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.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Legislation For Friday

HB 1274 Will be heard in Senate Appropriations at 8:00 AM 
HB 1321 Will be heard upon adjournment
HB 1351 Earned Time will heard in Senate Judiciary upon adjournment
HB 1266 Driver's License Bill will be heard on Thirds in the Senate

SC Justice Souter To Retire

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After more than 18 years on the nation's highest court, Supreme Court Justice David Souter is retiring, a source close to Souter told CNN Thursday.Souter will leave after the current court term recesses in June, the source said.

Filling Souter's seat would be President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court appointment -- and the first since George W. Bush's picks of Samuel Alito in 2006 and Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005.

Souter, 69, was tapped for the court by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, but disappointed many conservatives when he turned out to be a typical old-fashioned Yankee Republican -- a moderate, with an independent, even quirky streak.

Souter's departure will leave the two oldest justices -- and the most liberal -- still on the bench. Retirements for John Paul Stevens, 89, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76, have been rumored for years, with many expecting that one or the other would be the first to give a new Democratic president a Supreme Court vacancy.

Souter's decision came as something of a surprise, although he has long been known to prefer the quiet of his New Hampshire farmhouse to the bustle of the nation's capital. 

White House Calls On Congress To Equalize Sentencing

The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration joined a federal judge Wednesday in urging Congress to end a racial disparity by equalizing prison sentences for dealing and using crack versus powdered cocaine.

"Jails are loaded with people who look like me," U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, an African-American, told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said the administration believes Congress' goal "should be to completely eliminate the disparity" in the two forms of cocaine.

"A growing number of citizens view it as fundamentally unfair," Breuer testified.

It takes 100 times more powdered cocaine than crack cocaine to trigger the same harsh mandatory minimum sentences. Congress enacted the disparity during an epidemic of crack cocaine in the 1980s, with lawmakers assuming that violence would be greater among those using crack.

Breuer said the best way to deal with violence is to punish anyone who commits a violent offense, regardless of the drug involved. The Associated Press

Divide Over Death Row

The Denver Post

A bill to repeal the death penalty in Colorado divided families of murder victims during a hearing at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

Clutching photographs and sometimes tearing up, those who have lost loved ones at the hands of others gave passionate testimony both for and against the death penalty at a state Senate committee meeting. The panel approved the bill 3-2 on a party-line vote.

On one side were family members of victims whose killers have not been caught and who said money spent prosecuting death-penalty cases would be better spent investigating cold cases, as the bill directs. Stephanie Cummins — whose brother, cousin and step-father were all murdered in unrelated and unsolved cases — said her grief would not end with the killers' deaths.

"These murderers, I don't want death for them," she said. "I want them behind bars for the rest of their lives. I am willing to trade vengeance for justice."

On the other side of the debate were people who have seen their loved ones' killers and who believe the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for murder. Joe Cannata, the founder of Voices of Victims whose daughter was murdered 22 years ago by her boyfriend, read a letter from Rhonda Fields, whose son, Javad Marshall-Fields, was killed by a man now on death row.

Time To Kill The Death Penalty

The Greeley Tribune

Even justice has a price tag, and in today’s times, when legislators were talking about cutting $500 million from higher education, we have to make tough choices on the kind of justice we’d like to pursue.

We think the Colorado House made the right decision when it decided to kill the death penalty and use the money toward solving cold cases. 

We understand perfectly why families of victims would want to see the ones who caused them so much pain put to death. But in these times, we simply can’t afford it.

The death penalty is a luxury.

The last death-penalty case tried in Colorado cost $1.4 million to prosecute. It costs around $70,000 to prosecute a non-capital case. You can do the math.

And since the death penalty was reinstated in 1975, the state has executed exactly one person. Was it the person who the state spent $1.4 million to put to death? Nah. He wound up pleading guilty and got life in prison.

There are other things that disturb us about the death penalty — the fact that it really doesn’t deter anything, the fact that minorities are the ones usually sentenced to death or the unthinkable mistakes that kill those who didn’t do it in the first place — but the price tag is enough to convince us to banish it for good.

This is not a plea for sympathy for those convicted of first-degree murder. But life without parole seems like justice to us. Prison is not a fun place, and even criminals have a code, as those who commit brutal murders usually have a tough time behind bars. Jeffrey Dahmer, one of the most horrific serial killers in our nation’s history, was beaten to death by another prisoner in 1994.

Life also accomplishes the same objective as the death penalty by forever keeping them off the streets.

Given that, we prefer to pay for another kind of justice, the kind that solves the cold cases for families that have not enjoyed even the smallest bit of closure other families must feel once they see the one responsible for their pain locked away for good. Instead, the families of unsolved murders know that their loved ones may never receive any justice at all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Historic Day In Drug Reform

Families Against Mandatory Minimums logo
 
 
 
What an historic day in the long fight for crack sentencing reform! This morning the Obama Administration joined its voice with law enforcement, the judiciary, legal experts, and others in a call to end the disparity between federal crack and powder sentences.  
 
In a statement before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said that "the Administration believes Congress's goal should be to completely eliminate" the difference in sentencing between the two drugs. Breuer said that the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity is "difficult to justify based on the facts and science," that it "often punishes low-level crack offenders far more harshly than similarly situated powder cocaine offenders," and that the impact of these laws has fueled the belief that our laws are unfair.
 
His concerns were echoed by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, U.S. Sentencing Commission Acting Chair Richard Hinojosa, former DEA director and Congressman Asa Hutchinson, and Miami Chief of Police John Timoney. In his statement, Timoney emphasized that the distinction between the two drugs defied logic from a law enforcement perspective, saying, "It's the same drug. It's just manufactured differently."
 
In deeply moving testimony, FAMM member Cedric Parker recounted how the law has affected his sister, Eugenia, who is serving a sentence of almost 22 years for selling crack cocaine. Had she been charged with selling powder cocaine, her sentence would be nearly half that. To read Cedric's testimony, follow this link:http://www.famm.org/TakeAction/CalendarofEvents/USSenatehearingApril292009.aspx
 
There appears to be agreement among those who execute the law and those who are affected by the law: the disparity must be completely eliminated. The only people who have yet to agree on a solution are those who make the law. 
 
Unfortunately, the unwarranted and insupportable crack penalties will remain in place and on the books until Congress acts.  There are currently four proposals pending in the House that would address crack cocaine sentencing. No bills have been introduced yet in the Senate. Before any of these bills can become law, they must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.  Keep checking FAMM's "Bills in Congress" page for more information on pending legislation.   
 

Senate Committee Backs The End Of the Death Penalty

Now we are on to Senate Appropriations...
The Denver Post
DENVER—A proposal to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado has cleared another hurdle.

The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee backed the measure (House Bill 1274) Wednesday at the urging of families of murder victims. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for another vote.

The measure passed the House by a single vote last week and has drawn the attention of national anti-death penalty activists, including the father of an Oklahoma City bombing victim, who testified against it Wednesday.

The bill would take the money now being used to prosecute death penalty cases, about $1 million a year, and use it to investigate cold cases instead.

Opponents, including most of the state's district attorneys, say families are being given false hope that their crimes will be solved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SB 286 - The Most Recent Version (Sentencing Reform)

After consideration on the merits, the Committee recommends that SB09-286 be
amended as follows, and as so amended, be referred to the Committee of the Whole
with favorable recommendation.
Amend printed bill, strike everything below the enacting clause and
substitute the following:

"SECTION 1. Legislative declaration. (1) The general assembly finds and declares that:

(a) In 2007, it created the Colorado commission on criminal and
juvenile justice, referred to in this section as the "commission", in
House Bill 07-1358;

(b) The commission was tasked with enhancing public safety,
ensuring justice, and ensuring protection of the rights of victims
through the cost-effective use of public resources by studying
evidence-based, recidivism reduction initiatives that ensure the
cost-effective expenditure of limited criminal justice funds;

(c) Based on that study and consistent with its mission, the
commission developed sixty-six recommendations, including six bills
referred to the general assembly during the 2009 legislative session;
and
41
(d) The state of Colorado faces an unprecedented budget crisis
during the coming fiscal year, and it is imperative that the general
assembly consider cost-saving measures in the criminal justice
system during the second regular session of the sixty-seventh general
assembly.
(2) Therefore, the general assembly determines that it is necessary
to direct the commission to prioritize the study of sentencing reform
while maintaining the public safety.

SECTION 2. 16-11.3-103, Colorado Revised Statutes, is
amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SUBSECTION to read:

16-11.3-103. Duties of the commission - mission - staffing -
repeal. (2.5) (a) USING EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS AND EVIDENCE-BASED
DATA, THE COMMISSION SHALL STUDY SENTENCING PRACTICES IN
COLORADO.

(b) SPECIFICALLY, THE COMMISSION MAY STUDY, INCLUDING BU T
NOT LIMITED TO THE FOLLOWING SENTENCING AREAS:

(I) A STATEWIDE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY MANAGEMENT PLAN AND POTENTIAL DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY BED LIMITATION;

(II) SENTENCING PRACTICES RELATED TO THE OFFENSE OF DRIVING
UNDER RESTRAINT DESCRIBED IN SECTION 42-2-138, C.R.S.;

Senate Journal-112th Day-April 28, 2009 Page 1341
(III) SENTENCING PRACTICES RELATED TO DRUG CRIMES
DESCRIBED IN ARTICLE 18 OF TITLE 18, C.R.S.; AND
(IV) WHETHER PAROLE SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE SENTENCE OR
OUTSIDE THE SENTENCE.

(c) (I) BY NOVEMBER 30, 2009, THE COMMISSION SHALL UPDATE
THE GOVERNOR, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE
SUPREME COURT, AND THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE GENERAL
ASSEMBLY REGARDING THE COMMISSION'S FINDINGS,
RECOMMENDATIONS, AND PROPOSED PLAN FOR THE ONGOING STUDY
OF SENTENCING REFORM. ADDITIONALLY, BY FEBRUARY 1, 2010, THE
COMMISSION SHALL PROVIDE THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE
GENERAL ASSEMBLY WITH SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING
THE SENTENCING PRACTICES STUDIED PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPH (b)
OF THIS SUBSECTION (2.5).

(II) THIS PARAGRAPH (c) AND PARAGRAPH (b) OF THIS SUBSECTION
(2.5) ARE REPEALED, EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2010.

SECTION 3. Safety clause. The general assembly hereby finds,
determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate
preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.".

On Frontline Tonight: The Released

Watch the trailer at: http://www.pbs.org/frontline/released

Five years ago, FRONTLINE’s groundbreaking film, The New Asylums, went deep inside the Ohio prison system as it struggled to provide care to thousands of mentally ill inmates. This year, FRONTLINE filmmakers Karen O’Connor and Miri Navasky return to Ohio to tell the next chapter in this disturbing story: what happens to mentally ill offenders when they leave prison. The Released—airing on Tuesday, April 28, at 9 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), is an intimate look at the lives of the seriously mentally ill as they struggle to remain free.

As communities across the country face the largest exodus of prisoners in history, the issue has never been more pressing. This year alone, over 700,000 people will leave prison, more than half of them mentally ill. Typically, these offenders leave prison with a bus ticket, $75 in cash, and two weeks’ worth of medication. Studies show that within 18 months, nearly two-thirds of mentally ill offenders—often poor and cut off from friends and family—are re-arrested.

In 2007, Lynn Moore, armed with bottles and bricks, broke into a house looking for Osama bin Laden. A paranoid schizophrenic with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, he was arrested more than 20 times and sent to prison for the fourth time. After serving eight months, Moore was released without supervision. FRONTLINE follows him from his first day of freedom to a homeless shelter in Canton, Ohio. “I don’t think people understand how hard it is to transition from prison life back to everyday life,” says Scott Schnyders, program director at Refuge of Hope, the shelter that housed Moore.



Stimulus Funds Go To Treatment

Making it to treatment is not a success?

On Monday, two Mesa County commissioners squabbled over the details of a $730,074 federal grant to treat methamphetamine addicts, and a third commissioner peppered the local sheriff with questions about a grant for a $213,716 crime-fighting vehicle.

In the end, though, all the grant requests were approved, including a $3.13 million request to expand the county jail and $269,114 to train state prisoners to be janitors.

Commissioners Janet Rowland and Steve Acquafresca locked horns last week discussing what funds the county should seek as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. One of the items was “scholarships” for treatment of meth addicts who have been arrested.

The federal dollars, if approved, would be distributed through the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice and are to be used by addicts to seek treatment at a variety of locations, including the county’s Summit View treatment facility (which has 24 county beds), Hilltop and The Salvation Army.

Rowland favored applying for the financing. Acquafresca also did, but he took exception to the verbiage.

“They are calling it a scholarship,” an irritated Acquafresca said after the initial meeting on the subject.

“Scholarships are generally perceived as a reward, a reward for an accomplishment. What the heck kind of an accomplishment is it to go in for methamphetamine treatment? That is not a compliment — that is a failure. So we are rewarding people for failures.”


SB 286 Makes It Out Of Committee

SB 286 - Will be heard on second reading in the Senate.

Maryland Offers Recidivism Lesson

The Denver Post

The former director of Maryland's parole and probation division outlined Monday that state's success in lowering the number of offenders who go back to prison or have their parole revoked.

Judith Sachwald said one of the first things Maryland did was recognize its system was not working.

"Prisons are costly," she said. "I would prefer the money go into education."

She was among experts on reducing recidivism and curbing corrections costs who addressed the House and Senate judiciary committees in a joint session.

Sachwald stressed the importance of having programs to help parolees and probationers be productive.

Colorado's growing Department of Corrections' budget is almost $760 million.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Former Meth Addict Wins Prestigious Award

GJ Sentinel

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tina Castro was 16 when she became hooked on methamphetamine. More than two decades later, the Grand Junction woman has turned her life around and is being heralded for her leadership and stellar work ethic.

Castro, 38, who served four years of a nine-year prison sentence on drug-related charges, was recognized recently with a prestigious award from her employer, Goodwill Industries.

With a felony on her record, Castro initially struggled to find work, but management at the secondhand store offered her a chance to prove herself.

Nearly two years later, Castro is enjoying the fruits of a promotion and the thrill of receiving the company’s 2008 Co-Independence Award, the first time the honor has been bestowed on an employee in Grand Junction.

“I couldn’t be in a better place,” Castro said, smiling and looking around the store where she works, 630 24 1/2 Road. “It took a lot of focusing to get here.”

Castro had been a drug addict for 18 years when she got into trouble with the law in her 30s.

Being sentenced to prison afforded her an opportunity to learn who she was, although the experience also hardened her.

Castro was stabbed in the arm by another inmate on her second day of being incarcerated; the scars still are visible when she lifts her shirt’s right sleeve.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dismantle The Drug War

Click Here To Contact Your Senators 

Dismantle the Drug War - Support Sentencing Reform

With prohibition-related violence along the Mexico-U.S. border, increasing budget woes that require cheaper and more effective alternatives to incarceration and New York headed for a new direction in drug policy, it's time to step up the pressure on Congress to end the drug war. A good start would be eliminating the unfair difference in sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine.

Inmate's Hope For Dignity Unlocked

The Denver Post

nmates at Limon Correctional Facility spent much of last week under lockdown.

So, it wasn't until three days after a court ruling that one of them, Tim Kennedy, learned he is free of two life sentences.

Kennedy's lawyers and sister had tried letting him know his convictions were overturned. They waited for his regular calls. But the prisonwide lockdown kept him from getting messages and phoning.

Word of his appeal victory Tuesday finally got through Friday when a fellow worker in the prison's maintenance shop heard about the order in the news.

"I almost fell over. It was total elation," Kennedy said later that morning. "This is, hands down, the best day of my life."

Kennedy, 52, has served 13 years behind bars for a double murder he says he didn't commit. The El Paso County district attorney's office used key suspects — who had never met Kennedy — as witnesses against him.

He doesn't dispute that the gun believed to have been used to kill Jennifer Carpenter and Steve Staskiewicz in 1991 likely was one he lent his two friends for self-protection. The couple was hiding out in their trailer, fearing threats on their lives as Carpenter prepared to testify against a man and woman who had raped her months earlier.

We've written that DNA testing excludes Kennedy from key pieces of evidence at the scene.

We've detailed the sorry performance of his trial lawyer, a man to whom Kennedy's late father paid his life savings.

We've reported

on how the sheriff's investigator now works in the prison system and dispatched a colleague to apparently intimidate Charles Stroud — one of Carpenter's rapists and a suspect in the murders — from testifying at Kennedy's appeal.

And we've covered how DAs withheld a letter from Stroud to Rebecca Corkins, codefendant in Jenny's rape. Both were in jail at the time of the murders and have said they wanted to silence testimony against them.

Prosecutor Support Elimination Of The Death Penalty

The Denver Post

PUEBLO, Colo.—Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut (TEA'-bow) supports a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Colorado.

Thiebaut is voicing his support as his office decides whether to seek the death penalty in the rape and murder of a teenage girl. The former Democratic lawmaker also wants to be appointed U.S. attorney for Colorado.

Troy Eid, appointed U.S. attorney by former President George Bush, resigned after President Barack Obama took office and an acting attorney was named.

The Colorado House has approved a measure that would eliminate the death penalty and use the money to solve cold cases. The Senate will consider the bill next.

As a lawmaker, Thiebaut opposed the death penalty. He said his personal objections wouldn't be an obstacle to pursing it when warranted.

"As a district attorney, I'm duty-bound to enforce the law as it is written, not as I wish it to be," Thiebaut said.

DUI Arrest Stats Staaggering

Let's see, we are labeled the drunkest city, and we have the lowest funding treatment in the nation.....hmmm.
The Denver Post

Each year, roughly 10,000 drunken drivers are busted in Colorado for driving drunk again — and during a recent three-year span, more than 5,000 drunken drivers had at least three prior DUI arrests.

Colorado's criminal justice system touches about 31,000 drunken drivers a year, a Denver Post examination of state records found. But the system fails to ensure that those drivers stay off the road after drinking. In fact, one in three arrested for drinking and driving have at least one prior DUI, The Post found.

"This is out of control, and I don't know if the general public knows this," said Carolyn DeVries of Denver, one of 17 members of a statewide DUI task force set up to look at ways to attack a problem that has vexed lawmakers, cops, prosecutors and judges for years and that, potentially, places every motorist at risk.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Life Sentence For Children Of Prisoners

There are some children who matter so little that no government agency bothers to count or keep statistical track of them. These are the children of prisoners.

Neither the courts nor the corrections departments are interested in the kids who are suffering under their offending parent's sentence.

What on earth does "corrections" mean if it doesn't involve improving inmates' behavior and prospects for life when they are back with their families and communities?

Actually, "corrections" is oxymoronic.

National organizations ask prisoners about their children. There is some data, but it's hard to verify. Researchers believe that at any given time, roughly 1.5 million kids in the country have a parent in prison or jail. About 10 million children now under 18 have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives.

Having a parent imprisoned clearly indicates domestic chaos and disruption. Children of inmates are statistically very likely to go to prison themselves. It's a wonder the justice system isn't a little more interested in them.

In her book of essays "Children of Incarcerated Parents" researcher Denise Johnson says that a parent's arrest and incarceration are so traumatic that they can "interfere with the ability of children to successfully master developmental tasks" meaning that their ability to learn becomes delayed. And these children have to overcome "the effects of enduring trauma, parent-child separation and an inadequate quality of care. The combination of these effects produces serious long-term outcomes, including intergenerational incarceration."

About 90 percent of these kids are living with the other parent or other relatives. The remainder go into foster or state care.

Who are these offender parents? Johnson and her partner editor, Katherine Gabel, write: "Incarcerated parents share the characteristics of other prisoners. They are low-income persons with limited education, job skills and employment histories; their lives have typically included separations from their own parents as children, substance abuse and exposure to a variety of traumatic experiences, including battering, molestation, parental alcoholism/addiction, domestic violence and community violence."

Prison then adds another layer of insult to those injuries.

When inmates are released, often they leave homeless and indigent, with no job, transportation or medical insurance. Sometimes they have only the clothes they are wearing. In short, they have fewer resources than when they went in, and more problems.

Now add kids.

Now add the angry aunt or grandmother who's been taking care of those kids.

And you wonder why our recidivism rates for prisoners are so high.

American justice seems more like retribution, when it could actually be restorative. But the courts are living proof of the cliche: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. With a different mindset, courts could take the attitude that a first nonviolent crime, especially one committed by a kid, is less an infraction requiring punishment than a red flag indicating trouble and a need for help. Ask, what is the red flag trying to say? Send community workers to find out.

Around the country, here and there, communities are experimenting with "diversionary" programs designed to keep people out of prison. Community workers go into the homes of juvenile and nonviolent offenders and work with family to see what's going on.

Women, for example, tend to go to jail for credit-card fraud, phony checks, shoplifting and drugs. These are crimes, for certain, but also more importantly, signs of distress.

Go see if the offender can be turned around with access to job skills, drug treatment and counseling. Aggressive efforts to save a family are a far better starting place than banishing a caregiver from a child's home to a prison that is vastly more expensive and destructive to the family. The immediate punishment is to forfeit the family's privacy. But the first priority should be the health of the family, not retribution.

If the situation is salvageable, restore -- correct, if you will -- the family. Conversely, if the community workers find that the parents are hopeless, terminate parental rights and release the kid for adoption as soon as possible. Prison cruelly delays such determinations, leaving the kids to bounce around with relatives or worse, in state care.

These diversionary programs get excellent results -- and are jaw-droppingly less expensive to taxpayers than prison. But they remain small because of our blood lust for retributive justice.

Of course psychopaths must be locked away. But there are respected means of assessing whether a person, with proper oversight and support, will be safe for his or her community. If we used these assessments, almost no women would be in prison. Wouldn't that be a mercy, and significant cost savings?

There isn't anything remotely corrective about "corrections". Public policies, made by get-tough politicians and administrators, are actively locking a portion of the underclass into generational chaos and distress.

They don't even count the kids. Doesn't that tell you where America's priorities lie?

* * * * *
Julia Steiny, writing for the Providence Journal, is a former member of the Providence, R.I., school board. She can be reached by e-mail at juliasteiny@cox.net.

CCJRC Presents: House and Senate Judiciary

On Monday, April 27th, there will be a presentation before a joint session of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on a new report issued by Justice Strategies that was commissioned by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. Justice Strategies is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that has worked in many states.

This report, entitled “Reducing Recidivism: A Review of Effective State Initiatives,” profiles some of the innovative and effective strategies in reducing recidivism that have been implemented in several specific states.

Featured heavily in the report is the new model of community supervision developed under the leadership of Judith Sachwald when she was the director of the Maryland Division of Probation and Parole. This new model, which underwent a significant and independent evaluation, was demonstrated to have resulted in a 42% lower rate of re-arrest for new crimes as well as a lower rate for technical violations for people under community supervision.

What: Presentation before both the House and Senate Judiciary Committee

When: April 27, 2009, at 1:30 pm

Where: House Judiciary Committee Hearing Room 107 (1st floor of the state Capitol, 200 East Colfax, Denver)

The Colorado legislature also has audio broadcasts of proceedings. You can connect live to the House Judiciary Committee Hearing Room 107 via the following link:

http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/gaweb/107.asx

Presenters include:

Judith Greene and Nestor Rios, Justice Strategies, authors of the report

Judith Sachwald, former director of the Maryland Division of Probation and Parole

Christie Donner, Executive Director, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition

You can download the report at www.ccjrc.org (on the home page under “What’s New”)

New Trial Ordered in 1991 Murders

The Denver Post

An El Paso County judge has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of double homicide, saying that DNA and other newly discovered evidence could acquit him.

Tim Kennedy, 52, was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 50 years for the murders of Jennifer Carpenter, 15, and her boyfriend, Steve Staskiewicz, 37.

"The case starts over now, so we will be preparing for trial if the DA wants to proceed. That remains to be seen," said Kennedy's attorney, John Dicke.

Prosecutors hadn't had a chance to review District Judge Thomas Kane's ruling Thursday afternoon, said Shelly LaGrill, executive assistant for theEl Paso County District Attorney's Office. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment."

Carpenter and Staskiewicz were shot in 1991 in their Colorado Springstrailer while hiding from her former housemate, Rebecca Corkins, and Corkins' boyfriend, Charles Stroud.

Carpenter feared that the couple would have her killed before she could testify against them in their trial for kidnapping, rape and assault on her four months earlier.

In asking for a new trial, Kennedy's attorneys argued that prosecutors hid an important letter from Stroud to Corkins.

They also argued that the lawyers who handled Kennedy's trial defense didn't interview important witnesses, including one who said Corkins told her about a plot to have a man named Patrick Dudley kill Carpenter.

Dicke and his partner, Kathleen Carlson, also submitted evidence showing that DNA on items gripped by whoever shot and dragged the victims did not belong to Kennedy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

HB 1351 Makes It Through House Judiciary

On a razor thin vote of 6-5 the earned time bill (HB 1351) narrowly made it through House Judiciary. We will keep you updated as the journey progresses through the House and then on to the Senate.

The death penalty bill (HB 1274) is up in for Senate Judiciary in the Old Supreme Court Chambers next Wednesday at 1:30.

SB 286 - Sentencing Reform study will be heard by the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Commission next Monday at 1:30 after a presentation on recidivism reduction to the Joint House and Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 1266 (the Driver's License bill) has now made it through Senate Judiciary and has been assigned to Senate Appropriations to be heard on Tuesday, April 28 at 7:30 a.m.

The 4/20 Experiment

The Boulder Weekly
At precisely 4:20 p.m. on Monday, about 10,000 people gathered on the Norlin Quad on the CU campus, smoked marijuana, and, mirabile dictu, the sky didn’t fall.

The occasion was the annual 4/20 celebration and protest, AKA International Cannabis Day.

(Why 4/20? Well, about 20 years ago a group of California teenagers used to get together at 4:20 p.m. and have a few tokes. Word of this reached High Times Magazine, which suggested that the 4:20 p.m. ritual should become the pot smokers’ equivalent of the after-work drink. Marijuana activists picked up on the idea and added the twist of making April 20 (4/20) a day to celebrate marijuana and protest its prohibition with civil disobedience. But we digress.)

Anyway, back to CU. There were no drug-related arrests. If there were any arrests for anything else, they weren’t reported. A similar event took place in Denver’s Civic Center and drew about 3,000 participants. There were no arrests there, either.

At both rallies, most everyone seems to have inhaled. This can be surmised by the fact that the press reported at 4:20 p.m., when everyone was invited to light up, a hazy cloud of smoke formed over each crowd and lingered for several minutes.

Other than that, nothing much seems to have happened. People started gathering early in the afternoon, threw Frisbees, played hackie sack and probably snuck in a few practice tokes. In other words, the only thing that happened is that people got high and had a good time. And, oh yes, broke several federal, state and local laws.

You might say the participants in these rallies were “experimenting” with marijuana. And, since there were no reported incidents of violence or larceny and everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves, you might say the “experiment” was a success.

Which raises an obvious question, which the press seems to have been too dazed and confused to have asked: What would have happened if 10,000 people had spent the afternoon on the Norlin Quad knocking back beers, wine or shooters?

CCA Nearly Done Moving Prisoners

The Examiner

PUEBLO, Colo. -

The state Department of Corrections expects to be done moving more than 600 Colorado inmates out of the Huerfano County Correctional Facility in southern Colorado by the end of the week.

Corrections Corporation of America announced in March that it would transfer all Colorado inmates out of the private prison to make room for 752 inmates from Arizona. It characterized the move as a business decision.

The Colorado inmates will go to CCA prisons in Crowley, Bent and Kit Carson counties.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti says there are about 200 Colorado inmates left to move.

She says CCA will still be under contract with the department to operate the Huerfano County facility, and the department will continue providing oversight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Supreme Court Limits No Warrant Searches

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday sharply limited the power of police to search a suspect's car after making an arrest, acknowledging that the decision changes a rule that law enforcement has relied on for nearly 30 years.

In a decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens, an unusual five-member majority said police may search a vehicle without a warrant only when the suspect could reach for a weapon or try to destroy evidence, or when it is "reasonable to believe" there is evidence in the car supporting the crime at hand.

The justices noted that law enforcement for years has interpreted the court's rulings on warrantless car searches to mean that officers may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle as part of a lawful arrest of a suspect. But Stevens said that was a misreading of the court's decision in New York vs. Belton in 1981.

"Blind adherence to Belton's faulty assumption would authorize myriad unconstitutional searches," Stevens said, adding that the court's tradition of honoring past decisions did not bind it to continue such a view.

Unusual alliance

Stevens was joined by two of his most liberal colleagues — David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and two of his most conservative — Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The decision overturned a three-year prison sentence for Arizonan Rodney Gant, who had been convicted of cocaine possession. Police found the drug in a search of his car after his arrest for driving with a suspended license. Gant had walked away from his car when he was arrested, and he sat handcuffed a distance away while police searched his vehicle.

"Police could not reasonably have believed either that Gant could have accessed his car at the time of the search or that evidence of the offense for which he was arrested might have been found therein," Stevens wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito Jr., writing for the four dissenters, said the court's insistence that its precedents had been misinterpreted was simply a cover for getting rid of a decision with which it disagreed.

The court's new rules will endanger arresting officers, he said, and "cause the suppression of evidence gathered in many searches carried out in good-faith reliance on well-settled case law."

Lawmakers Wise to Back Off

The Denver Post

Democratic leaders in the state legislature made the right call when they announced Tuesday that they were shifting gears on a major criminal justice reform bill.

Instead of attempting to cram through a wide-ranging overhaul of the state's sentencing system in the waning days of the session, lawmakers said they would instead ask a state panel to examine the issues and make recommendations to legislators.

It's a wise move that should give interested parties a chance to weigh in on proposed changes, which have the potential to profoundly affect criminal penalties. As we said in a Sunday editorial, sentencing reform is a timely idea given Colorado's budget problems, but it would be irresponsible to make such dramatic changes without thoughtful analysis and debate.

Senate Bill 286 was intended to reduce prison populations — and prison costs — by reducing sentencing ranges for non-violent, property and some drug crimes. As the proportion of the state budget spent on prisons grows ever larger, we believe there is room for well-reasoned and targeted reform.

We were glad to see Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer among those putting the brakes on SB 286, which was written with significant input from the defense bar, but not so much from prosecutors, who voiced concerns about the bill.

In a prepared statement, Shaffer said legislators realized "that with a little more than two weeks left in the session, this topic needs more discussion."

This is a promising show of leadership from the incoming Senate president.

Senate Democrats said they would amend the bill, sponsored by Sens. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, to ask the criminal justice commission to come up with recommendations. More details are expected to be released today, but we would hope the commission would move with significant speed so as to have a raft of well-vetted recommendations by the next legislative session, which begins in eight months.

This should give staff adequate time to calculate potential cost savings from any proposed changes. Along with public safety and sentencing fairness, it's important to know whether such moves will reduce expenses and by how much.

Reform To Be Studied First

The Denver Post


Colorado lawmakers unexpectedly yanked a sentencing reform proposal from legislative consideration just as law enforcement officials were preparing to publicly pan it.

Colorado Springs Democratic Sen. John Morse's bill would have reduced penalties for nonviolent, property and drug offenses. Sponsors now plan to amend it so that a commission studying the state's justice system can review sentencing guidelines and offer recommendations on reform to the legislature.

Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, appeared at a news conference Tuesday where state Attorney General John Suthers, Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey and others were scheduled to speak against the bill.

"We realized that with a little more than two weeks left in the session, this topic needs more discussion," Shaffer said. "We will ask the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to look at sentencing reform and come back to the legislature in a timely manner with proposed solutions."

The sweeping plan offered by Morse proposed lower penalties for nonviolent, property and drug offenses — some to the point of eliminating jail time. The bill would roll back the range on some felony sentences to pre-1985 levels and relax laws that put those on probation behind bars for minor mistakes. Supporters said the proposal would cut the amount needed to fund incarceration.

Suthers said he favors reform but the bill would keep some people out of prison who should serve time.

Suthers called the decision to send the proposal to the commission "good news."

"We need to have a healthy and vigorous debate on these issues, and this should become a priority next year," he said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Backing Off Of Sentencing Reform ...for now

The bill sponsors decided to have the Commission take a crack at sentencing reform..
9 news

DENVER (AP) - Facing opposition from district attorneys, Colorado lawmakers are dropping a plan to overhaul sentencing laws this year.

Instead, they hope to prod the state's criminal justice commission to tackle the issue.

Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer announced the change of course on Tuesday at a news conference called by prosecutors to denounce the sentencing reform bill.

Shaffer says sponsors are rewriting the bill to direct the commission to recommend changes, with possible benchmarks or deadlines for action.

Attorney General John Suthers and DAs from across the state had assembled outside the Capitol to oppose the current version and welcomed the change.

Suthers warns that proposed changes may not be ready by the next session of the Legislature.

DENVER— Today, Senators John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), Morgan Carroll
(D-Aurora), and Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) announced a plan to offer a strike-below amendment to SB 286, the Sentencing Reform Bill. SB 286, sponsored by Senators Morse and Carroll in the Senate, was introduced last week and will be heard in Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow at 1:30p.

In an effort to come up with long-term solutions to the state’s current budget problem, the Senators agreed to work closely with the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) to fix our budget problems as it pertains to the correctional system in Colorado while at the same time keeping Colorado safe. The strike-below will require the CCJJ to look into sentencing reform and come back to the legislature with suggestions by a date to be determined. More details about this amendment will be available tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer made the following remarks at a 12:30 rally today on the West Steps. The United States has always stood for democracy and freedom, and essential to that freedom is our judicial system. Public safety and justice are equal priorities in this state and in an effort to preserve fairness and public safety for all Coloradans, we introduced SB 286, but we realized that with a little more than two weeks left in the session this topic needs more discussion. We will ask the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to look at sentencing reform and come back to the legislature in a timely manner with proposed
solutions. We need the best policies and the best long term solutions
for our budget problems, including sentence reform.

Senator John Morse is the Senate sponsor of 286 and the former Fountain police chief. To be clear: sentencing reform is not synonymous with sentence reductions, said Sen. Morse. Reform means just that: making changes to our correctional system to help it run more efficiently and to keep Colorado safe. All of us involved, the Governor, the DAs, the public defender, the victims groups, and the legislators, will make sure we are doing the right thing for our citizens, our budget, for our correctional system, and for Colorado.

Senator Morgan Carroll was the Senate co-sponsor of 286. 1 in 29 Coloradans are under correctional control and 74% of the prison population is serving for non-violent offenses, making corrections now the 3rd largest segment of Colorado's budget, said Sen. Carroll. It is critical that we continue to push for sentencing reform that makes the smartest policy choices based on evidence of what actually works and keeps us safe.

Every dollar we spend in corrections means a dollar we aren't spending on early childhood education, higher education, health care, mental health, economic development, or transportation. We owe it to the citizens of Colorado to at least make sure we are spending their tax dollars wisely."

New Earned Time Bill - 1351

HB 1351 (this is an easy bill to read)

Basically what this bill does is lift the 25% cap. It allows for a one time 60 day deduction of a sentence for non-violent offenders and it increases good time from 10 to 12 days a month.

The Sentencing Bill was changed to a study.

CARROLL, MORSE, SHAFFER MAKE MAJOR MOVE ON SENTENCING REFORM

DENVER— Today, Senators John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), Morgan Carroll
(D-Aurora), and Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) announced a plan to offer a strike-below amendment to SB 286, the Sentencing Reform Bill. SB 286, sponsored by Senators Morse and Carroll in the Senate, was introduced last week and will be heard in Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow at 1:30p.

In an effort to come up with long-term solutions to the state’s current budget problem, the Senators agreed to work closely with the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) to fix our budget problems as it pertains to the correctional system in Colorado while at the same time keeping Colorado safe. The strike-below will require the CCJJ to look into sentencing reform and come back to the legislature with suggestions by a date to be determined. More details about this amendment will be available tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer made the following remarks at a 12:30 rally today on the West Steps. The United States has always stood for democracy and freedom, and essential to that freedom is our judicial system. Public safety and justice are equal priorities in this state and in an effort to preserve fairness and public safety for all Coloradans, we introduced SB 286, but we realized that with a little more than two weeks left in the session this topic needs more discussion. We will ask the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to look at sentencing reform and come back to the legislature in a timely manner with proposed
solutions. We need the best policies and the best long term solutions
for our budget problems, including sentence reform.

Senator John Morse is the Senate sponsor of 286 and the former Fountain police chief. To be clear: sentencing reform is not synonymous with sentence reductions, said Sen. Morse. Reform means just that: making changes to our correctional system to help it run more efficiently and to keep Colorado safe. All of us involved, the Governor, the DAs, the public defender, the victims groups, and the legislators, will make sure we are doing the right thing for our citizens, our budget, for our correctional system, and for Colorado.

Senator Morgan Carroll was the Senate co-sponsor of 286. 1 in 29 Coloradans are under correctional control and 74% of the prison population is serving for non-violent offenses, making corrections now the 3rd largest segment of Colorado's budget, said Sen. Carroll. It is critical that we continue to push for sentencing reform that makes the smartest policy choices based on evidence of what actually works and keeps us safe.

Every dollar we spend in corrections means a dollar we aren't spending on early childhood education, higher education, health care, mental health, economic development, or transportation. We owe it to the citizens of Colorado to at least make sure we are spending their tax dollars wisely."

Death Penalty Passes The House

The state House today approved a bill to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado by a single vote.

The House voted 33-32 to send the bill, House bill 1274, to the state Senate, with one Republican voting in favor of the bill and six Democrats voting against it. The bill would use the projected cost saving from ending the death penalty to fund a cold case unit in theColorado Bureau of Investigations.

"We ought to fund the unit we created two years ago to try to solve some of those unsolved crimes," said House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, a Louisville Democrat who is the bill's sponsor.

Weissmann said more than 1,000 homicides have gone unsolved in Colorado over the last 40 years, during which Colorado has executed only one convict. He said more than $800,000 in saved money would be left over every year after the state funds the cold case unit.

Opponents said the bill takes away a necessary tool for law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

The vote in the House today, dramatically, came down to a single vote. With the count deadlocked at 32-32, state Rep. Edward Vigil paused for nearly a minute before casting the deciding vote in favor of the bill.

Rep. Don Marostica of Loveland was the lone Republican to vote for the bill. Democrats Edward Casso, of Thornton; Kathleen Curry, of Gunnison; Jerry Frangas, of Denver; Sara Gagliardi, of Arvada; Karen Middleton, of Aurora; and John Soper, of Thornton, voted against it.

Afterward, Vigil said he struggled with the issue, saying that he tried to balance the moral good of ending the death penalty with the practical good of prosecutors having a tool to use as leverage against suspects.

"Hopefully this will make us a better society in Colorado by not having a death penalty," Vigil, a Democrat from Fort Garland, said, "though I have my reservations."

End The War On Drugs. Legalize Pot

The Denver Post

Though the hazy spectacle pot smokers created Monday — and that they create each April 20 at 4:20 p.m. — grabbed some media attention, it probably did little to advance their cause of legalizing marijuana.

This country has waged an expensive and ineffective "war on drugs," including marijuana, for decades, and it's high time (to rather predictably borrow a phrase) that the debate on whether to decriminalize cannabis reached the halls of Congress.

Interestingly, it's not just the dope smokers in the park calling for legalized marijuana use. Conservative, progressive and libertarian intellectuals alike have argued that we ought to legalize marijuana. The Post's editorial board has long called for an end to the war on pot.

Our opinion meshes, in this instance, with that of the late conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr., who once argued that "the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and make it illegal only for children."

President Barack Obama has requested more than $14 billion to fund the drug war at the federal level in 2009. State and local enforcement costs drive that figure far higher.

Year after year, a few hundred thousand people end up in court and prison as a result of drug crimes. Our overcrowded prisons are just one reason to take another look at some of our drug laws.

Granted, there are still many dangerous drugs out there. Highly addictive drugs like methamphetamine or crack cocaine swept through our nation's cities and suburbs and rural communities like epidemics.

But legions of studies have shown that marijuana isn't addictive.

And as recent U.S. presidents have shown, use of the drug, even when inhaled, doesn't in and of itself ruin a person's chance at achieving full and productive lives. Yes, pot users face risks as potentially as devastating as other drugs. So do drinkers of wine and beer.

But regulating the drug, as alcoholic beverages are regulated, can provide for prevention and therapy, while also starving the criminal element from this cash stream.

Marijuana also could be taxed, with the money earmarked to fund treatment programs for victims of truly dangerous drugs.

We did not support the successful effort to legalize minor marijuana possession in Denver, and we have not supported statewide ballot efforts to legalize the drug. The problem with local laws is that they conflict with federal laws and create legal headaches that further muck up the courts and jam prisons.

But our elected federal representatives could change all that. And they should.

Protest Draws 3,000 For 420 Rally

Post

The sun shone brightly over Civic Center on Monday afternoon at 4:19. By 4:20, a thick fog was settling in.

Marijuana enthusiasts toked together during the annual 4-20 rally, chanting "freedom" as they let loose a hazy cloud of smoke from their lungs.

About 80 officers from the Denver Police Department stayed off to the park's edges, concerned mainly with public safety. Spokesman Sonny Jackson said they made no drug-related arrests.

The crowd, which police estimated at between 2,500 and 3,000 but organizers said was much larger, began assembling well before it was time to light up. They took advantage of the warm weather and checked out vendors selling everything from pot-themed art and T-shirts to bottled water.

Groups

of friends gathered in circles on the grass, sharing a joint or tossing a Frisbee. Many of them wore shirts, hats and jewelry decorated with pot leaves.

Others stood closer to the Greek Amphitheater stage, taking in live music and speeches from activist groups seeking reformed marijuana laws. "Voice Your Choice" was the theme of the day.

"This event serves as a community assembly," said activist Miguel Lopez, who organized the rally. "It shows that we have a cannabis culture here."

A similar event was held in Boulder on the University of Colorado's Norlin Quadrangle. CU Police CommanderTim McGraw said the size was comparable to last year, which was estimated at 10,000 people.

Just before the clock struck 4:20, Lopez said Denver would be a pioneer city in declaring, "We want to smoke our weed!" He was met with a roar of cheers as people dug pipes and lighters out of their pockets.

"The fact that police show up here dressed down, whereas they show up to CU football games in full riot gear, says a lot about the potential harms of marijuana and alcohol," said Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Life After Prison

Oprah Winfrey
For the past seven years, Kelly, a mother of three from Illinois, has spent most of her time behind bars. She's one of 2 million incarcerated Americans.

Growing up, Kelly never imagined herself in the correctional system. "I had a good life growing up. I was a cheerleader in high school," she says. "I was on the honor roll." Then, Kelly says she started getting high and became addicted to heroin.

In 2002, Kelly was arrested for residential burglary and spent two years in prison. While in jail, she gave birth to a son, John, who was sent to live with her mother. Kelly was released in 2004, but her freedom was short-lived. In 2006, she says she tried to snatch a woman's purse to get money for drugs.

See what life's like for Kelly and other inmates. Watch

Kelly was convicted of attempted robbery and sent to the Lincoln Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois, for almost three years.

Ritter Runs From The Issues

You should be scared, very scared.

That's what DAs hope as the legislature contemplates a bill to reform sentencing laws.

Notably silent, at least publicly, is Gov. Bill Ritter, who served 12 years as Denver's chief prosecutor yet ran on a promise to fix what's broken in a state that has built nearly a prison a year.

Behind the scenes, he's pushing lawmakers to abandon reform to one of his many commissions and urging his appointees to stall even further.

Ritter no doubt is trying, at least in his first term, to avoid a Willie Horton scenario or appearing soft on crime. But some say the man once credited as less of a demagogue than most DAs has hoodwinked voters into expecting reforms.

"For those of us who voted for Bill Ritter, it's disheartening that years into his term we've not begun to take a hard look at sentencing and the changes we need," says Maureen Cain of the Criminal Defense Bar.

"He's a problem identifier, not a problem solver," adds state Public Defender Doug Wilson.

If there was ever a time to reform our Reagan-era sentencing laws, this is it.

Facing the biggest shortfall in a generation, Colorado spends $755 million — 8.8 percent — of our budget on corrections, more than we fund for higher ed. Penal programs will get a $22 million increase while state workers face furloughs.

That money pays for the one in 29 adults here under correctional control, says the Pew Center. And for every dollar we spend on prisons, we pay only 15 cents helping parolees and probationers disentangle from the system.

Our policies aren't working. Reformers argue for investing in the community corrections system to reduce recidivism among lower-risk inmates and ultimately lower the budget.

"We cannot build our way to public safety," Pew reports.


The Denver Post

Marijuana Advocates Point To Signs Of Change

NY TIMES

SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, somewhere in New York City, 420 people will gather for High Times magazine’s annual beauty pageant, a secretly located and sold-out event that its sponsor says will “turn the Big Apple into the Baked Apple and help us usher in a new era of marijuana freedom in America.”

They will not be the only ones partaking: April 20 has long been an unofficial day of celebration for marijuana fans, an occasion for campus smoke-outs, concerts and cannabis festivals. But some advocates of legal marijuana say this year’s “high holiday” carries extra significance as they sense increasing momentum toward acceptance of the drug, either as medicine or entertainment.

“It is the biggest moment yet,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, who cited several national polls showing growing support for legalization. “There’s a sense that the notion of legalizing marijuana is starting to cross the fringes into mainstream debate.”

For Mr. Nadelmann and others like him, the signs of change are everywhere, from the nation’s statehouses — where more than a dozen legislatures have taken up measures to allow some medical use of marijuana or some easing of penalties for recreational use — to its swimming pools, where an admission of marijuana use by the Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was largely forgiven with a shrug.

Long stigmatized as political poison, the marijuana movement has found new allies in prominent politicians, including RepresentativesBarney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, who co-wrote a bill last year to decrease federal penalties for possession and to give medical users new protections.

White House To Combat Drug War With Rehab

CNN

CNN) -- As President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon talk tough about cracking down on the deadly drug war, the United States is changing tactics in the battle against illegal narcotics at home. ">Obamaadministration thinks will give nonviolent offenders "a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior," according to the White House Web site.

Judge Paul Gluchowski, who works with the Prince William County Juvenile Drug Court in Virginia, dismissed the notion that a drug treatment program is the easy way out. Video Watch what it's like inside the drug court »

If anyone thinks that, he said he'd tell them they should "come and talk to some of the participants. A lot of them probably wish they never agreed to undergo drug court. And a lot of them have given up because it's too hard."

Those who slip up in drug court can be forced to wear ankle-monitoring bracelets or put into juvenile detention.

"If they don't give up, then when it comes time for graduation and you see the shine on their face, when you know that they have accomplished something, and they know that. That's what it's all about," Gluchowski said.

Vice President Joe Biden stressed the importance of drug courts and prisoner re-entry programs when he announced Kerlikowske's position in March, saying they "can serve as the light at the end of the tunnel, of a very long, long dark tunnel, for those who are stuck in the cycle of drug addiction and incarceration."

Kerlikowske said he was committed to tackling the nation's drug problem, but noted that it would take a "coordinated and multifaceted effort."

"The success of our efforts to reduce the flow of drugs is largely dependent on our ability to reduce demand for them," Kerlikowske said, calling the nation's drug problem one of "human suffering."

"It requires prosecutors and law enforcement, courts, treatment providers and prevention programs to exchange information and to work together. And our priority should be a seamless, comprehensive approach," he said.

In meeting with Calderon on Thursday, Obama tried to show Mexico's president that he is committed to ending a crisis that hits so close to home.

Obama vowed to beef up security along the border and to work to slow the flow of guns and drugs. He said the United States shares responsibility for the drug problem, saying "a demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business."

But he also tried to limit expectations that there could be any sort of quick fix.

"Now, are we going to eliminate all drug flows? Are we going to eliminate all guns coming over the border? That's not a realistic objective," he said. "What is a realistic objective is to reduce it so significantly, so drastically that it becomes once again a localized criminal problem, as opposed to a major structural problem that threatens stability in communities along those borders."

The White House has listened to those who say legalizing marijuana will pull the rug from under the violent cartels in Mexico and boost the U.S. economy, but that option is not on the table.