will cost from $1.5 to 3.0 million per year.

· In the last 40 years there have been 7,000 murders in Colorado. During that period, our District Attorneys have attempted to impose the death penalty 130 times, but have only executed one person.

· The cost to prosecute and defend these accused killers in a death penalty case: $4 million per year in excess of a non death penalty trial

Below are the members of the House Judiciary Committee

Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), chairman – 303-866-2578, claire.levy.house@state.co.us

Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), vice-chairman – 303-966-2959, ehmccann@comcast.net

Rep. Dennis Apuan (D-El Paso), 303-866-3069, repdennisapuan@gmail.com

Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver), 303-866-2967, loiscourt@msn.com

Rep. Bob Gardner (R-El Paso), 303-866-2191, bob.gardner.house@state.co.us

Rep. Steve King (R-Delta), 303-866-3068, steve.king.house@state.co.us

Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver), 303-866-2910, joe@joemiklosi.com

Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), 303-966-2968, sal_pace@hotmail.com

Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Archuleta), 303-866-2914, ellen.roberts.house@state.co.us

Rep. Su Ryden (D-Arapahoe), 303-866-2942, su@suryden.com

Rep. Mark Waller (R-El Paso), 303-866-5525, mark.waller.house@state.co.us

Please contact the House Judiciary Committee Members and your representatives today! Liberty, Justice, Equality,

The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar

Juvenile Justice: What They Deserve

What they deserve

Outside the federal courthouse in Scranton, two veteran judges received the angry reception they justly deserved after pleading guilty to corruption charges.

The bystanders who screamed at former Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, and his predecessor, Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, last week gave voice to the thoughts of many community and legal observers.

After all, these judges stand accused of sending children to jail in return for kickbacks that totaled $2.6 million over seven years from two for-profit detention centers. Prosecutors say the pair also helped the detention centers land contracts worth $58 million, buried a critical audit, and even shut down a competing center run by the county.

For hundreds of juveniles, justice was denied when - upon advice from the bench - they waived their right to an attorney. That made it easy for Ciavarella to pack the kids off to a detention center, even when juvenile probation officers recommended against it, the feds say.

The judges have been bounced from the bench and will be formally sentenced to jail soon. Next, they should be disbarred and stripped of their state pensions.

A class-action lawsuit filed Friday against the judges provides yet another forum to answer for their conduct. Yet there's still a long way to go in making amends to hundreds of children who were railroaded by Luzerne County's juvenile court.

In legal papers filed last week, the state Supreme Court made a good start by launching an in-depth probe of the injustices perpetrated by the two county judges. First and foremost, the high court's special master, Berks County Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, will have to determine - and quickly - whether any juvenile remains unfairly jailed due to the judges' conniving.

The review by Grim comes at the urging of the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, an advocacy group that blew the whistle on kids' mistreatment. While the Supreme Court stumbled at first by taking a pass on the issue, it is reassuring that the court has assumed jurisdiction now over the Luzerne County juvenile-justice system. Better late than never, the court's unsigned order sends the right message by describing the corruption allegations as a "travesty of juvenile justice."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Conn: Alderman Vote To Ban The Box

Yale Daily News

The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday approved a proposed ordinance that will end what it terms “unfair discrimination” against former convicts on government employment forms.

The board voted 22-1 for the ordinance — a progressive piece of legislation colloquially referred to as “Ban the Box” that legislators from many cities across the nation are currently pursuing. It expunges question 5a, which requires that applicants include notice of their prior convictions, from city-related job application forms. The legislation also removes the question from job application forms at vendors that have contracts with the city.

Although one alderman expressed concern about the policy’s potential burden on small businesses, representatives from state reentry organizations and ex-felons who sat in the aldermanic chambers applauded the vote and said they hope the legislation will be replicated on the state and federal levels.

“This legislation will not give any special advantage on hiring an ex-offender,” Ward 8 Alderman Michael Smart said. “But it would give them a foot in the door.”

The approval of “Ban the Box” marks the single most substantial New Haven community services reform since the passage of the Elm City Resident Card — a municipal identification card accessible to all residents, including illegal immigrants — in the summer of 2007.

The Human Services Committee of the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously at a public hearing Feb. 3 to approve the ordinance before it was passed to the full board for approval.

At the aldermanic meeting Tuesday, a group of about 20 people, including city residents and state prison reentry reform activists, held signs in support of the legislation (“Give Everyone A Change to Get a Job. Ban the Box!”). They cheered when the board approved the ordinance.

For 31-year-old James Toles, the approval was a moment of quintessential bliss. A convicted felon who spent five months last year in the Gates Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn., Toles said he will definitely apply for a city position with the “Ban the Box” policy because the ordinance “definitely increases my chances.”

Cold Cases Bear Worse Penalty

The Denver Post

Twenty-two years ago today, someone got away with murdering Janice Currie and Walter Marshall.

The case remains cold. And now their family says its grief is renewed as law enforcers scramble to kill a bill that could help nab the killers.

"Losing your mom is hard enough. But knowing that public officials are working against our wishes, well, that makes it tougher to bear," says Currie's daughter, Stacye Walker.

The bill, scheduled Monday for a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee, would abolish Colorado's death penalty and use the savings for cold-case investigations.

Murder cases are unresolved in 110 of Colorado's 255 police and sheriff's departments, many of which lack the manpower to fully investigate. The measure could create a cold-case team at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation funded with at least $670,000 — 10 times what the agency now spends a year.

Proponents figure funding would come by scaling back the $350,000-a-year capital-crimes unit of the state attorney general's office, saving $400,000 in what public defenders spend defending capital cases, plus untold dollars in court costs.

"Any other program that spends the money we spend with the results that we get with the death penalty would have been gone years ago," says House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, the bill's sponsor.

In the past 30 years in Colorado, one man, Gary Davis, has been executed, by lethal injection.

Convicted murderers not sentenced to death must serve life in prison without parole.

New Jersey nixed its death penalty in 2007. New Mexico, Maryland, Montana and Nebraska are considering similar moves.

Naming Of Justice Center Halted

The Denver Post

Denver's ethnic politics boiled over Wednesday, prompting the City Council president to storm out of a debate over names for the new justice complex.

The tension was prompted by a proclamation encouraging Mayor John Hickenlooper to name a plaza between the new courthouse and jail after former Denver District Attorney Dale Tooley.

At Wednesday's meeting of the City Council's Safety Committee, Councilwoman Judy Montero adamantly opposed the idea because she thought the Latino community had not had a chance to weigh in.

"The Latino community was not part of the conversation," she said.

Montero's objection, joined by those of council members Rick Garcia and Paul Lopez, brought the drive to name the plaza after Tooley to a halt and prompted the council's president, Jeanne Robb, to leave the room.

"It would be wrong not to name some part of the justice center after Dale Tooley," a stern-faced Robb said, stressing that she would not support other naming recommendations for the downtown courthouse and jail without Tooley in the mix.

Robb said she thought she had the votes to muscle her proposed proclamation through committee anyway but was willing to wait in recognition of Tooley's efforts to promote racial harmony and to avoid a "food fight" among council members.

Later, in the hallway, Robb declined to comment further.

The objection by Montero and other Latino council members comes after a string of perceived slights to an ethnic group that makes up 34 percent of Denver's population.

Latinos were either not considered or were not finalists for appointment to recent high-profile state and local jobs, including U.S. Senate, secretary of state and superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

No nominating petitions were submitted on behalf of Latino community leaders during a long-term process hatched last year to name the buildings and plaza. A 12-person mayoral task force, which included four Latinos, sorted through the petitions they received and forwarded recommendations to the council, including a recommendation that the plaza be named for Tooley, who was district attorney from 1973 to 1983.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fiscally (and morally) the Death Penalty Is Wrong

The Death Penalty bill will be heard in House Judiciary on Monday the 23rd. Please call or email or legislators to support this bill.
The Denver Post

A new bill introduced in the state House of Representatives would abolish the death penalty in Colorado. Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, claims his motive for sponsoring the bill revolves around fiscal concerns and he has no interest in rehashing the moral debate surrounding the death penalty.

Good luck.

The bill, according to Democrats, would save the state an estimated $4 million annually, which would then be applied to help investigate cold cases. While we're not sold on the veracity of the savings figure — considering the state has no idea how many death penalty cases the future holds — we believe that Colorado, like many other states, should revisit the effectiveness and necessity of the death penalty.

Republican Attorney General John Suthers has made an impassioned case that the death penalty is crucial in discouraging future horrific criminal behavior. He also contends that the only deterrent many hyper-violent inmates with life sentences have to murdering a guard or fellow inmate is the threat of the death penalty.

"If you don't have a death penalty, those are free murders," Suthers told The Post. "There remains some crimes, some murders, that anything short of the death penalty is an inadequate societal response."

Yet, there is very little evidence that the death penalty discourages violent crime.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Pardon For Scooter

NY Daily News

WASHINGTON - In the waning days of the Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney launched a last-ditch campaign to persuade his boss to pardon Lewis (Scooter) Libby - and was furious whenPresident George W. Bush wouldn't budge.

Sources close to Cheney told the Daily News the former vice president repeatedly pressed Bush to pardon Libby, arguing his ex-chief of staff and longtime alter ego deserved a full exoneration - even though Bush had already kept Libby out of jail by commuting his 30-month prison sentence.

"He tried to make it happen right up until the very end," one Cheney associate said.

In multiple conversations, both in person and over the telephone, Cheney tried to get Bush to change his mind. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the federal probe of who leaked covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press.

Several sources confirmed Cheney refused to take no for an answer. "He went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush," a Cheney defender said. "He was still trying the day before Obama was sworn in."

After repeatedly telling Cheney his mind was made up, Bush became so exasperated with Cheney's persistence he told aides he didn't want to discuss the matter any further.

The unsuccessful full-court press left Cheney bitter. "He's furious with Bush," a Cheney source told The News. "He's really angry about it and decided he's going to say what he believes."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spiraling Prison Budgets

The Denver Post

Red ink-smeared budgets are pushing an array of states — Virginia, Kentucky, California, Alabama, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina among them — to consider early release of hundreds, possibly thousands of convicted criminals. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter even wants to close down two prisons.

As Josh Goodman writes in Governing magazine, "Budget crises have a way of making the politically impossible suddenly possible." Even more significant, though, may be a wave of reassessment, from localities to state governments to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, about the effectiveness of America's vast criminal justice enterprise.

A primary reason is the sheer magnitude of our incarceration rates.

We have placed one in 100 adults 18 and over behind bars, a nationwide prisoner total of 2.3 million. Probation and parole swell the total to 7.2 million Americans under some form of criminal justice system supervision.

Why should we be incarcerating more people than do such regimes as China or Russia? The costs are eye-popping — $50 billion a year to state and local governments, and $5 billion to the federal prison system.

And what does it say about our priorities (and our future) when at least five states — Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Oregon and Vermont — spend as much or more on corrections as they do on higher education?

In Florida, where the prison system has surpassed 100,000 inmates, the call for reassessment is coming not only from Gov. Charlie Crist and the Center for Florida Fiscal & Tax Reform, but from such top business organizations as Associated Industries of Florida, Enterprise Florida, Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

It makes more sense, the Florida reformers suggest, to shift nonviolent offenders from prison (where they cost the state at least $20,000 a year each) to community probation, work release or parole where they are required to pay their court costs and fines, make restitution to their victims, and perhaps most importantly, keep up their child support payments.

Last year Congress broke from its unthinking "law and order" attitudes of the last decades to approve — with "aye" votes by both Sens. Obama and Biden — the "Second Chance Act" authorizing major grants to states and localities to help rehabilitate former offenders.

"After 20 years of going down the 'tough-on-crime' road and seeing what it has wrought, we now know better," declared Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., one of the act's backers. President Bush signed the law but failed to fund it, a decision the Obama administration is expected to reverse.

The "burden of proof" on corrections has shifted in today's tough economic climate, says Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project.

For decades, the dominant case was that more prison cells were the best way to protect citizens against crime — indeed, anything short of prison was denigrated as "soft."

But now, beyond the cascading costs, says Gelb, "there's mounting evidence we have passed the point of diminishing returns for new prisons — indeed, the more people we lock up, the less we get for it in public safety." But if we "can't build our way to public safety," Gelb notes, there are huge gains to be had in community corrections.

He's referring to more thoughtful probation and parole systems, drug courts, transition centers and the like. "If we shift some of the funding from prisons to community corrections, we could spend less and have less crime," he insists.

But it won't work unless the community corrections are well planned and adequately funded. One reason parole and probation now so often flounder, fueling high recidivism rates, is that enforcement officers tend to hunker down in large, centrally located headquarters, failing to get into and know the communities and situations offenders live in.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some Find Hope For Shift In US Drug Policy

NY Times

SEATTLE — Washington State law prohibits the possession of marijuana except for certain medical purposes. Hempfest is not one of them. Yet each summer when the event draws thousands to the Seattle waterfront to call for decriminalizing marijuana, participants light up in clear view of police officers. And they rarely get arrested.

“Police officers patrolling are courteous and respectful,” said Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

One reason for the officers’ approach, said Ms. Holcomb and others who follow law enforcement in Seattle, is the leadership of R. Gil Kerlikowske, the chief of the Seattle Police Department and, officials in the Obama administration say, the president’s choice to become the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, known as the drug czar.

The anticipated selection of Chief Kerlikowske has given hope to those who want national drug policy to shift from an emphasis on arrest and prosecution to methods more like those employed in Seattle: intervention, treatment and a reduction of problems drug use can cause, a tactic known as harm reduction. Chief Kerlikowske is not necessarily regarded as having forcefully led those efforts, but he has not gotten in the way of them.

“What gives me optimism,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, “is not so much him per se as the fact that he’s been the police chief of Seattle. And Seattle, King County and Washington State have really been at the forefront of harm reduction and other drug policy reform.”

The White House has yet to announce the nomination of Chief Kerlikowske, and a spokesman for the Seattle police said the chief would not discuss the matter. His appointment would require Senate confirmation.

Chief Kerlikowske, 59, became police chief in Seattle in 2000, after serving as a deputy director for community policing at the Justice Department in the Clinton administration. While there he worked with Eric H. Holder Jr., then a deputy attorney general and now the head of the department.

Before going to the Justice Department, Chief Kerlikowske was the police chief in Buffalo and in Fort Myers and Port St. Lucie in Florida. Under John P. Walters, the drug czar during most of the administration of President George W. Bush, the drug office focused on tough enforcement of drug laws, including emphases on marijuana and drug use among youths. The agency pointed to reductions in the use of certain kinds of drugs, but it was criticized by some local law enforcement officials who said its priorities did not reflect local concerns, from the rise of methamphetamine to the fight against drug smuggling at the Mexican border.

“The difference is I’ll be able to call Washington and get ahold of Gil and he’ll answer the phone,” said William Lansdowne, the police chief in San Diego and a member of the board of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Chief Kerlikowske is the president of the association. “He listens. He’s very open to new ideas. He’ll build cooperation.”

Chief Lansdowne added, “He’ll take a look at prevention as much as enforcement.”

Colorado Drug Prohibition: Good Public Policy?

The Examiner

By Frosty Wooldridge

Howard Wooldridge rode his horse from Savannah, Georgia to New Port Beach, Oregon to become the first man in the 21st century to ride coast to coast across America. He repeated the journey in 2005 to become the only man in history to ride both ways.

Why did he gallop across America? As a police officer, he attempted to stop the futile “War on Drugs” dragging on for the past 35 years.

War on Drugs! How is that working for us in Colorado? Is it reducing crime? Is it reducing rates of death and disease? Is it effective in keeping drugs and drug dealers away from our children? Since 1971 law enforcement has spent one trillion dollars in order to arrest 37 million people and fill hundreds of warehouses with dope. What progress do you see? Unfortunately, drugs prove cheaper, stronger and much easier to find and buy.

My brother, Officer Howard Wooldridge, fought on the side of the ‘good guys’ for 18 years in the War on Drugs, giving him a lot of actual experience in the trenches. After much time, consternation and out-and-out frustration in not achieving a single, stated goal in the long term, he came to the conclusion that we must be doing something wrong. No matter how many dealers police took off the streets, new ones popped up to take their places. The prices for drugs kept falling, indicating an oversupply. The purity kept increasing; heroin increased from 3.6 percent to near 50 percent purity between 1980 and 2007. The prison population kept increasing until over 70 percent of all inmates stem from drug-related charges