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.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Webb Crime Bill Gets Unlikely Support

Huffington Post

Jim Webb stepped firmly on a political third rail last week when he introduced a bill to examine sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system. Yet he emerged unscathed, a sign to a political world frightened by crime and drug issues that the bar might not be electrified any more.

"After two [Joint Economic Committee] hearings and my symposium at George Mason Law Center, people from across the political and philosophical spectrum began to contact my staff," Webb told the Huffington Post. "I heard from Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court, from prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers, former offenders, people in prison, and police on the street. All of them have told me that our system needs to be fixed, and that we need a holistic plan of how to solve it."

Webb's reform is backed by a coalition of liberals, conservatives and libertarians that couldn't have existed even a few years ago.

Webb's bill calls for the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the issue for 18 months and come back with concrete legislative recommendations.

Liberals, who for decades were labeled "soft on crime" by conservatives, crept out to embrace Webb's proposal. The bill was cosponsored by the entire Senate Democratic leadership and enthusiastically welcomed by prominent liberal bloggers. The blogosphere, dominated by younger activists, has been particularly open to calls for drug and criminal justice policy reform.

Support for the proposal has come in from the right, too. The Lynchburg News and Advance a conservative paper that publishes in the hometown of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, weighed in favorably.

"America's prisons -- both federal and state -- are overflowing with prisoners. The United States has about 5 percent of the world's population; we have about 25 percent of the world's known prison population, Webb estimates," offered the editorial board. "Something, somewhere is seriously wrong."

Libertarian support for reform of the criminal justice system is a given, but some traditional conservatives back the plan, too, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is the ranking Republican on the subcommittee that will weigh in on the legislation, and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), who is ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Shrinking Budgets May Release Some Inmates

NPR
If there was one moment that summed up the very peak of the country's get-tough-on-crime movement, criminologists say it was the 1988 Willie Horton campaign ad.

"Bush and Dukakis on crime," says a deep-throated male voice. "Bush supports the death penalty for first-degree murderers. Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. One was Willie Horton."

The ad goes on to describe how Horton attacked a couple while on a weekend pass, stabbing the man and raping the woman, before concluding: "Weekend prison passes — Dukakis on crime."

Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign never recovered. Nor did those of other candidates dubbed soft on criminals. The country was consumed by a national crime wave, fueled by the crack epidemic and gang warfare. Politicians — and voters — pushed for harsher penalties and longer sentences.

Now, 20 years later, 1 in 31 adults in this country is either behind bars or on probation or parole. It's the highest incarceration rate in the nation's history. With the economy in trouble, many states are taking a fresh look at who's in prison, and why. And some states, such as Kentucky, are finding that they can no longer afford to house so many inmates.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sentencing Commission Quarterly Report

For all you data folks...(h/t to Doc Berman over at Sentencing Law And Policy)
US Sentencing Commission Final Quarterly Report
As part of its ongoing mission, the United States Sentencing Commission provides
Congress, the judiciary, the executive branch, and the general public with data extracted and
analyzed from sentencing documents submitted by courts to the Commission.

1 Data is reported on an annual basis in the Commission’s Annual Report and Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics.

2 After the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker on January 12, 2005,
which rendered the sentencing guidelines advisory instead of mandatory, many people expressed
an interest in knowing what changes, if any, in federal sentencing practices would result. The
Commission responded by reconfiguring its data collection, analysis, and reporting efforts to
provide real-time data reporting from the submitted documents.

Editorial NY Times: Reviewing Criminal Justice

NY Times

America’s criminal justice system needs repair. Prisons are overcrowded, sentencing policies are uneven and often unfair, ex-convicts are poorly integrated into society, and the growing problem of gang violence has not received the attention it deserves. For these and other reasons, a bill introduced last week by Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, should be given high priority on the Congressional calendar.

The bill, which has strong bipartisan support, would establish a national commission to review the system from top to bottom. It is long overdue, and should be up and running as soon as possible.

The United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. More than 1 in 100 adults are now behind bars, for the first time in history. The incarceration rate has been rising faster than the crime rate, driven by harsh sentencing policies like “three strikes and you’re out,” which impose long sentences that are often out of proportion to the seriousness of the offense.

Keeping people in prison who do not need to be there is not only unjust but also enormously expensive, which makes the problem a priority right now. Hard-pressed states and localities that reduce prison costs will have more money to help the unemployed, avert layoffs of teachers and police officers, and keep hospitals operating. In the last two decades, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report, state corrections spending soared 127 percent, while spending on higher education increased only 21 percent.

Meanwhile, as governments waste money putting the wrong people behind bars, gang activity has been escalating, accounting for as much as 80 percent of the crime in some parts of the country.

The commission would be made up of recognized criminal justice experts, and charged with examining a range of policies that have emerged haphazardly across the country and recommending reforms. In addition to obvious problems like sentencing, the commission would bring much-needed scrutiny to issues like the special obstacles faced by the mentally ill in the system, as well as the shameful problem of prison violence.

Former Judge On Legalizing Pot

LA Times

All right, tell me this doesn't sound a little strange:

I'm sitting in Costa Mesa with a silver-haired gent who once ran for Congress as a Republican and used to lock up drug dealers as a federal prosecutor, a man who served as an Orange County judge for 25 years. And what are we talking about? He's begging me to tell you we need to legalize drugs in America.

 "Please quote me," says Jim Gray, insisting the war on drugs is hopeless. "What we are doing has failed."

As far as I can tell, Gray is not off his rocker. He's not promoting drug use, he says for clarification. Anything but. If he had his way, half the revenue we would generate from taxing and regulating drugs would be plowed back into drug prevention education, and there'd be rehab on demand.

So here he is in coat and tie -- with a U.S. flag lapel pin -- eating his oatmeal and making perfect sense, even when talking about the way President Obama flippantly dismissed a question about legalizing marijuana last week during a White House news conference.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Parade Magazine: What's Wrong With Our Prisons

Parade Magazine

America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a
national disgrace.  Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion
that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness.

Our failure to address this problem has caused thenation’s prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.
We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to
prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration.
Twenty-five years ago, I went to Japan on assignment for PARADE to write a story on that
country’s prison system. In 1984, Japan had a population half the size of ours and was incarcerating 40,000 sentenced offenders, compared with 580,000 in the United States. As shocking as that disparity was, the difference between the countries now is even more astounding—and profoundly disturbing. Since then, Japan’s prison population has not quite doubled to 71,000, while ours has quadrupled to 2.3 million.

The United States has by far the world’s highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.
We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. In addition, more than 5 million people who recently left jail remain under “correctional supervision,” which includes parole, probation, and other community sanctions. All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. This all comes at a very high price to taxpayers: Local, state, and federal spending on corrections adds up to about $68 billion a year.

Our overcrowded, illmanaged prison systems are places of violence, physical abuse, and hate, making the breeding grounds that perpetuate and magnify the same types of behavior we purport to fear. Post-incarceration reentry programs are haphazard or, in some places,
nonexistent, making it more difficult for former offenders who wish to overcome the stigma of
having done prison time and become full, contributing members of society. And, in the face of
the movement toward mass incarceration, lawenforcement officials in many parts of the U.S.
have been overwhelmed and unable to address a dangerous wave of organized, frequently violent gang activity, much of it run by leaders who are based in other countries.
With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only
two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something
different—and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter.

National Criminal Justice Commission Act

Jim Webb introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act yesterday. 

Sen. Jim Webb, fresh off his passage of an historic expansion of the GI Bill, has found a new issue: the criminal justice system. And when Webb, a Virginia Democrat, sets his legislative sites on a priority, his colleagues pay attention.

On Thursday, Webb, along with the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), introduced a bill to create a commission that would undertake an 18-month study of the criminal justice system and come back with legislative recommendations.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Webb said that everything should be considered. And he means everything.

"I think everything should be on the table, and we specifically say that we want recommendations on how to deal with drug policy in our country. And we'll get it to the people who have the credibility and the expertise and see what they come up with," said Webb.

What about legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana?

Webb paused. "I think they should do a very careful examination of all aspects of drug policy. I've done a couple of very extensive hearings on this, so we'll wait to see what they say about that," he said.

So it's on the table? Webb flashed a wry grin, laughing mischievously.

The last government study group to look at drug policy, the 1972 Shafer Commission, recommended that President Richard Nixon decriminalize marijuana. He didn't.


The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 that I introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2009 will create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make concrete recommendations about how we can reform the process.

Why We Urgently Need this Legislation:

  • With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses 25% of the world's reported prisoners.

  • Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980.

  • Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.

  • Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based; and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.

  • Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.

America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives. 

We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration.



Deal Struck On Rockefeller Drug Laws

The New York Post

ALBANY - Gov. Paterson and legislative leaders announced a deal this morning on a drug law overhaul that would divert thousands of offenders from prison to treatment - a move Republicans charged would lead to increased crime.

The agreement - the broadest attack on the strict Rockefeller drug laws since 2004 - would give judges broad discretion to send first-time drug offenders to treatment, a key element of a proposal passed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) earlier this month.

Under the compromise with Paterson and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), judges would also have the power to send low-level repeat drug offenders to treatment, although mid-level repeat offenders would still have to face some prison time, sources familiar with the talks said.

Defendants eligible for treatment would have to plead guilty to avoid a stint behind bars.

"We are hoping to forever eliminate the regime of the Rockefeller drug laws and replace it with a system that will give addicts the treatment that they need and give those who profiteer off drug trafficking the punishment that they deserve," the Democratic governor said.

Denver to Address Jailer Misconduct

the Denver Post

Denver Deputy Sheriff Joseph Cleveland was found to have kept a terminally ill cancer patient locked in a holding cell, despite a judge's order that the man be released, freeing him only after the man said he suffered a seizure.

Deputy Sharmaine Norman-Curry racked up punishment in multiple cases involving unnecessary use of force, lying to internal affairs, disobeying orders and using inappropriate language to inmates before finally getting fired.

And three deputies failed to make their required rounds on the night that Emily Rae Rice, 24, died in the Denver jail from internal injuries suffered in a car accident — and then lied or falsified reports regarding their actions.

Those incidents and others have prompted the city of Denver to look at cracking down on its jailers.

Safety Manager Al LaCabe, who oversees the Denver sheriff and police departments, has formed a task force to reform how the city treats deputy misconduct. LaCabe, who last year led an overhaul of the Police Department's "comparative discipline" system, wants to take a similar approach for the Sheriff Department. He expects to have a new discipline system in place within 18 months.

LaCabe said comparative discipline is flawed because the punishment meted out in the past occurred under more lenient administrations or at a time when society did not hold officers as accountable as they do now.

Police have instituted a new system that spells out in advance what type of punishment they can expect for misconduct. Officers now get a handbook that specifies presumptive penalties. For instance, the handbook warns that the city probably will fire an officer found to have lied under oath or to an investigator.

Now LaCabe wants the 100-person task force, which includes city officials, citizens and union leaders, to help him create a similar handbook for the Sheriff Department, which has about 900 employees.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arizona Prisoners In Colorado

It seems that we would have already learned our lesson about what can happen with out of state prisoners being brought to Colorado. Two riots in Crowley and the sexual assaults in Brush and we still are talking about allowing private prisons to treat people like commerce.
Pueblo Chieftain
WALSENBURG — Huerfano County Correctional Center will soon transfer all of its Colorado inmates to other state facilities to make room for nearly 752 Arizona inmates, corrections officials said Monday.

According to Allan Cramer, public information officer at the Corrections Corporation of America-run facility, Colorado inmates will be moved from Huerfano to three of the organization's other facilities in Colorado.

"We are going to take the little more than 600 inmates that we have here and put them in facilities in Crowley, Bent and Kit Carson counties. We will then backfill the Colorado inmates with Arizona inmates," Cramer said.

Nothing in Colorado statute keeps the state from accepting inmates from other states.

Cramer said that the mass transfer is a business decision and involves Colorado, Arizona and CCA, which is based in Tennessee. "These sort of things happen all the time. It's not something that is unusual," Cramer said.

CCA, the largest private prison company in the United States, has four prisons in Colorado. The CCA prison in Walsenburg opened in November 1997 and currently houses about 610 Colorado Department of Corrections inmates.

State Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said Monday that she does not want Arizona's inmates in Colorado facilities.

McFadyen said that Arizona may classify and differentiate its inmates differently than Colorado.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


New Yorker: Hellhole: Is Solitary Confinement Torture

New Yorker

Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people.

Children provide the clearest demonstration of this fact, although it was slow to be accepted. Well into the nineteen-fifties, psychologists were encouraging parents to give children less attention and affection, in order to encourage independence. Then Harry Harlow, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, produced a series of influential studies involving baby rhesus monkeys.

He happened upon the findings in the mid-fifties, when he decided to save money for his primate-research laboratory by breeding his own lab monkeys instead of importing them from India. Because he didn’t know how to raise infant monkeys, he cared for them the way hospitals of the era cared for human infants—in nurseries, with plenty of food, warm blankets, some toys, and in isolation from other infants to prevent the spread of infection. The monkeys grew up sturdy, disease-free, and larger than those from the wild. Yet they were also profoundly disturbed, given to staring blankly and rocking in place for long periods, circling their cages repetitively, and mutilating themselves.

At first, Harlow and his graduate students couldn’t figure out what the problem was. They considered factors such as diet, patterns of light exposure, even the antibiotics they used. Then, as Deborah Blum recounts in a fascinating biography of Harlow, “Love at Goon Park,” one of his researchers noticed how tightly the monkeys clung to their soft blankets. Harlow wondered whether what the monkeys were missing in their Isolettes was a mother. So, in an odd experiment, he gave them an artificial one.

In the studies, one artificial mother was a doll made of terry cloth; the other was made of wire. He placed a warming device inside the dolls to make them seem more comforting. The babies, Harlow discovered, largely ignored the wire mother. But they became deeply attached to the cloth mother. They caressed it. They slept curled up on it. They ran to it when frightened. They refused replacements: they wanted only “their” mother. If sharp spikes were made to randomly thrust out of the mother’s body when the rhesus babies held it, they waited patiently for the spikes to recede and returned to clutching it. No matter how tightly they clung to the surrogate mothers, however, the monkeys remained psychologically abnormal.

In a later study on the effect of total isolation from birth, the researchers found that the test monkeys, upon being released into a group of ordinary monkeys, “usually go into a state of emotional shock, characterized by . . . autistic self-clutching and rocking.” Harlow noted, “One of six monkeys isolated for three months refused to eat after release and died five days later.” After several weeks in the company of other monkeys, most of them adjusted—but not those who had been isolated for longer periods. “Twelve months of isolation almost obliterated the animals socially,” Harlow wrote. They became permanently withdrawn, and they lived as outcasts—regularly set upon, as if inviting abuse.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Medical Marijuana Advocates Breathing Easier

Kansas City

After California legalized medical marijuana, Charles Lynch opened his cannabis dispensary nearly two years ago in Morro Bay, getting a license from the city and joining the chamber of commerce. Even the mayor showed up for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A year later, U.S. drug enforcement agents raided his business. Now Lynch is worried that he'll get at least five years in prison when he's sentenced Monday in federal court in Los Angeles on five counts of distributing marijuana.

Whatever happens, Lynch said, he'll appeal. "I don't feel like I deserve going through life as a convicted felon for doing things the state of California allowed me to do," he said.

However, the nation's medical marijuana users are breathing a little more easily these days, confident that such stories soon will be a thing of the past.

At news conferences last month and again last Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said that there would be no more federal prosecutions of cases involving medical cannabis dispensaries. He said they would be left alone as long as they were complying with state laws.

Medical marijuana advocates predict that the issue soon will leave the public realm of politics and become a private issue between doctors and patients. They also said that President Barack Obama had kept a promise that he made on the campaign trail last year.

Police Sorting Out Lie

The Denver Post

A jury has acquitted Denver police officer Charles Porter in the assault of Juan Vasquez, but police officials say the case remains dogged by possible perjury and legal issues.

"We know that this kid was assaulted by a Denver police officer, and we know that at least one Denver police officer committed perjury in this trial," independent police monitor Richard Rosenthal said after reviewing trial testimony.

The dilemma is untangling who jumped on 16-year-old Vasquez after a chase last April and which of three officers testifying at the trial told the truth.

The case — in which the city paid $885,000 to settle a lawsuit by Vasquez — is frustrating, Rosenthal said.

Porter, 41, a 13-year veteran of the police force, was acquitted March 12 of causing serious internal injuries by jumping on the back of Vasquez after chasing the teen because of a possible open-container violation.

Two officers came forward soon after the Vasquez arrest to say Porter had jumped on Vasquez.

Conflicting testimony

At trial, Porter testified that he fell behind during the foot chase and that by the time he arrived, Officers Luis Rivera and Cameron Moerman had Vasquez on the ground and the teen was complaining he couldn't breathe.

"I don't know what happened that night. By the time I arrived, the juvenile was handcuffed and in custody," Porter testified.

Rivera and Moerman testified that they saw Porter jump on Vasquez and Rivera heard him say later the beating was "just something I do lately."

Vasquez gave conflicting testimony and seemed unsure which officer jumped on him.

When prosecutors chose to rely on testimony from two officers they assured the case would end in acquittal, said Detective Rufino Trujillo, past president of the state chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.

Porter's defense successfully raised questions about the involvement of Moerman and Rivera. And with little physical evidence, a conviction depended on the jury believing the officers' testimony.

"Their credibility was in question, and you were not going to get a conviction," Trujillo said.

Neither Moerman nor Rivera blamed Porter for the beating until they talked to internal affairs investigators six days after it happened.

Denver Assistant District Attorney Doug Jackson said Moerman and Rivera were highly credible witnesses.

As for the delay, Jackson said, Moerman "didn't name Porter until he was asked to come to internal affairs, but they were hoping that Porter would own up to what he did."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Teen Suicide After Questioning By Police

The Denver Post


FOUNTAIN — Parents of an El Paso County teen who killed himself after police questioned him in a vandalism case are asking whether the officer involved was too harsh on the boy.
The 16-year-old boy, Aaron A. Edmiston, shot himself Wednesday. In a suicide note, the boy apologized for vandalizing two cars with friends earlier in the week.
The other boys and Edmiston's father, Robert Edmiston, told The (Colorado Springs) Gazette that the suicide came after tough questioning from El Paso County sheriff's deputy Mike Kossman.
Family and friends say Edmiston feared his life was ruined after Kossman went to the boy's house. A junior at Mesa Ridge High School in Fountain, Edmiston was planning to attend the University of Oklahoma on a military scholarship.
"I think he was just scared over what would happen to him. There must have been a feeling this would ruin our lives," one of the other suspects, 18-year-old Frank Cifaldi, told the newspaper.
Cifaldi said that the questioning by Kossman was intense, although he was questioned separately from Edmiston.
Kossman lost his temper and shouted obscenities, Cifaldi said.
"He said, 'Stop playing (expletive) stupid with me and tell me the truth,'" said Cifaldi. Kossman was questioning the boys in the egging of two cars on Monday night. A Volkswagen Jetta had a window broken out.
In the suicide note, Edmiston apologized for "what happened Monday night" and said that no matter what, Cifaldi and the other suspect in the vandalism were good kids.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ending the Death Penalty

Boulder Weekly
Can killing Colorado’s death penalty help the state catch murderers?
by Erica Grossman

At 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 13, 1997, Gary Lee Davis sat down to an early evening bowl of ice cream before a visit with his priest and two daughters. After the meeting, at 7:30 p.m., he took a shower and put on a clean set of clothes. Half an hour later, Davis was accompanied down a hallway and led into a special chamber. There, a large curtain was pulled back to reveal an observation room where 11 people sat, staring back at a seated Davis. A brief phone call was made to then-Gov. Roy Romer, who gave the “go-ahead.” At 8:24 p.m., assistants inserted several unmarked IV lines into Davis’ veins. Some contained a harmless saline solution. Others contained sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which mixed in Davis’ bloodstream, depressing his central nervous system and causing his heart to stop beating. At 8:33 p.m., Davis was pronounced dead at the Colorado State Penitentiary in CaƱon City.

Davis, who had been found guilty of the brutal abduction, rape and murder of Ginny May in 1987, was the first person to be legally executed in Colorado since the 1960s.

Outside the prison gates, a crowd of nearly 200 people had gathered, some pleased by Davis’ death, most silently partaking in a candlelight vigil in opposition to the state-ordered execution.

Eleven years later, on the other side of the state, a far less solemn crowd erupted in applause as a former inmate of that same prison exited a Ft. Collins courtroom. His name was Timothy Masters. On June 22, 2008, he was vacated of the murder conviction of Peggy Hettrick, a 37-year-old woman whose sexually mutilated body was found in 1987 — the same year Davis was sentenced to death.

Masters, who was 15 years old at the time of Hettrick’s murder, was charged, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the act in 1999. He spent the following nine years behind bars before testing confirmed that the DNA evidence found at the scene of the crime did not match Masters’. His conviction was overturned, and he is now a free man.

While the barbarous assaults and murders of Ginny May and Peggy Hettrick have little in common at first glance, they are both connected by a piece of proposed state legislation — House Bill 1274.

The bill, which is slated to go before the House Appropriations Committee within the next two weeks, proposes to abolish the death penalty in the state of Colorado and use the funds saved on capital punishment to pay for a newly formed cold-case unit at the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI).

Advocates of the bill, including its drafter Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, see this as Colorado’s opportunity to trade our most severe and irreversible form of punishment for a chance at resolving unsolved homicides. Those in opposition denounce HB 1274’s plausibility and morality. Though the discussion behind the death penalty has been a heated philosophical debate in our society for decades, HB 1274 shows that, in the face of a troubled economy, citizens are beginning to consider cost-effectiveness when determining the fate of convicted killers.

Reinstating Deputy and Inmate Work Force

The Denver Post

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper hopes to reverse the recent firing of 11 sheriff's deputies by getting their colleagues who staff the city's jails to take 40-hour unpaid furloughs.

The move by the mayor comes amid concern by some council members who want to avoid losing a program that used nonviolent offenders at the jail to shovel snow from the sidewalks of the elderly, mow their lawns and spruce up city parks. The firings required the sheriff's department to end the program and redeploy deputies who had staffed it.

Last week, the mayor fired the 11 deputies to help close a $56 million budget gap that has the potential to widen even more if sales-tax revenue continues to decline.

Hickenlooper took the action, along with ordering remaining deputies to take 30 hours in unpaid furlough time, after the union rejected his plea that it accept a 2 percent cut in pay and benefits, which would have saved the city $1.2 million.

Kelly Brough, the mayor's chief of staff, and the union that represents the sheriff's deputies met Wednesday to discuss ways to reverse the firings. Brough and the union agreed to let the union poll its members to see whether they would accept a 40-hour furlough program instead.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Federal Sentencing Bills

Bills in Congress - 2009

Federal sentencing bills that FAMM is following are below.

 
H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009
On March 12, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 1466, the “Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009.’’  The bill would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses; curb federal prosecutions of low-level drug offenders; and allow courts to place offenders on probation or suspend their sentence.
 
In a speech to Congress, Rep. Waters cited “Correcting Course: Lessons from the 1970 Repeal of Mandatory Minimums,” FAMM’s 2008 report on how Congress first enacted mandatory drug sentences in the 1950s, then repealed them 20 years later because they failed to reduce drug trafficking. 
 
  • To read Rep. Waters’ floor statement, follow this link. (pdf file)
  • Click here to read the bill summary, see cosponsors and get other information on this bill.

 

H.R. 1459, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009 
On March 12, Congressman Robert "Bobby" C. Scott (D-Va.), introduced H.R. 1459, the "Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009." The bill would eliminate the distinction between powder cocaine and crack cocaine; eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for cocaine, and establish the possibility of probationary sentences for cocaine offenders.

 

  • Click here to read the bill summary, see cosponsors and get other information on this bill.

 

H.R. 1475, the Federal Prison Work Incentive Act of 2009
On March 12, Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) introduced H.R. 1475, the “Federal Prison Work Incentive Act of 2008,” a bill that would substantially revive the good time system that existed before November 1, 1987.

 

As defined in H.R. 1475, good time is the amount of time a prisoner, whose record of conduct shows substantial observance of Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regulations is eligible to have deducted from the term of his sentence. The amount varies depending on, among other things, the length of the prisoner’s sentence.

 

Congressman Davis’s proposal would increase earned good time, restore industrial good time (providing for additional opportunities to reduce one’s sentence by engaging in work opportunities), allow forfeiture of all good time credit in the event of infractions in prison, and provide for potential restoration of forfeited good time credit.

 

Although H.R. 1475 technically would apply to all prisoners sentenced on or after November 1, 1987, it would not be retroactive. It would not recalculate good time already earned under the current system. 

 

  • Click here to read the bill summary, see cosponsors and get other information on this bill.

AG Signals Shift In Marijuana Policy

Philly.com

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law.

That would be a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state's law.

"The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law," Holder said in a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Justice Department.

Medical marijuana advocates in California welcomed the news, but said they still worried about the pending cases of those already in court on drug charges.

California law permits the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, though it still is against federal law.

Holder did not spell out exactly who no longer would face the prospect of raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration. But he was quick to add that law enforcement officers will target anyone who tries to "use medical marijuana laws as a shield" for other illegal activity.

"Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that's inconsistent with federal and state law," the attorney general said.

Ny Times

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday outlined a shift in the enforcement of federal drug laws, saying the administration would effectively end the Bush administration’s frequent raids on distributors of medical marijuana.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Holder provided few specifics but said the Justice Department’s enforcement policy would now be restricted to traffickers who falsely masqueraded as medical dispensaries and “use medical marijuana laws as a shield.”

In the Bush administration, federal agents raided medical marijuana distributors that violated federal statutes even if the dispensaries appeared to be complying with state laws. The raids produced a flood of complaints, particularly in California, which in 1996 became the first state to legalize marijuana sales to people with doctors’ prescriptions.

Graham Boyd, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union drug law project, said Mr. Holder’s remarks created a reasonable balance between conflicting state and federal laws and “seem to finally end the policy war over medical marijuana.” He said officials in California and the 12 other states that have authorized the use of medical marijuana had hesitated to adopt regulations to carry out their laws because of uncertainty created by the Bush administration.

Mr. Holder said the new approach was consistent with statements made by President Obama in the campaign and was based on an assessment of how to allocate scarce enforcement resources. He said dispensaries operating in accord with California law would not be a priority for the administration.

Mr. Holder’s comments appeared to be an effort to clarify the policy after some news reports last month interpreted his answer to a reporter’s question to be a flat assertion that all raids on marijuana growers would cease. Department officials said Mr. Holder had not intended to assert any policy change last month but was decidedly doing so on Wednesday.

Ethan Nadelmann, the founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Mr. Holder was telling the Drug Enforcement Administration that it should leave legitimate growers of medical marijuana untouched. “The message from the Bush Justice Department was ‘watch out — we have the authority to go after everybody,’ ” he said.




To Save Money On Prisons States Taking Softer Stance

USA TODAY

SALINA, Kan. — In a hushed conference room overlooking the town's main drag, eight convicted felons, including an aspiring amateur fighter, brandish bright Crayola markers.

Their goal is to match their personalities to one of four colors. Tim Witte, 27, on probation for evading arrest, eyes the task as if sizing up a fellow middle-weight on Kansas' gritty cage-fighting circuit. Witte and two drug offenders settle on orange.

The color, indicative of a restless, risk-taking personality, is the hue of choice for most offenders, says Michelle Stephenson, the corrections officer leading the unusual exercise.

Not long ago, Stephenson admits, the evening state-sponsored "behavioral modification" session — designed to help ex-offenders avoid costly prison time — might have been considered a perversion of this conservative state's strict law-and-order credo. But this isn't the same Kansas anymore.

"It used to be that it was more about waiting for them to mess up and send them back to prison," Stephenson says. "In this time and this economy, you can't afford to keep doing that. There is a better way to do business."

The class is part of a state effort to save millions of dollars in prison costs by changing how criminals are treated. Kansas is closing some prisons, boosting support for offenders on probation and declining to return them to prison for every probation violation.

Here and across the nation, the deepening financial crisis is forcing dramatic changes in the hard-line, punishment-based philosophy that has dominated the USA's criminal justice system for nearly two decades.

As 31 states report budget gaps that the National Governor's Association says totaled nearly $30 billion last year, criminal justice officials and lawmakers are proposing and enacting cost-cutting changes across the public safety spectrum, with uncertain ramifications for the public.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dog Days In Prison

Working with animals is truly one of the most therapeutic things that can happen in prison. It does change hearts and minds.
CBS4
CANON CITY, Colo. (CBS4) ―

Beyond the barbwire and deep inside one of Colorado's prisons one can hear "down your dogs" and "good boy, Tiger." A K-9 prison program is not only reshaping state prisons, it's reshaping prisoners.

At the Colorado Territorial Correction Facility in Canyon City, inmate Christopher Vogt is serving a 36-year prison sentence for second degree murder. He'll be eligible for parole in about 10 years. Vogt was one of the first inmates to take part in the prison dog program when it started more than six years ago. He wiped away his tears and said, "I have watched this program change a bunch of people here," and he admits it's changed him too.

The Prison Dog program is a privileged prison program. Inmates apply by application and interview. They're required to have six months of good behavior, a GED, and not be a sex offender. In the program, each inmate lives in a private cell that they access with their own key. Each cell also has a kennel for their dog. The inmates spend 24 hours a day with their canine. Some are rescued from shelters and puppy mills and are available for adoption. Others are taken to the prison by their owners for training. All of the dogs receive weeks of obedience training to be pets, or search-and-rescue dogs, or companion dogs. A dog right now in the prison is training to be a service dog for a man with cerebral palsy.

The End Of CWCF

Canon City Daily Record
Mix together one part commencement ritual, one part emotion and one part a look back into history, and the result is the Women’s Graduation and Recognition Ceremony on Monday afternoon at the Colorado Women’s Correctional Facility.

Eighty-six certificates were awarded to inmates in programs ranging from associate’s degrees and apprenticeships to anger management and cosmetology in the final graduation program at CWCF. It has been targeted by the state Legislature for closure by May 31, the victim of economic hardship.

Soon after the melody of “Pomp and Circumstance” faded away and the graduates were seated, speakers turned to the closure of the 41-year-old facility.

“The difference between this graduation and others is you’re never going to live here again,” State Rep. Buffie McFadyen, keynote speaker, told the graduates. “You’ll be moving on to either Denver or Pueblo.”

Dr. Diana Wenzel, Adams State College, said she understands the prison places a high value on education.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

DA Clears Cop In Driver Shooting

Why am I not surprised?

District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has cleared a Denver police officer of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of a motorist on Feb. 26.

Officer Ed Ash, who's been on the force for three years, acted within his legal duties when he shot and killed Davlon Reagor, 37, whom he stopped for speeding at the intersection of East Fifth Avenue and Lafayette Street, Morrissey concluded. Ash fired nine rounds from close range through the windshield of the car Reagor was driving, hitting him twice.

Morrissey stated that Ash is still subject to administrative actions by the police department as well as civil lawsuits, where the burden of proof is lower than for criminal prosecution.

The incident began around 10 p.m. that Thursday night when a radar-patrol car spotted Reagor driving south on Speer Boulevard near Fifth and Broadway at 51 mph in a 35-mph zone. The radar officer radioed for assistance in stopping Reagor. Officer Ash, on DUI patrol, spotted the car, a 1986 maroon Ford Escort, and gave chase with his emergency lights on.

Both cars were headed east on Fifth Avenue when Reagor turned his headlights off and ran the stop sign at Downing Street, the report stated. So Officer Ash turned off his emergency equipment, with no explanation given.

Ash radioed for help, stating the vehicle he was chasing was "spinning around in the street."

He told investigators the Escort spun around and was driving in reverse, eastbound on Fifth Avenue. Near the intersection with Lafayette Street, a Toyota truck headed westbound swerved to miss the Escort, the report stated. Ash testified that the driver of the truck stopped, then began backing up. The report stated that the driver of the truck told police the Escort began making "donuts" in the street.

The Escort finally came to rest on Lafayette Street, pointing northbound a few feet south of Fifth Avenue.

The report stated Officer Ash stopped his cruiser about 5 feet away from the Escort, at a 45-degree angle from the Escort's left front bumper.

Ash told investigators he jumped out of his cruiser, drew his weapon, a 9mm Baretta with 16 rounds, and ran in front of his cruiser toward the Escort yelling, "Show me your hands." His headlights and spotlight were focused on the Escort. The report stated he radioed that he had the suspect at gunpoint.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dem Lawmaker Calls For Legal Pot Program In California

California should explore a pilot program of legal, regulated marijuana, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

Sanchez, chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, said that because of her state's receptiveness to more lenient marijuana laws, it would be a good host for an experiment in reform.

"Well, certainly, I have seen in my own state of California people over and over voting a big majority the whole issue of marijuana and possession of that," Sanchez said this morning on CNN. "So maybe it would be a good pilot program to see how that regulation of marijuana might happen in California since the populous, the majority of Californians believe maybe that's should happen."

Taking a page from a number of those who favor the reform of pot laws, Sanchez likened the issue to the prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century.

"Well, certainly there is one drug — it's called alcohol — that we prohibited in the United States and had such a problem with as far as underground economy and cartels of that sort that we ended up actually regulating it and taxing it," she said. "And so there has always been this thought that maybe if we do that with drugs, it would lower the profits in it and make some of this go away."

Sanchez's comments come amidst a furious drug war in Mexico between drug cartels. Sanchez's subcommittee would have direct jurisdiction over the American side of the war.

Additionally, the suggestion also comes after the federal government announced it would not prosecute many medical marijuana consumers in California, a change in tone from the Bush administration. The Obama administration also named Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske as its drug czar this week.

Watch a video of Sanchez's appearance below:

HB 1262 and 1263 Both Make It Through The Senate

On a unanimous vote both HB 1262 and HB 1263 have made it through the Senate and are on their way to Governor Ritter's desk.  HB 1238 has been postponed until next Monday, March 23 at 1:30.  The bill to abolish the death penalty in Colorado will be up in Appropriations next week.


HB 1262: Concerning the Issuance of a Summons Instead of an Arrest Warrant in Certain Circumstances

Sponsors: Representative Casso and Senator Morse

CCJRC Position: SUPPORT

HB 1263: Concerning Time Computation While An Inmate Is Incarcerated In ACounty Jail.

Sponsors: Representative Casso and Senator Carroll

CCJRC Position: SUPPORT

Former Rocky Staffers Start Online News

A group of Rocky Mountain News journalists with support and backing from three Denver entrepreneurs launched a subscription drive Monday for the online news site INDenverTimes.com.

Their goal is to get 50,000 subscribers by April 23 — the 150th anniversary of the first edition of the Rocky Mountain News — in order to launch the full site by May 4.

INDenverTimes is an effort to reinvent the newspaper for the Internet age, featuring many of the reporters, editors, designers and other journalists that the Denver community has come to depend on for coverage of local and national news, sports and the arts. News will be free, but the subscription will invite readers inside the newsroom as never before through news analysis, insight, online chats and other features.

Former Rocky staff involved in effort so far: Sam Adams, Tom Auclair, Lisa Bornstein, Mark Brown, Tim Burroughs, Mary Chandler, Mark Christopher, Kevin Flynn, Tillie Fong, Steve Foster, Scott Gilbert, Chuck Hickey, Cindy House, Kevin Huhn, Kim Humphreys, Jay Lee, Aaron Lopez, Gary Massaro, David Milstead, John Moore, Alex Neth, Melissa Pomponio, Bill Scanlon, Hank Schultz, Marc Shulgold, Ed Stein, George Tanner, Chris Tomasson, Bob Willis and Mark Wolf.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Crime Falls In Tandem With Economy

The Denver Post

The number of reported burglaries, car thefts and larcenies has dropped steadily in several Colorado cities despite historic data that say crime should be on the rise during this deep economic recession.

The decrease puzzles criminologists but gives police reason to tout crime-prevention initiatives and tougher sentencing laws putting prolific burglars and car thieves away. Yet even the police aren't sure of all of the factors driving the phenomenon.

"Perhaps it would be a natural assumption that crime would increase when the economy is bad," said Detective Shannon Lucy of the Aurora Police Department. "It does kind of go against what people would expect."

It may be too early in this recession to see whether the downward crimetrend holds. Some who are young, poor and uneducated may yet be driven to crime after repeated failed attempts to find jobs, some experts said.

"People don't become criminals overnight. It takes some time for the strain to hit them," said Jeff London, assistant professor of criminology at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Asset Forfeiture: Theft By Legislature

The Examiner

In 2002, after years of government officials accusing people of crimes, then using the unproven allegations to steal their money, cars and valuables, often without even bringing charges against the original owners, the process of asset forfeiture was reformed in Colorado. The very sensible reform required officials to win convictions in court first, then take any property involved in crimes later. Now two lawmakers, Rep. Joe Rice and Sen. Brandon Shaffer, want to go back to the old way of doing things, short-circuiting due process and making residents of the state potential victims of highway robbery by the officials who are supposed to protect them.
 

The old procedure, still in place in many of the United States, was civil asset forfeiture. Based on medieval theories of law that allowed officials to bring charges against money and objects, civil asset forfeiture provided an easy means for officials to take cash, vehicles and even homes that they wanted without compensating the owners and without meeting the high standards of proof required in criminal courts. They were able to put seized assets to their own uses, which turned legalized theft into a lucrative revenue stream for many agencies. Not surprisingly, civil asset forfeiture became an abusive enterprise.

So it was reformed in 2002 by a law that required that assets be seized only from owners who had been convicted in court of crimes involving those assets: "No judgment of forfeiture of property in any forfeiture proceeding shall be entered unless and until an owner of the property is convicted of an offense listed in section 16-13-503." District attorneys were also required to report on their use of asset forfeiture so that the practice could be monitored for abuses.

No judgment of forfeiture of property in any forfeiture proceeding shall be entered unless and until an owner of the property is convicted of an offense listed in section 16-13-503.

But requiring that prosecutors actually prove their cases before they go on looting sprees is apparently too much for Rep. Joe Rice and Sen. Brandon Shaffer. They have introduced HB 1238 (PDF), which repeals the requirement for criminal convictions before money and valuables are seized by government officials. It also eliminates the reporting requirement , allowing asset forfeiture to proceed out of public view.

It really is a recipe for highway robbery.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cop: Partner Had No Cause To Jump On Teen

The Denver Post

A Denver police officer testified Wednesday that after he watched his gang-unit partner stomp on a 16-year-old suspect, the officer told him he didn't know why he had jumped on the boy.

Officer Luis Rivera was with veteran Denver gang officer Charles Porter and two others chasing down Juan Vasquez, who ran when police approached West 37th Avenue and Pecos Street.

After a chase through some yards and a dark alley, Officer Cameron Moer man caught the teen. Rivera, who had fallen behind after tumbling during the chase, found Moerman on his knees straddling Vasquez's prone body, Rivera said.

"Officer Porter and I get there, and Officer Moerman gets up and steps to the side. . . . Officer Porter grabs hold of the fence with both hands. He jumps up, raises his knees and lands with both feet on the kid's back," Rivera said.

Rivera went on to demonstrate the jumps, rising into the air and landing full force on the courtroom floor with three resounding thumps.

"I didn't know what to think at first; I thought that maybe the kid had a weapon or something," he said.

When Porter and he were alone in their squad car, Rivera asked the senior officer why he had jumped on the teenager.

"Officer Porter said, 'I don't know why I do that. It's just something I do lately. I guess I just like the way they sound,' " Rivera said.

CCA Announces 600 Prisoner Move From Arizona To Colorado

NASHVILLE, TN -- (Marketwire) -- 03/11/09 -- Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA") (NYSE: CXW), the nation's largest provider of corrections management services to government agencies, announced that the state of Arizona has awarded a contract to CCA to manage up to 752 Arizona inmates at its 752-bed Huerfano County Correctional Center in Colorado. The Company currently houses approximately 2,100 inmates from the state of Arizona at its Diamondback Correctional Facility located in Oklahoma pursuant to a separate management contract.

The new contract includes an initial term ending March 9, 2010, which may be renewed by mutual agreement for four consecutive terms of one year each. Additionally, the new contract includes a guaranteed 90 percent occupancy level effective upon initially reaching 90 percent occupancy. The Company is currently working with the state of Colorado to relocate approximately 600 inmates housed at the Huerfano facility to CCA's three other facilities located in Colorado. Concurrently, the Company is working with the state of Arizona to establish a ramp-up schedule for their inmates.

"We are grateful that the state of Arizona has expanded our relationship and entrusted these additional inmates into our care," stated CCA's Chief Executive Officer John Ferguson. "We are also pleased to continue executing our strategy of providing just-in-time beds to meet our customers' needs."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Important Update: HB 1238 - Asset Forfeiture

HEARING DATE FOR FORFEITURE BILL HAS BEEN CHANGED!

NOTE NEW DATE: March 16, 2009 at 1:30pm in House Judiciary Committee

We wanted to let you know that HB 1238, the asset forfeiture bill that CCJRC is opposing, will be heard on March 16, at 1:30.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Rice, has requested a later hearing date because he is working on a substantial amendment to the bill as introduced. As soon as we have more details about the specific changes he is making, we will let you know. It is possible to kill this bill. Your calls and emails are making a difference. If you haven’t had a chance to call legislators, please do so before March 16th.

So far we have heard from the following members of the House Judiciary Committee that they OPPOSE HB 1238. If you contact them, please thank them for their opposition and their commitment to preserving due process and property rights.

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

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

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

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

Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), 303-866-2968, sal_pace@hotmail.com

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


We do not yet know the positions of the following members of the House Judiciary Committee. If you contact them, please urge them to OPPOSE HB 1238.

Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), vice-chairman – 303-866-2959, ehmccann@comcast.net

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

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

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

We have also added three more supporting organizations to the opposition: Progress Now, 9 to 5, and The Road Called Strate have all signed on as well. There are now over 30 organizations that oppose HB 1238.


As always, thank you for all you do.

Action Alert – Oppose HB 1238 (civil forfeiture)

Please forward this action alert to any of your friends and family that value due process and property rights. The Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial in opposition to HB 1238. To read it, click here: http://www.gazette.com/opinion/bill_49055___article.html/colorado_house.html

HB 1238 is opposed by a diverse, bi-partisan coalition including:

Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Independence Institute, ACLU, Colorado Union of Taxpayers, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission, The Center for Justice, Peace & Environment, SAFER Colorado, Pendulum Foundation, Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, Metro Community Church of the Rockies, Drug Policy Alliance, Colorado Libertarian Party, Empowerment Program, Alexandria Temple, National Lawyer’s Guild-Colorado, Law Offices of Phil Cherner, Sensible Colorado, Colorado CURE, Cynergetics Institute, Kilmer, Lane and Newman, Youth Transformation, Charities House Ministries, Montview Presbyterian-Peace & Justice Taskforce, New Foundations Nonviolence Center, Left Hand Book Collective, Turnabout, Surrounded by Recovery, Progress Now, 9-5 National Association of Working Women-Colorado, Road Called Strate, Denver Urban Ministries.

What is “civil forfeiture”

Civil forfeiture is used by law enforcement to seize personal property (real estate, cash, jewelry, etc.) they believe was used during the commission of a criminal offense or is proceeds from criminal activity. When property is seized, prosecutors then file a civil forfeiture action against the property and, if the prosecution prevails, the property owner loses all right, title and interest in the property.

Current forfeiture law requires that:

· In most cases, a person must be convicted of a criminal offense before their property (cash, real estate, cars, etc.) can be forfeited for being involved in or proceeds of criminal activity.

· Law enforcement and prosecutors are not allowed to directly keep proceeds from forfeitures but are reimbursed for actual expenses related to the seizure and forfeiture. Once lienholders, innocent co-owners and victims are compensated, any remaining balance is divided 50% to fund substance abuse treatment at the local level and 50% to the county commissioners/city council (depending on whether police or sheriff did the seizure) to fund “public safety”.

· Law enforcement is required to submit an annual forfeiture report to Dept of Local Affairs.

These changes came about pursuant to the passage of HB 02-1404 in the 2002 legislative session. HB 02-1404 was sponsored by (then) Representative Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) and (then) Senator Bill Thiebaut (D-Pueblo). HB 1404 was a bi-partisan effort that passed in the House on a 51-11 vote and passed the Senate on a 23-10 vote. HB 1404 also received editorial board support from the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Grand Junction Sentinel, Colorado Springs Gazette, and Durango Herald.

WHAT HB 09-1238 WOULD DO:

1. Erodes reasonable protections for property owners by

a. repealing the requirement that someone be convicted of a criminal offense before their property can be forfeited. (in a civil forfeiture action, a property owner does not have 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination nor the right to counsel)

b. allowing for forfeiture even if the owner didn’t know that the property was used in violation of the law under the theory that he/she “reasonably should have known.”

c. repealing the requirement that the plaintiff prove that the property being forfeited was instrumental in the commission of an offense.

2. Reintroduces the profit motive to law enforcement and no longer requires forfeiture proceeds to be allocated through an accountable budgeting entity (like City Council or County Commissions) but rather allows law enforcement and prosecutors to keep a majority of the proceeds directly.

3. Removes any transparency and accountability by repealing all forfeiture reporting requirements and repeals the prohibition on transfer of forfeiture cases out of state court when local or state law enforcement were the seizing agency, with limited exceptions.

CONCLUSION:

Current law ensures that forfeiture actions are fair and that property owners have due process without undermining law enforcement’s ability to use forfeiture as a legitimate tool. Current law also brings the revenue generated from asset forfeiture into an appropriate budget process and provides accountability while removing any appearance of impropriety. HB 09-1238 repeals these fundamental principals of fairness and due process. It also creates an unacceptable profit motive for law enforcement.

www.ccjrc.org