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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Job Opportunities

The Denver Post

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet met Saturday with trainees and future business entrepreneurs who hope to reshape their lives in the expanding renewable-energy field.

They are among as many as 6,000 Colorado residents who will get new "green jobs" directly or indirectly because of the $80 million that Colorado will get through the federal economic recovery act, Bennet said.

"We can give them a different kind of future," he said. "You can't export these jobs. It will also reduce our reliance on foreign oil."

Lesa Theaman is among people learning to install solar panels along with other renewable-energy skills at Mi Casa Resource Center at 360 Acoma St.

Theaman said after a felony drug conviction, the free training at Mi Casa helped her find hope for the future.

"I've turned my life around," she said. "I wanted something better for myself."

Theaman, who is applying for an electrician's apprenticeship program, showed Bennet two solar panels used in a Mi Casa class. She said with 20 such panels, someone could light and heat their home.

"I think it's phenomenal what we could do with solar power," she said. "Having 300 days of sunshine a year is huge for solar."

Savoring a Taste Of Freedom After 14 Years

The Denver Post

The gray-bearded guy at the Outback could have been anyone kicking back over steak with friends on a Friday.

But he wasn't.

He was a man who had just walked from two life sentences for a double-murder conviction that a court has overturned.

"Real people actually live this way. Free. It's kind of neat," said Tim Kennedy over the ribeye and Coke he had dreamed of for 13 years.

Freedom came for the 52-year-old carpenter by posting a $250,000 bond late Friday.

El Paso County district attorneys aim to retry him in September despite a state Supreme Court probe into their mishandling of the case. DNA tests and other new evidence support his claims that he didn't kill his friends Jennifer Carpenter and Steve Staskiewicz in their Colorado Springs trailer home.

But Friday wasn't about that.

It was about Kennedy taking off his orange jumpsuit, putting on a crisp striped button-down and neat black dress pants, and stepping without shackles into a world that views him — at least for the next four months — as innocent.

"Goodbye inmate #94886," he said as his attorney, John Dicke, drove him from the El Paso County jail north through a curtain of sun showers.

"Man, that's just surreal, it's so gorgeous," he said of the view of Pikes Peak in the rain. "Thank you, John. More than I can say."

Kennedy is moving with his sister into the Arvada home where they grew up. John and Lois Kennedy died while their son was in prison, having spent

their savings on a lawyer whose defense work was grossly ineffective.

Prison officials didn't allow Kennedy to attend the funerals of the parents he still speaks of in the present tense.

"She's a great mom and I know she can see this day," he said of the woman who five years ago stocked his dresser drawer with eight pairs of thick new work socks for the occasion of his homecoming.

The world according to Tim Kennedy will take some getting used to after living his 40s and early 50s in what he calls "virtual nonexistence." It's a world of satellite radios, $2.49 a gallon gas and cellphones with computers in them and cameras too.

He plans to use his freedom looking for work in construction, fixing what's broken at his family's home and relishing not having to explain to a guard every time he needs a wrench or piece of sandpaper.

"Wow. There are knives on the table," he noticed when arriving at the steakhouse, his pick for his first meal out. "You've gotta know that I've been using nothing but a spork for years now."

Throughout the evening, Kennedy was far less interested in eating his ribeye than in holding his sister's hand and thanking his legal team over and over again for winning his appeal. With incredulity, yet calm, he sat back in his chair and breathed deeply, taking in what it meant to be living a moment he had hoped would come for so long.

Finally, he boxed up his leftovers, glanced at the Denver Nuggets' score and said his goodbyes in the Outback parking lot.

"This morning, they gave us biscuits and baloney gravy in jail. Tomorrow, I think I'll have steak and eggs for breakfast. How about that?" he said.

"I want you all to know that I didn't know how much more of it I could take," he added, grasping his sister's arm and heading home for a summer, at least, of anonymity.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jeffco Releases Inmate Plan

Nothing like a bad economy to start real discussions on reform..

The Denver Post

Jefferson County has applied for federal stimulus money to expand an inmate pretrial release program, frustrating some bail bondsmen who see their livelihood threatened.

The proposed pilot program will increase the number of inmates who can get out of jail without putting up cash, while placing more responsibility on the county to not only monitor them, but make sure they show up for court.

A judge will determine what type of bond — cash, surety, property, personal recognizance — to grant an inmate after hearing recommendations from bond commissioners, who interview inmates about their jobs, family, and mental and physical health.

County justice planners say releasing inmates considered low flight and public-safety risks would save taxpayers money, and may also keep dangerous but wealthier inmates in jail or saddled with more supervision — something beyond what a bail bondsman does.

"The intention is that no one will get out of jail without seeing a judge," said Tom Giacinti, the county's director of justice services. "Bail bondsmen served a noble purpose for a long time, but public safety is really our main concern now, and the decision to release someone should rest with the court."

Jail costs about $100 a day, while pretrial supervision is roughly $1 per day, Giacinti said. Additionally, 40 percent of the 1,300 people in the county jail are pretrial inmates. Projections indicate the policy could free up as many as 300 beds, some of which could be used by federal prisoners attending court dates in the area. Last year, the county raked in $3.7 million from the federal government for temporarily housing those prisoners.

But Colorado bondsman Steve Mares said the county's program would end up costing taxpayers more money in tracking down defendants who don't show up for court. Unlike the county, bondsmen send out bounty hunters at their own expense.

Mental Health Care Needed

Canon City Daily Record

The link between untreated mental disease and incarceration is especially frightening. In 2007, the Colorado Department of Corrections estimated approximately 60 percent of the inmate population had some type of mental illness, while nearly 29 percent of those had a serious mental health need.

“Without proper behavioral health treatment, these individuals have a greater likelihood to recidivate and return to prison,” Delgado said.

The prevalence of mental illness in the prison system costs taxpayers more in the long run. Estimates range between $6,000 and $8,000 a year to treat a mentally-ill offender in the community, which prevents many nuisance crimes. However, incarcerating them costs between $25,000 and $65,000 a year.

“And, that offers minimal, if any, remedial benefit,” Delgado said.

Colorado’s community mental health system served a record 84,500 people in 2007. Figures for 2008 were not available, but Delgado said the system likely surpassed that mark by a wide margin last year.

Despite the progress, hundreds of thousands of people across the state still are not receiving the care they need. In 2007, 15.1 percent of Coloradans reported receiving mental health treatment, while another 12 percent of the state’s population reported not seeking health care because of cost.

“Mental illnesses and substance abuse are more common than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease,” Delgado said. “People with mental illness occupy more hospital beds than persons with cancer, diabetes and heart disease occupy combined.”

Delgado said mental illnesses are biologically-based brain diseases that can be effectively treated with medications.

After 14 Years Man Walks Free

The Gazette

Tim Kennedy walked away from jail Friday night after spending 14 years behind bars for what he maintains was a wrongful conviction in a 1991 execution-style shooting death of a Colorado Springs couple.

It might not be for long.

Kennedy posted the $250,000 bond set Tuesday by Judge Thomas Kane, who granted Kennedy a retrial April 21 after being presented with new evidence, including DNA tests that showed that another man's DNA was on the sponge used as a gun silencer and also on the two bodies. Kennedy's DNA was not present in either sample.

"Tim's a free man," Kennedy attorney John Dicke said after his client walked out of the El Paso County jail. Kennedy was taken to Denver on Friday night.

A jury convicted Kennedy in 1997 on charges that he killed 15-year-old runaway Jennifer Carpenter and her boyfriend and legal guardian, Steve Staskiewicz, in 1991.

Kennedy was sentenced to two life terms in prison. The Colorado Court of Appeals later upheld the conviction.

The retrial is scheduled to begin Sept. 21.

Prosecutors maintain that despite the new DNA evidence, Kennedy was linked to the scene of the crime by DNA found on a cigarette butt inside a beer can that had been crumpled several hours before the murders. Prosecutors also say that evidence proved that Kennedy's gun and ammunition were used to kill the couple.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Two New Colorado Senators

The Denver Post

DENVER—A high school principal and a lobbyist have taken the oath of office as Colorado's two newest state senators.

Denver Democrats Michael Johnston and Pat Steadman were sworn in Friday.

Johnston of Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts in Thornton replaces former Senate President Peter Groff, who took an education post in Obama's administration.

Steadman helped lead a lawsuit challenging Amendment 2, which banned laws protecting gay people from discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional in 1996. Steadman replaces Jennifer Veiga, who moved to Australia.

Johnston and Steadman were selected by vacancy committees this month.

Jeffco Addiction Assessment Opens

The Jeffco Addiction Assessment Clinic (JAAC) opens June 1, 2009

The Jeffco Addiction Assessment Clinic (JAAC) opens at 7475 W. 5th Ave. in Lakewood on Monday, June 1, 2009 at 9:00 AM. JAAC will provide a faster, more appropriate and less expensive alternative than going to jail, detox, or an emergency room (or doing nothing) for the majority of individuals with alcohol and/or other drug abuse or dependence in Jefferson County. JAAC will provide walk-in, urgent care and crisis triage services for substance use disorders. The staff is licensed and certified and has been practicing in chemical dependency since 1984. JAAC will be offering state approved assessments (including alcohol and drug screens, and pregnancy testing), transfers, and admissions for adults, child welfare clients, minors, offenders and women.

Many Jefferson County residents, like their families as well as law enforcement officers and other first responders, the courts and human services, have requested more options than going to jail, detoxification, or the emergency department (or doing nothing) when an assessment for a substance use disorder is indicated. These other services and modalities are crucial to this community. However, they are time consuming, expensive and potentially unsafe and dangerous when not clinically, medically or legally necessary or appropriate. Many consumers would not be seen in an emergency department, taken to jail, or admitted to detox, except for a shortage of viable alternative resources.

An estimated 300 persons are seen for a behavioral health assessment per month in the emergency department at the only health care facility currently in Jefferson County (Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge until Saint Anthony Hospital moves to the Federal Center campus in Lakewood). More than 80 percent of these emergency department patients are discharged to home instead of being admitted or transferred to a lower level of care. As of February 2009, during an informal study conducted, the average wait in the emergency department from arrival time to final disposition was approximately eight hours. The cost for the evaluation alone is more than $500 in a published list of rates from Exempla. The emergency department charges a base rate of up to another $1,500 (not including any lab work such as urine toxicology and blood toxicology). Finally, the physician’s costs are an additional $600-$800 depending on amount of time the provider bills for. Therefore, the cost to have a substance abuse assessment in the emergency department in Jefferson County is at least $2,600.

Approximately 600 persons are admitted to the only non-hospital residential detoxification unit in Jefferson County every month based on statistics from Arapahoe House. The majority of these individuals are discharged in 12 hours or less when they have a blood alcohol level of .000 and no withdrawal symptoms. (Some stay for three days or longer. A far greater number are not even there for 12 hours.)

More than 750 people are arrested in Jefferson County every month as reported by the Sheriff's Department. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 76% of jail inmates have substance use disorders. Therefore, at least 876 inmates in the Jefferson County Detention Facility on any given day have a substance use disorder.

The National Surveys on Drug Use and Health estimates that 110,000 Colorado citizens report needing but not receiving treatment for illicit drug use within the past year.

JAAC will charge less than one tenth the minimum cost for a substance use disorder assessment in an emergency department.

JAAC will connect or match the client, hook them up, and make the link based on the assessment of needs after a detailed and thorough assessment. JAAC counselors are aware of formal and informal resources, how to network, and how to gain access for their clients. All JAAC clients will leave their assessment visit with a discharge plan that has the next step(s) listed. If clients are denied access to the agencies deemed clinically and financially appropriate by JAAC, JAAC assumes the responsibility of advocacy until the client is accepted, admitted or enrolled in the program(s) best suited for them. Follow-up monitoring (one free visit within 30 calendar days of initial contact) is also offered to all clients. If additional case management services of linking, advocacy, or even reassessment and planning update and review, are indicated, there is no charge for such care.

JAAC is centrally located in Jefferson County (1 block south east of W. 6th Ave. and Wadsworth Blvd.) with easy access by W. 6th Ave. as well as public buses that run north and south regularly on Wadsworth Blvd. from: Arvada, Bow Mar, Conifer, Edgewater, Evergreen, Golden, Indian Hills, Lakeside, Lakewood, Littleton, Morrison, Mountain View, Superior, Westminster and Wheat Ridge. Non residents of Jefferson County are eligible for JAAC services.

For more information, please call (303) 233-HELP (4357), email help@jeffcoaddiction.com, or visit the JAAC website at http://www.jeffcoaddiction.com/.

Stealing Their Right To Vote

Socialist Worker

Lee Wengraf examines a hidden scandal of American "democracy"--the disenfranchisement of millions of people for no other reason that that they were convicted of a crime.

IN NOVEMBER, American voters made history by electing the first African American president, a symbol of the promises long denied to those who fought in the civil rights' movement of the 1960s.

But the dreams of that struggle are far from fulfilled, and one need look no further than the ballot box to see why--an estimated 5.3 million Americans are legally barred from voting for no other reason than that they have been convicted of a felony. Nearly 4 million of these disenfranchised--around three of every four--are out of prison, but are still denied the right to vote, often for decades and sometimes for life.

Maine and Vermont are the only states where all prisoners and former prisoners can vote. Virginia and Kentucky are at the other end of the spectrum, permanently disenfranchising anyone with a felony conviction unless they receive a pardon from the governor. In eight other states--Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming--prisoners convicted of certain crimes (usually murder and sex crimes) are barred for life. Other states restore voting rights upon release from prison, probation and parole, while others impose waiting periods before former prisoners can vote.

In all, 35 states ban the right to vote--in some form or another--to former prisoners even after they are out from behind bars.

America's Prisons: Is There Hope?

Doc Berman over at Corrections Sentencing altered us to the New York Review of Books review of Dream from the Monster Factory...


America's prison system is in a dire state. Some 2.3 million people in this country are now behind bars, five times more than in 1978. Our incarceration rate is now higher than that of any other country in the world. Many, if not most, inmates probably should not be there. Sixteen percent of the adult prison population suffers from mental illness and should be in treatment; a similar fraction is made up of children under eighteen. Although there is little evidence that blacks are more likely to use drugs than whites, they are six times more likely to be imprisoned on drug-related charges.[1] Of those, most have no history of violence or drug dealing, and were arrested mainly for possession of drugs.[2]

Sexual and other forms of abuse in prison are common, reported by some 20 percent of inmates. These "monster factories," as the lawyer and author Sunny Schwartz calls them, do little to break the cycle of violence in society and may even accelerate it. Roughly two thirds of those released from US jails and prisons end up back inside within three years. Some studies suggest that the experience of imprisonment can be so brutal and humiliating that it actually makes men, in particular, harder and meaner, so that the crimes they commit the next time around are even worse than what got them incarcerated in the first place.[3]

What most studies do find, however, is that violent crime is strongly associated with the activity of illegal drug markets, which tend to thrive in black neighborhoods.[14] A 1988 study of homicide in New York found that 40 percent were associated with drug trade–related disputes, mostly among black men.[15] So while whites and blacks may use drugs with equal frequency, blacks are more likely to be involved in the highly lucrative and dangerous business of packaging, distributing, and marketing them. The drug trade is violent because when disputes arise over prices, turf, or customers, there are no peaceful means of resolving them. Adversaries battle out such conflicts with weapons instead of lawyers. It is probably no coincidence that murder rates doubled during Prohibition in the 1920s, and fell sharply with the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933. Similarly, murder rates doubled again during the "crack epidemic" in the 1970s and 1980s, when the drug trade became more lucrative and competitive, and more dangerous.[16]

This makes the growing activity of drug cartels from Mexico and other countries particularly threatening.[17] But as the Obama administration acknowledges, it does not help simply to blame the foreign drug traffickers alone. What can American policymakers do to get the drug trade out of black neighborhoods? Policing is important, but severe crackdowns could, like Prohibition, make matters worse.

Policymakers could start by improving schools in black neighborhoods, which suffer severely from underinvestment, overcrowding, class disruption, and high dropout rates. This endangers us all, and should be addressed, because the likelihood of incarceration falls with increasing education, especially for black men. According to one estimate, 23 percent of the discrepancy in black/white incarceration rates could be eliminated if blacks stayed in school as long as whites, and that was in 1980, before the thirty-year surge in black incarceration got underway. An even greater effect was seen with violent crime, such as murder and assault. According to the authors of this study, a one percent increase in the graduation rate could save $1.4 billion that would otherwise be spent keeping these men behind bars.[18]

A high school diploma itself seems to help keep black men out of trouble. The likelihood of incarceration drops fourfold among black high school graduates compared to those who make it only to tenth or eleventh grade.[19] It is unlikely that there is anything special about the twelfth-grade curriculum that would explain this. However, graduation may indicate a relatively positive attitude toward society and toward oneself that is more important for keeping black youths out of trouble than any skill or knowledge acquired in school. Some studies suggest, remarkably, that a diploma may matter more than one's income, or even whether one has a job at all.[20] Prison education programs that allow inmates to earn college degrees have also been associated with a drop in recidivism.[21] Thus the decision of former New York governor George Pataki to end these programs in the mid-1990s may well have had consequences for public safety.

Drug Court Provides Second Chance

The Coloradoan

Larimer County program helps people stop the cycle of substance abuse

With Colorado's jails and prisons near or at capacity and the country's war on drugs drawing widespread criticism, treatment for people battling drug addiction can be a political hot potato.

There are those who think the best treatment for addicts is to lock them away as punishment for their crimes, while others contend too much money and time are spent fighting the battle against illegal drugs and their effects.

Whatever side of the debate people choose, there's no doubt our country and our communities continue to face a serious drug problem, a problem that destroys people's lives and families.

From 1999 to 2004, the number of narcotics arrests made in the 8th Judicial District more than doubled, according to Compass of Larimer County.

In that time, most local law enforcement agencies reported significant increases in arrests, including: 67 percent for the Fort Collins police department; 284 percent for the Larimer County Sheriff's Office; and 256 percent for the Loveland Police Department.

Nationally, two-thirds of all adults arrested and more than half of juveniles arrested test positive for illicit drugs at the time of their arrest, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

Certainly, these statistics detailing drug use are daunting. However, so is the road to recovery most addicts must travel.

Fortunately, there is help for Larimer County residents seeking to stop the cycle of substance abuse in their lives.

This month, 10 people graduated from the county's drug court, an intensive supervision program bringing together counselors, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to actively and forcefully intervene and disrupt addiction and crime.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Investing In Restorative Justice

The Denver Post

At a time when state legislators are burdened by the difficult task of budget cutting, it is important for taxpayers to know that one budget item continues to grow: Colorado corrections.

Like most states, Colorado is faced with an exploding prison population. The cover of the March 29 Parade magazine screamed "What's Wrong with Our Prisons?" revealing the startling statistic that America's prison population of 2.3 million is nearly five times more than the world's average.

The U.S. incarcerates 750 inmates per 100,000 persons to the world's average rate of 166 per 100,000. The bottom line on that cover stated, "Either we are the most evil people on earth or we are doing something very wrong." I believe it is the latter.

Our criminal justice system is broken, and the reasons are complex. One of the many contributing factors is that our penal system's focus on punishment is not working. You would think that after their first time behind bars prisoners would never do anything to wind up back there; yet the opposite is true.

In December 2007, the Department of Justice estimated that two-thirds of all released prisoners will commit new offenses within three years of their release. In addition to the great human toll of incarceration, $68 billion of our taxpayer dollars are paying for this travesty.

Due to the leadership of State Representative Michael Merrifield and State Senator John Morse, Colorado provides at least one segment of our citizenry, children, with a legal alternative to the revolving door of the penal system.

In March 2008, Governor Ritter signed into law the bill sponsored by these two legislators, which authorizes judges to offer youth offenders a restorative justice option.

One example of this type of restorative justice program is the Longmont Community Justice Partnership (LCJP). Longmont Police Officers refer offenders of all ages who take responsibility for their crime to LCJP.

These offenders are given a chance to meet with their victims and community members in a respectful process where they can learn the full impact of their crime and agree to repair their harm. On average 90% complete their agreements and are welcomed back to the community. What a different model from "lock 'em up!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Colorado Man Waits For Freedom

Daily Camera

LIMON — Tim Kennedy tugs at the Department of Corrections No. 94886 tag on his green-blue prison uniform and says with a smile: "This number and stuff are dead. My convictions are overturned and I'm no longer a convicted felon. I'm all new."

Kennedy, 52, is hoping to be freed after he is transferred this week from a prison in Limon to El Paso County, where a judge overturned his conviction in a 1991 double murder and ordered a new trial.

El Paso County District Judge Thomas Kane's decision April 21 to toss out Kennedy's conviction in the slayings of 15-year-old Jennifer Carpenter and her boyfriend, 37-year-old Steve Staskiewicz, followed years of appeals capped by a 14-day hearing during which another possible suspect was named.

Kennedy could be released after a hearing Tuesday if prosecutors decide to drop the case or agree to $50,000 bail sought by Kennedy's attorneys, Kathleen Carlson and John Dicke, who have been fighting for Kennedy's release since 2006.

El Paso County District Attorney Dan May has declined to talk publicly about the case.

During an interview Thursday at the Limon Correctional Facility on the Eastern Plains about 95 miles east of Denver, Kennedy cherished the thought of being a free man. Apart from spending time with his sister and brother, one of the first things Kennedy would do if he is freed is get a steak dinner.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama Picks Sotomayer for Supreme Court

The Denver Post

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama tapped federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, officials said, making her the first Hispanic in history picked to wear the robes of a justice.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Two officials described Obama's decision on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

Administration officials say Sotomayor would bring more judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years.

A formal announcement was expected at midmorning.

Obama had said publicly he wanted a justice who combined intellect and empathy—the ability to understand the troubles of everyday Americans.

Democrats hold a large majority in the Senate, and barring the unexpected, Sotomayor's confirmation should be assured.

If approved, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Arming the Courts With Research

The Pew Center On The States

For many years, conventional wisdom has been that “nothing works” to change offender behavior—that once an offender has turned to crime little can be done to help turn his or her life around. Today, however, there is a voluminous body of solid research showing that certain “evidence-based” sentencing and corrections practices do work and can reduce crime rates as effectively as prisons at much lower cost.

This policy brief outlines 10 strategies for evidence-based sentencing that would allow states to reduce their crime rates while conserving state resources to meet other important needs.  The brief is adapted from a longer paper by Roger Warren, president emeritus of the National Center for State Courts, that was originally published in a special 2007 issue of the Indiana Law Journal.

View Full Report:

May 05, 2009 - 
Evidence-Based Sentencing Brief (Adobe PDF)

Bondsmen Upset By Policies That Free More People

Of course they are....

LOVELAND, Colo. – Budget cuts and the cost of maintaining an overcrowded jail forced Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden to begin releasing inmates accused of lesser crimes without bond. Other police agencies across the country are following suit — to the chagrin of bail bondsmen who say their livelihood is threatened.

Officials in this northern Colorado county insist they're reaping savings by placing released inmates into less-costly supervision programs that can include screening for domestic violence and mental health problems. Supporters of such pretrial programs, which are being tried from Atlanta's Fulton County to Spokane, Wash., argue that the usual practice of requiring bond for release doesn't prevent crime.

"It simply separates those who have money from those who don't," said Tim Murray, executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit Pretrial Justice Institute.

Over the years, some 300 U.S. jurisdictions have implemented pretrial programs, Murray said. While no data suggests the numbers are growing because of the bad economy, Murray said the recession could force corrections officials to rethink their jail policies.

"They're looking at their (jail) population and realizing that many of the people they're paying to house are there because they can't pay their bonds," Murray said.

In Fulton County, Ga., officials decided in April to put more people under supervision instead of jailing them.Fulton County has had a pretrial services program for more than a decade but is expanding it to include people with prior offenses or those who may be homeless.

"We, like every jurisdiction in the country, are operating under financial stresses that require us to be innovative," said county spokesman Don Plummer, who said Fulton expects to save $5.5 million a year by expanding its program.

Florida's St. Lucie County adopted its program in 2007. Nonviolent offenders who can't afford bail "take up bed space for violent people who need to be in there," said Mark Godwin, the county's criminal justice coordinator.

Washington's Spokane County also is creating a pretrial services program because of jail overcrowding, said Spokane City Attorney Howard Delaney.

In rural Larimer County, population 287,500, declining sales tax revenues cut the sheriff's share of county collections from $9.26 million in 2008 to $6.64 million this year, said Bob Keister, county budget director. Alderden cut 12 positions, including seven jail deputies, to stay within his budget of just under $41 million. He also adopted a 460-person limit at the jail, where the population routinely surpassed 500.

Alderden released 47 inmates in January and 16 more in February before their sentences were completed to meet the new cap. That decision, and ramped up pretrial services, has helped put the jail population in the low 400s, said Gary Darling, Larimer County's criminal justice planning manager.

Darling said it costs $1.93 per day to keep someone under pretrial supervision, versus $104 a day to jail them. He estimates the county can save more than $4 million a year under the new system.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Salazar on the Supreme Court?

WASHINGTON — Gov. Bill Ritter and the state's two freshman senators are asking President Barack Obama to "seriously consider" appointing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a letter sent to the White House on Friday, the Democrats touted the diversity and unique experience Salazar would bring to the bench — a Westerner who from hard-scrabble beginnings has risen to become one of the country's most successful Latino politicians.

"He would provide the viewpoint of a Western and Latino leader and bring a wealth of experience from his many years in both the public and private sectors," Ritter said of the push to consider Salazar to fill the spot being vacated by retiring Justice David Souter.

Errors Clutter Denver Arrests

Jose Carmen Mendez pleaded with the Denver police officer to let him go, telling him that he had the wrong man and that he needed to finish picking up paint for his job at an auto body shop.

The 36-year-old father of four ended up in jail for three days, missing work and losing money that he could have used to help him stay current on his rent.

"I kept saying, 'It's not me,' but they wouldn't listen," Mendez said recently.

City officials now confirm that the police officer arrested the wrong man that February day. Police and jail officials offered few details on how the mix-up occurred, other than to say the warrants specified the wanted man went by the name Jose C. Mendez-Franco and Jose Carmen Franco Mendez.

Mendez, who doesn't have Franco as part of his name, is one of a string of questionable detentions in Denver. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of seven other individuals and alleges wrongful detentions have become a "systemic pattern" in Denver.

"City officials keep telling us they are fixing this, and yet they reveal they have five new cases in 2009 alone," said Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the ACLU of Colorado.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gitmo Hysteria and Prison Happy Fremont County


That annoying, low-pitched whine you hear is the bipartisan complaining from Colorado lawmakers, true blue and beet red, all bent out of shape and quaking in their Crocs over a simple little suggestion from the Obama administration to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. That would mean turning its inhabitants over to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons -- and, most likely, the relocation of scores of terrorism suspects to the federal supermax in Colorado.

Holy jihad, Batman. From all the fuss out there, you'd think someone had proposed to ban puppy mills or raise energy severance taxes or something equally unAmerican. You've got a bunch of tough Republican state legislators, like Yuma's Cory Gardner and Ken Kester of Las Animas, fretting like a flock of pantywaists over whether the arrival of so many Gitmo grads in Colorado would "create a magnet for terrorist acts staged to politicize the detention of terrorists in a vulnerable Middle American community." Kester has vowed to fight the move "tooth and nail," which sounds like a scratch-and-hiss little catfight if there ever was one.

And, inexplicably, you've got Mark Udall and Michael Bennett -- both Senators, both Democrats -- thumbing down the proposal, too, agonizing over the implications of housing military detainees in a civilian hoosegow. All of which seems a bit baffling, given the mission and history of the supermax, officially known as the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum: ADX for short.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Adams County Inmate Dies From Suicide Attempt

The Denver Post

A 37-year-old woman who hanged herself in an Adams County jail cell died today from her injuries, the Adams County Sheriff's Department said.

The inmate was identified as Kristie Hawkes of Thornton, who was facing multiple charges in several jurisdictions.

She was found at about 9:20 p.m. Monday by her cellmate, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Adams County authorities said an investigation into Hawkes' death is currently underway, but foul play is not suspected.

Sgt. Candi Baker, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Department, said that Hawkes was housed in a sleeping room that faced an open area with chairs and televisions for women at the Adams County Detention Center.

Baker said that during the day, deputies rarely go into the area. However, after lockdown at 10 p.m., deputies check the sleeping rooms every 15 minutes.

The sleeping rooms have doors that lock at 10 p.m.

Baker said that Hawkes' cellmate had been in the common or open area and returned to the sleeping room to find that Hawkes had hung herself.

Senate Votes No On Funds To Close Gitmo

The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday resoundingly rejected an effort to spend $80 million to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and relocate the terrorism suspects, possibly to U.S. prisons.

Considered a setback for President Barack Obama and his pledge to close the prison by January, the vote ended a day of crossed signals and Democratic infighting, including a dust-up between California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Colorado lawmakers.

The future of the detention facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has Democrats increasingly on the defensive over the fates of the 240 terrorism suspects detained there.

Bill Requires DNA In Felony Arrests


DENVER (AP) More than 100 years after U.S. law enforcement first began using fingerprints to identify suspects and solve crimes, Colorado and 20 other states are now also using or planning to use DNA profiles.

Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to sign a bill Thursday requiring DNA samples from all felony suspects at the time of their arrest, a change from a requirement that only those convicted of felonies submit DNA. The move has raised concerns that expanding the use of DNA is an intrusion of privacy and a potential violation of constitutional rights that could be reversed by the courts.

Supporters such as Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, who lobbied for the bill, say the move will get habitual offenders off the street faster and prevent crime. Nationwide, thousands of cases, ranging from burglaries to slayings, have been solved with DNA gathered from convicted felons that is entered into a database then compared with DNA collected at a crime scene.

A select analysis of five offender records by Morrissey's office found that three slayings and 18 sexual assaults, along with a host of other violent felonies, could have been prevented in Denver since 1989 if such testing was allowed.

''I do believe expanding the DNA database is the one thing that will cause the resolution of more cold cases,'' Suthers said Wednesday. ''I think across the country it has resulted in significant arrests.''

It's referred to Katie's Law after 22-year-old Katie Sepich, a graduate student at New Mexico State University who was raped and murdered in 2003. Investigators were able to gather her attacker's DNA from skin and blood under her fingernails.

Her attacker was arrested for a felony burglary three months after Sepich's slaying but didn't have to submit DNA. He skipped bail and wasn't tied to the slaying and convicted until three years later.

Sepich's mother, Jayann, began lobbying for a change in law to allow testing at the time of arrest shortly after her daughter's slaying.

''I felt so certain that this man was such a horrible person that he would be arrested for something else,'' said Jayann Sepich, who planned to attend the signing ceremony at the Capitol with Ritter Thursday.

Under Colorado's new law, DNA will be taken from those arrested for felonies through a cheek swab, by reasonable force if necessary, and then sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for testing and entrance to the state database. Those not charged within 90 days can ask for their DNA records to be removed for the database.

As an added protection, Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers added a requirement that the state pay $25,000 to anyone whose DNA record was not expunged upon request. A $2.50 charge will be added to all felony and misdemeanor convictions and traffic tickets to pay for the testing

Senate Seat Goes To Pat Steadman

The Denver Post

A Denver lobbyist who has championed civil rights beat nine other Democratic contenders to become Colorado's newest state senator.

Pat Steadman won a vacancy committee election Wednesday night to replace Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, who resigned to move to Australia.

Veiga had endorsed Steadman, who lobbies at the state Capitol. He has said he plans to resign from his firm.

The election caused angst on two fronts:

Adams County Democrats wanted someone from their county to win the election; Senate District 31 comprises central Denver and portions of Adams County

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Will The 7th Grader Be Tried As An Adult?

I would hope to think that El Paso county would not try this child in adult court.  But I wouldn't put it past them.
The Gazette

With his wounded mother looking on, a 13-year-old boy accused of shooting her and killing his younger brother in their Colorado Springs home Monday morning sat slumped over through a court appearance Tuesday.

Daniel Gudino was ordered held without bond until a follow-up hearing on Friday afternoon, where he could be charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

The teenager, wearing a light-blue detention uniform with his hands cuffed behind his back, hunched forward with his chin against his chest during the juvenile detention hearing before Magistrate Jeffrey Saufley in Colorado Springs.

The boy's shaggy brown hair swept over his eyes, hiding his expressions, and he didn't appear to glance at his parents, who sat in a front row.

His mother, Marina Gudino, 38, had her right arm in a sling. She didn't address the court. 

Daniel Gudino is accused of killing his youngest brother, Ulysses Gudino, 9, and shooting and stabbing his mother at the family's home at 1837 Chapel Hills Drive about 8 a.m. Monday. Police received a 911 call from the mother at 8:11.

Ulysses Gudino was pronounced dead at the home.

Marina Gudino, a custodian at Douglass Valley Elementary School, was treated at a Colorado Springs hospital and released before the hearing, said Norene Simpson, the public defender who will represent Daniel Gudino.

A 7-year-old sister was in the home at the time of the shooting, but wasn't injured. The father and a fourth child, a 12-year-old boy, were not home.

Family members declined to comment at the courthouse.

Amy Fitch, senior deputy district attorney, said in court that prosecutors would likely announce Friday whether they will request that Daniel Gudino be tried as an adult.

Under Colorado law, children as young as 12 can be tried as adults if they are accused of certain violent crimes such as murder.

To have the case transferred to District Court, where adults are tried, prosecutors would have to request a special hearing of the Juvenile Court, which automatically has jurisdiction over children under 14.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Opinion: Prison Politics

The Gazette

Colorado, like other states, is in financial peril. Taxpayers have been losing their jobs, or coping with pay cuts and furloughs. They don't have more money to give state government, making it difficult for the state to maintain roads and fund schools.

Yet hope is not lost. State government has hemorrhaged billions in past decades on a wasteful expense that should be immediately slashed: prisons. State officials must act quickly to facilitate significantly less spending on prisons, with a goal of shutting several of them down.

This column has repeatedly questioned the wisdom of the state's tough-on-crime, lock-'em-up and throw-away-the-key corrections politics. It has chastised politicians who know so little about basic economic principles that they view prisons and inmates as economic development.

At least one member of our local legislative delegation gets it. Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, is the former Fountain police chief and author of a bill that started a sentencing review process designed to address Colorado's embarrassing and expensive overpopulation of prisoners.

Traditionally, Republicans have been the party of limited government and maximized freedom. The party long ago lost sight of those principles in order to embrace the imposition of social engineering, in which government is grown at taxpayer expense in order to enforce pseudo-conservative ideals. In Colorado, prisons provide the best example of big-government Republicanism.

Why Is Montana Slowing Prison Growth?

The Department of Corrections has periodically heard urgings to place inmates in the Two Rivers Detention Center in Hardin, a facility built on speculation its cells would be needed.

The answer then is the same as it is now: We do not have the need.

Recent news stories about the Department of Corrections Advisory Council launched a new chorus of calls to put inmates in Two Rivers.

Two Rivers officials have repeatedly indicated an immediate need for a large number of inmates in order to open and operate their facility. We do not have an immediate need for cells to house a large number of inmates.

Slowing inmate growth

In 2007, Montana led the nation with a 3.9 percent decline in its prison population. Today, Montana's corrections system is experiencing the slowest growth in its prison population in nearly 20 years, thanks in large part to a series of innovative and effective treatment programs and other services offering alternatives to prison. Gov. Brian Schweitzer consistently has placed an emphasis on these methods for diverting offenders who are best served in other programs. In the juvenile system, our two secure facilities are operating about half of their capacity due to innovative re-entry programs for youth.

These results are not by accident. They reflect strong guidance from the governor and hard work on the part of Montana's corrections professionals.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Governor's Letter On Sentencing

Governor's Letter on Sentencing

Email In The Pen: Kansas

CJ Online

WICHITA — Kansas prisoners will soon have access to limited electronic banking, e-mail and video family visitations.

It is all part of a move by the Kansas Department of Corrections to improve security in state prisons and reduce contraband, all while reducing staff time to screen regular mail.

For the state's 8,619 inmates and their families, the services will be a more convenient and efficient way to send money, exchange e-mails and digital photos, or visit loved ones from miles away by video links.

There is no cost to taxpayers. The department will make money from commissions whenever inmates use the services, with the money to go into the Inmate Benefit Fund to buy such things as library books in facilities.

E-mails will cost inmates 43 cents apiece, a price set (before the latest postage increase) to match the cost of mailing a letter.

"This was, frankly, done for the benefit of the department to cut down on mailroom processes and the need for us to look at virtually every piece of mail that comes through the mailroom," said DOC spokesman Bill Miskell.

Electronic messaging also will give the department the ability to automatically scan messages for certain words and phrases associated with security threats or criminal activity, he said. A staff member will check attachments, such as digital photos, to ensure they don't contain inappropriate material, such as sexually explicit images.

Legalization? Now For The Hard Question

NY Times

ETHAN NADELMANN, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, has been advocating for legalization of marijuana for 20 years and says he’s seen more progress in the last four months than in the previous two decades. “It’s starting to cascade,” he said. “Our model is the gay rights movement and their recent string of successes with gay marriage.”

Mr. Nadelmann is a smart guy; he has a law degree and a doctorate from Harvard. He so impressed George Soros that the billionaire investor became the biggest financial backer for Mr. Nadelmann’s advocacy. The Drug Policy Alliance has 45 staff members in seven offices nationwide working for legalization.

In the 25 years since Nancy Reagan advocated just saying no, Mr. Nadelmann has seen a progression through four public stages out of the five he believes are needed to achieve legalization.

Stage 1. Bill Clinton: I smoked but I did not inhale.

Stage 2. Al Gore: I smoked, it was wrong, I regret it, shame on me.

Stage 3. Michael Bloomberg (asked if he’d tried pot): “You bet I did and I enjoyed it.”

Stage 4. Barack Obama: “I inhaled frequently — that was the point!”

Stage 5. Public Figure to Come: Yes, I smoke the occasional joint.

“We need to drop the ‘d’ from ‘smoked,’ ” Mr. Nadelmann said, “and move from past to present.”

For many reasons, the advocates are feeling hopeful. The Obama administration has reversed a Bush policy of prosecuting medical marijuana use, which is now legal in 13 states; a recent Field poll in California showed for the first time that a majority of registered voters in that state favors legalizing and taxing pot; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has opposed legalization, now says he’d like to see a study done.

National polls also show growing support — an ABC/Washington Post poll last month found that 46 percent of Americans favored legalizing small amounts of pot for personal use; when the poll last asked the question, in 1997, 22 percent supported legalization.

Every strategy for achieving legalization pins its hopes on the generation that first embraced pot en masse — baby boomers — gradually displacing older voters with no experience using the drug. The ABC poll found that 45 percent of boomers favored legalization, versus 30 percent of adults 65 and older.

Mr. Nadelmann, a boomer himself at 52, says the biggest difference since the last legalization push, in the late 1970s, is the drug savvy of parents now versus then. “In the ’70s, that older generation of parents didn’t know the difference between marijuana and heroin,” Mr. Nadelmann said. “This generation of boomer parents has a high familiarity with marijuana. An awful lot tried it, liked it; the vast number never went on to cocaine or heroin or even had a problem with marijuana.”

That would be me. The 20-something me used marijuana in moderation, did not fall victim to reefer madness, did not go on to harder drugs, believed it to be a drug superior to alcohol in many respects, enjoyed it like the mayor, and inhaled like the president.

Will Obama End The War On Drugs

Huffington post

When it comes to addressing America's disastrous war on drugs, the Obama administration appears to be moving in the right direction -- albeit very, very cautiously.

On the rhetorical front, all the president's men are saying the right things.

In his first interview since being confirmed, Obama's new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, said that we need to stop looking at our drug problem as a war. "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs" or a 'war on product,'" he told theWall Street Journal, "people see war as a war on them. We're not at war with people in this country."

He also said that it was time to focus more on treatment and less on incarceration.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would no longer raid and prosecutedistributors of medical marijuana who operate in accordance with state law in the 13 states where voters have made it legal.

Holder has also said that his department intends to eliminate the outrageous and prejudicial sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

And while on the campaign trail, President Obama called for repealing the ban on federal funding for anti-AIDS programs that supply clean needles to drug users.

All positive signs that we are ready to move beyond our failed war on drugs.

But when it comes to putting its rhetoric into action, the Obama administration has faltered.

Just a week after the Attorney General said there would be no more medical marijuana raids, the DEA raided a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in California.

Obama's '09-'10 budget proposes to continue the longstanding ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs.