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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Two Legalization Initiatives Filed In California

Stop The Drug War

Last month, Drug War Chronicle reported that cannabusinessman and dispensary operator Richard Lee, creator of Oaksterdam and founder of Oaksterdam University, had assembled a team of activists, attorneys, political consultants and signature-gathering pros for an initiative to tax and regulate marijuana in California they hoped to place on the November 2010 election ballot. Drug reform organizations were apprehensive, however, worrying the proposed initiative was too soon, the polling numbers weren't high enough, and that a loss could take the steam out of the legalization push for years to come.

Lee has pushed forward, such concerns notwithstanding; on Monday he and Oakland medical marijuana pioneer Jeff Jones filed the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.

And then there were two. On July 15 -- two weeks prior, but with less heraldry -- a trio of NORML-affiliated Northern California attorneys filed the Tax, Regulate, and Control Cannabis Act of 2010.

To avoid confusion, we'll refer to the second as the Omar Figueroa initiative (coauthored by Joe Rogoway and James Clark) and the first as the Richard Lee initiative.

"Cannabis prohibition, like alcohol prohibition, is an expensive and ineffective waste of taxpayer money," said Figueroa.

"California's laws criminalizing cannabis have failed and need to be reformed," said Lee. "Cannabis is safer than alcohol. Cannabis doesn't cause overdose deaths or make people violent like alcohol. It makes sense to regulate cannabis like alcohol, instead of prohibiting it completely."

Jeffco Probing Inmate '05 Death

The Denver Post

The Jefferson County district attorney is investigating the death four years ago of a child-sexual-assault suspect in the county jail — a death initially ruled a suicide.

The investigation was prompted by a statement made by a prison inmate, who told the FBI that he killed Anthony Sims after manipulating a shared door between their cells that was supposed to be locked.

On Nov. 1, 2005, 20-year-old Sims was found with a tube sock tied around his neck, his body slumped face down over his cell bed with his legs on the floor.

The right side of his face was bruised and swollen.

After an investigation by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the county coroner ruled Sims' death a suicide.

Then, in 2008, inmate Shawn Shields, 36, who is serving time in state prison on a variety of felony offenses until October 2028, told an FBI agent that he had killed Sims, after figuring out how to open a locked door between their cells.

Shields has yet to serve a pending 10-year federal sentence for beating another inmate on May 23, 2005, while in a holding cell at the U.S. District Court in Denver. The victim was beaten because he was a witness testifying against another inmate in a federal court case, records show.

An FBI agent notified Sims' mother, Kathie, of Shields' statement. On Wednesday, she filed suit against the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Ted Mink and an unnamed deputy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Salvation Army Closes Overnight Shelter

The Denver Channel
The Denver Salvation Army announced Wednesday that it is closing a shelter that provides 100 men a place to stay every night.The Crossroads shelter, located at 1901 29th St., will close but the final date has not been determined.The Salvation Army originally announced that it would close the shelter on Aug. 10, but after negotiating with the city of Denver, the organization agreed to push the date back to ensure a good transition for everyone impacted. The city didn't believe that two-weeks notice was enough time to accommodate people affected by the closure.The Salvation Army said the plan was to focus its resources on expanding the transitional housing programs "in tradition of providing a hand up, rather than a hand out," said Capt. Ron McKinney, spokesman for the Metro Denver Salvation Army.The transitional housing curriculum provides programmatic steps for homeless men and women who want to change their lives to become self-sufficient again, McKinney said."One of the best ways to help people escape homelessness is through effective counseling and case management. We believe that this is the right time to direct our resources where they can do the most good for these homeless men," McKinney said.

Advocates Unhappy With Ineffectiveness

The Denver Daily News

Juvenile sentencing reform advocates are frustrated with what they see as the ineffectiveness of the juvenile clemency board, the program created by Gov. Bill Ritter to potentially reduce or absolve the sentences of juvenile offenders. Meanwhile, supporters of the program say the board is properly serving its function.

When Ritter established the juvenile clemency board two years ago, many juvenile sentencing reform advocates applauded the move. Lawmakers had changed the law in Colorado in 2006 so that inmates who committed crimes as juveniles but were sentenced as adults could be eligible for parole after 40 years in prison. But the new law was not retroactive, leaving 45 Colorado inmates with their original lengthy sentences and most of them without the possibility of parole.

Both sides of the issue debated the case Monday on Colorado Matters, a show on Colorado Public Radio. Mary Ellen Johnson of the Pendulum Foundation, a Colorado non-profit that serves juveniles incarcerated in the adult prison system, said she thought the board, which passes on its recommendation to Ritter who then has the final say, would have granted clemency by now because she believes there have been several good candidates.

One of those candidates who applied and was denied clemency is Trevor Jones. According to Johnson, Jones — who was sentenced for a supposed accidental 1996 shooting that occurred when he was 17 years old — has had a near-perfect record while serving his sentence.

“What more could a candidate do?” Johnson asked on the radio program.

Dietrick Mitchell has also had his case reviewed and denied by the clemency board. According to his mother, who appeared on Colorado Matters, Mitchell was 16 years old when he was in a hit-and-run accident that killed a 14-year-old boy. Mitchell, who was drunk when the hit-and-run occurred, was sentenced at the time to life without parole, though his sentence was reduced to 40 years because of an error discovered after sentencing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Marijuana Supporters Welcome Tax Increase

The New York Times

OAKLAND, Calif. — Perhaps only in the sometimes hazy world of medical marijuana could higher taxes be considered good news.

But sure enough, supporters of medical marijuana were pleasantly pleased Wednesday after Oakland voters overwhelmingly approved a huge tax increase — 15 times the former rate — on sales at the city’s handful of permitted medical marijuana dispensaries.

Believed to be the first of its kind, Measure F received nearly 80 percent of the vote, a landslide that pot professionals hailed as a significant step in the legitimization of the cannabis industry.

“It’s one more victory in a big war,” said Richard Lee, president of Oaksterdam University, a downtown storefront where the aroma of marijuana pervades the sidewalk. “It’s a lot better than being arrested and thrown in jail.”

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, but its dispensaries and their proprietors have periodically faced crackdowns from federal authorities who do not recognize the state law, which was passed as Proposition 215. Supporters of the drug’s medical use have been cheered, however, by recent remarks from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that those abiding by state law will not be made a target by federal agents.

California, whose $26 billion budget crisis has dispirited many residents, has toyed with the idea of legalizing marijuana, with a bill that would legalize and tax the drug scheduled to be taken up by the Assembly later this year. The dispensaries already pay some $18 million a year in state sales tax, according to the Board of Equalization.

Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in San Francisco, which lobbies for changes in drug policy, said the recession was forcing many states to consider “untouchable topics” as potential revenue streams. “In hard budget times people are willing to be more creative,” Ms. Thomas said.

In Oakland, Measure F raises the tax on “gross receipts” at a handful of dispensaries to $18 per $1,000 worth of goods sold, and is expected to raise about $300,000 in new taxes. That is not much money — the city just closed an $83 million budget gap — but even so, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Dellums said the mayor was grateful for “all measures that will help with our budget situation.”

States Target Prisons For Cuts

AP Report

ST. LOUIS — Tony Ferranto worries as he walks his patrol at maximum-security Menard Correctional Center in Illinois.

Only 150 officers stand watch these days over more than 3,500 inmates — about 700 more than capacity. Each guard covers eight inmates when they are corralled into the cafeteria, twice as many as a few years ago. And the governor says more cuts may loom.

"I'm not trying to glorify our job. It has inherent dangers," said Ferranto, a 32-year-old married father of two. "But when you're dealing with these people under these circumstances, it's a bomb ready to go off."

States desperate to save money are cutting back on the massive expense of running prisons — eliminating guards, trimming drug treatment and parole programs and, in two states, releasing inmates early.

State officials stress they will make the cuts carefully, without jeopardizing prison security. Nevada's chief of corrections has suggested saving staff time by putting inmates under lockdown, closing visiting rooms and mothballing security towers, relying on guards patrolling prison perimeters in vehicles.

Nine states are considering closing prisons or cutting staff, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while others are shedding inmate education programs that researchers say are critical to reducing recidivism.

Kentucky has released more than 2,800 inmates early since last year by allowing prisoners to get more credit than normal for time served. More than 150 violent felons and two dozen sex offenders were initially set free because of a loophole that has since been closed.

A court found the Kentucky early-release program failed to take into account the nature of the crimes or "financial or human costs." Prosecutors had challenged the program. The state Supreme Court will hear the case next month.

The overseer of Kentucky's penal system calls the program "very sound public policy," figuring parolees are more likely to be productive surrounded by family, working and perhaps paying child support and restitution, than in a prison yard.

And Michigan has thinned its prison population from more than 51,000 to about 47,500 through paroles and commutations and an expanded effort to keep parolees from committing new crimes.

The goal is to get the number below 45,000 and close three state prisons and five prison camps to save $120 million. Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration says only low-risk offenders are getting early parole.

The cost of running state lockups, including paying guards, offering drug treatment and running probation and parole programs, is among the biggest drains on state budgets, making them vulnerable when states face a cash crunch.

Illinois budgeted more last year for the Department of Corrections than for anything except human services and health care. Gov. Pat Quinn, facing an overall $11 billion budget gap, has proposed cutting 1,000 corrections jobs and "downsizing" some prisons.

"I don't think there's any question that I can't make any decisions that would put anyone in jeopardy," Quinn said Tuesday. "We have to do this in a prudent manner that doesn't jeopardize anyone's safety."

Ferranto says inmates notice there are fewer guards, many of them weary from double shifts. Overcrowding at Menard has forced inmates of different races to share cells — a practice the prison prefers to avoid because of the risk of gang violence.

At the Stateville prison in Joliet, guard Ralph Portwood said some watchtowers already go unmanned because of cutbacks, and inmates are double-bunked almost throughout the prison.

"Security has taken the back seat to the budget right now," Portwood said. "I know everyone's got a job to do. But remember, security should supersede everything."

State officials insist they are not placing the public in danger.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to trim the inmate population by 27,000 to save $1.2 billion. He proposes keeping some offenders in county jails and assigning others, included aged and ailing inmates, to home confinement. But his administration says the measures do not amount to an early-release program.

"It's unfair to describe it that way," Schwarzenegger's prison secretary, Matthew Cate, said recently. "It's misleading. It makes it sound like we are opening the gates, and that's just not the case."

Nevada lawmakers have ordered state workers to take a day off without pay starting this month. But the state corrections chief asked for more time to figure out which of his 1,800 staffers could actually take time off without jeopardizing safety.

"We can't just ask the inmates to behave overnight and leave them alone," Corrections Director Howard Skolnik said.

Other states are cutting back on programs aimed at keeping inmates out of jail once they're released.

In Hutchinson, Kan., a 1,700-inmate prison shed staff for sex-offender treatment, closed a dormitory that once housed at least 60 inmates with drug and alcohol addictions, and ended vocational welding and GED programs.

Associated Press reporters Deanna Bellandi in Chicago and Don Thompson in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this story.

Winds Of Change Blowing In Congress

Stop The Drug War

What a difference a change of administration makes. After eight years of almost no progress during the Bush administration, drug reform is on the agenda at the Capitol, and various reform bills are moving forward. With Democrats firmly in control of both the Senate and the House, as well as the White House, 2009 could be the year the federal drug policy logjam begins to break apart.

US Capitol, Senate side
While most of the country's and the Congress's attention is focused on health care reform and the economic crisis, congressional committees are slowly working their way through a number of drug reform issues. Here's some of what's going on:
  • A bill that would eliminate the notorious sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine by removing all references to crack from the federal law and sentencing all offenders under the current powder cocaine sentencing scheme passed its first subcommittee test on Wednesday. This one was bipartisan -- the vote was unanimous. (See related story here)
  • The ban on federal funding for needle exchanges has been repealed by the House Appropriations Committee, although current legislation includes language barring exchanges within 1,000 feet of schools. Advocates hope that will be removed in conference committee. (Update:Needle exchange legislation was passed by the full House of Representatives on Friday afternoon.)
  • The Barr amendment, which blocked the District of Columbia from implementing a voter-approved medical marijuana law, has been repealed by the House.
  • Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank's marijuana decriminalization bill has already picked up more cosponsors in a few weeks this year than it did in all of last year.
  • Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's bill to create a national commission on criminal justice policy is winning broad support.
  • The Higher Education Act (HEA) drug provision (more recently known as the "Aid Elimination Penalty"), which creates obstacles in obtaining student loans for students with drug convictions, is being watered down. The House Education and Labor Committee Wednesday approved legislation that would limit the provision to students convicted of drug sales and eliminate it for students whose only offense was drug possession. (See related story here.)
  • The "Safe and Drug Free Schools Act" funding has been dramatically slashed in the Obama administration 2010 budget.
  • Funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy's youth media anti-drug campaign has been dramatically slashed by the House, which also instructed ONDCP to use the remaining funds only for ads aimed at getting parents to talk to kids.

"All the stars are now aligned on all these issues," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "I've never felt so optimistic about drug policy reform in DC."

Looking into his crystal ball, Piper is making predictions of significant progress this year. "I have a strong sense that the Barr amendment and the syringe funding ban will be eliminated this year. The Webb bill will probably be law by December. There's a good chance that HEA reform and the crack sentencing reform will be, too. If not, we'll get them done next year," he said.

"Things are heating up like I've never seen before," Piper exclaimed. "It's like a snowball rolling downhill. The more reforms get enacted, the more comfortable lawmakers will be about even more. Cumulatively, these bills represent a significant rollback in the drug war as we know it."

Former House Judiciary committee counsel Eric Sterling, now head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, was a bit more restrained. Congress is just beginning to come around, and there are dangers ahead, he said.

"We're seeing windows being opened where we can feel the first breezes of spring, but it's not summer yet," Sterling said. "There are people asking questions about drug policy more broadly, there is more openness on Capitol Hill to thinking differently. Liberals are not as afraid they will be attacked by the administration. The climate is changing, but my sense is we're still at the stage where members of Congress are only beginning to take their shoes off to put their toes in the water."

What progress is being made could be derailed by declining popularity of Democrats, the drug reform movement's failure to create sufficient cultural change and a stronger social base to support political change, and the return of old-style "tough on drugs" politics, Sterling warned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

12 And In Prison

NY Times

The Supreme Court sent an important message when it ruled in Roper v. Simmons in 2005 that children under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed were not eligible for the death penalty. Justice Anthony Kennedy drew on compassion, common sense and the science of the youthful brain when he wrote that it was morally wrong to equate the offenses of emotionally undeveloped adolescents with the offenses of fully formed adults.

The states have followed this logic in death penalty cases. But they have continued to mete out barbaric treatment — including life sentences — to children whose cases should rightly be handled through the juvenile courts.

Congress can help to correct these practices by amending the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which is up for Congressional reauthorization this year. To get a share of delinquency prevention money, the law requires the states and localities to meet minimum federal protections for youths in the justice system. These protections are intended to keep as many youths as possible out of adult jails and prisons, and to segregate those that are sent to those places from the adult criminal population.

The case for tougher legislative action is laid out in an alarming new study of children 13 and under in the adult criminal justice system, the lead author of which is the juvenile justice scholar, Michele Deitch, of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. According to the study, every state allows juveniles to be tried as adults, and more than 20 states permit preadolescent children as young as 7 to be tried in adult courts.

This is terrible public policy. Children who are convicted and sentenced as adults are much more likely to become violent offenders — and to return to an adult jail later on — than children tried in the juvenile justice system.

Despite these well-known risks, policy makers across the country do not have reliable data on just how many children are being shunted into the adult system by state statutes or prosecutors, who have the discretion to file cases in the adult courts.

But there is reasonably reliable data showing juvenile court judges send about 80 children ages 13 and under into the adult courts each year. These statistics explode the myth that those children have committed especially heinous acts.

ACLU Executive Director Departs

The Denver Post

Boulder attorney Cathryn Hazouri has left the ACLU of Colorado.

"Cathryn Hazouri, who served as the ACLU of Colorado's executive director is no longer with the organization," said Dan Recht, who is executive director of the organization's board.

In the interim, the ACLU board has appointed attorney Bruce Sattler as executive director while a search for a permanent replacement is conducted, Recht said. Hazouri could not be reached for comment.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Marijuana On Breck Ballot

Summit Daily News
BRECKENRIDGE — Breckenridge voters may decide in November whether to decriminalize marijuana after a successful petition for the initiative was certified Friday.

Reform group Sensible Breckenridge needed 500 signatures for the petition, and nearly 700 were accepted out of about 1,400.

“Obviously it's very satisfying to have large numbers of Breckenridge residents asking the town to change this law,” said Breckenridge attorney Sean McAllister, chairman of Sensible Breckenridge.

Following the petition's certification, Breckenridge Town Council has an opportunity to enact the law at its Aug. 11 meeting, or the decision will go to the voters on a Nov. 3 ballot.

The initiative proposes decriminalization of less than one ounce of marijuana for adults over 21.

If approved, the legislation would still contradict state and federal laws — and enforcement would be at the discretion of Breckenridge Police Department, according to a previous report.

Summit County Sheriff's Office would not be affected.

“The opportunity Breckenridge voters will have in the fall is to tell their elected officials and state of Colorado they believe marijuana is safer than alcohol and that it should be treated the same," McAllister said.

Town Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said that regardless of how people feel about the issue, “I'm encouraged that young people are so committed to a political cause.”

“The (Sensible Breckenridge) people really kind of displayed their commitment and certainly their work ethic because they really hit the streets and got the signatures,” he said.

The reform group plans to campaign in the fall, possibly suggesting a public forum on the issue and having volunteers go door-to-door.

In 2006, 72 percent of Breckenridge voters supported the unsuccessful Amendment 44, which had language similar to the Breckenridge initiative but applied to the entire state.

Colorado Soldiers Talk Of Iraq Horrors

AP Report

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Soldiers from an Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops murdered civilians, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Some Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers have had trouble adjusting to life back in the United States, saying they refused to seek help, or were belittled or punished for seeking help. Others say they were ignored by their commanders, or coped through drug and alcohol abuse before they allegedly committed crimes, The Gazette of Colorado Springs said.

The Gazette based its report on months of interviews with soldiers and their families, medical and military records, court documents and photographs.

Several soldiers said unit discipline deteriorated while in Iraq.

"Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated," said Daniel Freeman. "You came too close, we lit you up. You didn't stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley," an armored fighting vehicle.

With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions "and just light the whole area up," said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. "If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em."

Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations, said Marcus Mifflin, who was eventually discharged with post traumatic stress syndrome.

"You didn't get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong," he said

Soldiers interviewed by The Gazette cited lengthy deployments, being sent back into battle after surviving war injuries that would have been fatal in previous conflicts, and engaging in some of the bloodiest combat in Iraq. The soldiers describing those experiences were part of the 3,500-soldier unit now called the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.

Since 2005, some brigade soldiers also have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Man Forcibly Sedated To Be Searched For Drugs

He didn't get paid nearly enough.
Times Union

By BRENDAN J. LYONS, Senior writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Saturday, July 18, 2009
ALBANY -- A man who was forcibly sedated so his body could be searched for drugs that were never found will receive $125,000 under an out-of-court settlement reached recently with Albany County and Albany Medical Center Hospital.

The settlement stems from a federal lawsuit filed two years ago by Tunde Clement, an ex-convict arrested by sheriff's investigators on March 13, 2006, at the Albany bus terminal.

Clement was carrying a backpack when he stepped off a bus from New York City and was quickly confronted by investigators who suspected he may be carrying drugs.

Clement, 35, who police claim had an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court in a neighboring city, was handcuffed and taken to a police station where he was strip-searched. No contraband was found, so Clement was taken to Albany Med, where doctors forcibly sedated him with powerful drugs against his will.

Sheriff's investigators did not obtain a search warrant for the procedure, and hospital officials did not require them to produce one. Police and hospital officials considered the matter a "medical emergency."

While Clement was under sedation, a camera was inserted in his rectum, he was forced to vomit and his blood and urine were tested for drugs and alcohol. Scans of his digestive system were performed using X-ray machines, according to hospital records obtained by the Times Union.

Clement spent more than 10 hours in custody before being released on an appearance ticket for resisting arrest -- a charge that was later thrown out by an Albany City Court judge.

"I think the settlement speaks for itself," said John F. Queenan, Clement's attorney in the federal lawsuit.

Clement's suit claimed his civil rights were violated. He filed the federal complaint against Albany Med and several doctors and nurses, and also sued Albany County and Sheriff James Campbell, Inspector John Burke, who heads the narcotics squad that arrested Clement, and eight investigators assigned to Burke's unit.

Legal Marijuana No Longer a Pipe Dream

The Independent

Mason Tvert is a happy man. Well, maybe not that happy. As a guy who has worked to get Denver and Colorado to legalize marijuana, Tvert is happy that people outside the state seem to be coming around to his way of thinking.

He’ll be really happy, of course, if he can get more Coloradans to think his way, too.

Around the nation, there are increasing signs that Americans are beginning to accept the idea:

  • In addition to Denver, 11 other cities have approved laws making it a low priority for law enforcement officials to arrest people using small amounts of marijuana.
  • In addition to Colorado, 12 other states have approved its use for medicinal purposes.
  • In Massachusetts, voters approved making the possession of small quantities of pot a petty offense, payable by a penalty similar to that of a traffic ticket.
  • And just this week, voters in Oakland, Calif., overwhelmingly imposed the nation’s first-ever sales tax on companies that dispense the ganja weed to people certified to use it for medical reasons.

Tvert has become well-known around Denver in his quest to convince people that if they need a mind-altering substance, marijuana is far superior to alcohol. It totally irks him, dude, that pot is illegal, whereas alcohol is a central part of many people’s lives. Not only would drinking and driving be less of a problem if pot were legal, but there would be fewer cases of domestic violence, he says. Someone who smokes weed is far tamer than someone wasted on hard liquor, he says.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Inmates Unload and Lock in on Kids

The Denver Post

The convicts come from Camp George West on Tuesday night. There are six, all men in their 30s. They wear prison greens, with white T-shirts underneath. A few have tattoos running up their arms. One is in for armed robbery, and he looks like an accountant. A couple are bald and huge, men you imagine manning the door at some nightclub; men who don't even have to blink to get a message across.

One of these big guys will say later that he caught a druggie breaking into his house, a matter with which he dealt by beating up the intruder, dragging him into the kitchen, binding him with duct tape, cutting his face and then taking photos. The would-be burglar was searching for the big guy's meth.

The six and their case manager arrive at the All Nations Ministries building in time for spaghetti and meatballs.

All Nations houses English, Spanish and Vietnamese congregations, as well as a nonprofit called Crossroads of the Rockies.

The church building is just around the corner from an Indonesian congregation of Seventh-day Adventists and down the street from a Vietnamese market popular among Laotians, Filipinos, Mexicans and the occasional Russian. It does brisk business in pork bellies and live tilapia that swim in a tank near a plastic tub full of dying crayfish.

So it is in 80219. Walk through a door and another world reveals itself.

Ethan Nadelman at NAACP

Driven to Drink By Pot Laws


Tough marijuana laws are driving millions of Americans to a more dangerous mood-altering substance, alcohol. The unintended consequence: violence and thousands of unnecessary deaths. It’s time, therefore, for a serious public debate of the case for marijuana versus alcohol.

That’s the message groups advocating the legalization of marijuana are beginning to press, against a background of shifting attitudes which have already prompted 13 states to relax draconian laws dating back to the 1930s, when the government ended alcohol prohibition and began a determined but futile effort to stamp out marijuana.

How dismally that effort has failed is not in doubt. Marijuana is so easily available that around 100 million Americans have tried it at least once and some 15 million use it regularly, according to government estimates. The U.S. marijuana industry, in terms of annual retail sales, has been estimated to be almost as big as the alcohol industry — $113 billion and $130 billion respectively. On a global scale, marijuana is the world’s most widely used illicit drug.

Since the United States, and much of the rest of the world, plunged into a recession last year, the most frequently used argument in favour of legalizing marijuana has been economic: if it were taxed, the revenue would help stimulate economic recovery just as a gusher of dollars in fresh tax revenue from alcohol helped the United States pull out of the Great Depression after the 1933 repeal of prohibition.

That idea enrages some leading drug warriors, including the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa. In the preface to the U.N.’s 2009 World Drug Report, he asks whether proponents of legalization and taxation also favour legalizing and taxing human trafficking and modern-day slavery “to rescue failed banks.”

Never mind that drug abusers hurt themselves and human traffickers hurt others. It’s the kind of topsy-turvy logic which has made sober discussion of national and international drug policies (largely driven by the United States) so difficult for so long.

The case for adding a compare-and-contrast dimension to the debate is laid out in a statistics-laden book to be published next month entitled “Marijuana is Safer, So why are we driving people to drink?” The authors are prominent legalization advocates - Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Mason Tvert, co-founder of SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation).

DOC 2008 Statistical Report

DOC 2008 Statistical Report

Donna Yaklich Closer To Parole

The Denver Post

ENGLEWOOD — Nearly 24 years after the murder-for-hire death of her Pueblo police officer husband, Donna Yaklich sat at a table Tuesday where her future will be decided.

She had been in that chair before, but this time there was reason to believe her parole might be approved.

That belief was validated when her request was not rejected by the parole board member.

Her case will now be heard by the full parole board at its next monthly meeting.

Her attorney, Phil Cherner, said that if the full board rules in her favor, Yaklich could be paroled this fall.

Yaklich was convicted of second-degree murder. The two brothers convicted of killing Dennis Yaklich, Charles and Edward Greenwell, testified against Donna Yaklich at her trial.

They testified she had promised to pay them $45,000 if they would kill her husband. She told the brothers Dennis had been abusive to her.

Dennis Yaklich was murdered the night of Dec. 12, 1985, outside his home in Avondale, near Pueblo, with a shotgun. Donna Yaklich was inside the home at the time.

Following his death, she cashed in a $250,000 insurance policy on his life.

She was given a 40-year sentence, the maximum. After serving 21 years in the Colorado women's correctional facility in Cañon City, she was released to a halfway house and an intense supervision program. She wears an ankle bracelet to monitor her whereabouts.

Her release was preceded by an investigation into the suspicious death of Dennis Yaklich's first wife, Barbara.

Coroners from Arapahoe and Denver counties reviewed the autopsy report on Barbara Yaklich and determined that she had died from "a very serious blunt force injury." A task force came to the conclusion that "this is a suspicious death."

At a hearing in 2006, Donna Yaklich was denied parole. She had to wait three years to apply again.

Westminster Cops Silent On Shooting

The Denver Post

Westminster police are withholding details about a three-hour pursuit of stolen-car suspect early Monday that eventually left one person shot to death inside an apartment near where the chase began.

The man has not been identified. No officers were injured.

Police won't say whether the dead man is the same person who fled from officers in a stolen GMC Yukon starting about 1 a.m. at West 72nd Avenue and Federal Boulevard.

The driver later crashed through police cars in a restaurant parking lot under a hail of gunfire, before ditching the SUV about 2 miles away in Arvada about 3:10 a.m., saidWestminster police investigator Wayne Read.

An hour later, officers entered an apartment in the block where the chase began, but
police aren't elaborating.

A man inside was shot after he presented what police called "a deadly threat," but Read said he could not say what that threat was or whether the man had a weapon.

Investigators have not said whether they are looking for others involved in the Yukon's theft or the chase.

Health Profession Addicts Seeking Help

The Denver Post

A group that counsels medical professionals with drug addictions and other problems has seen a 20 percent increase in patients from some disciplines, while federal agents are already investigating more drug thefts by Colorado health care workers than they handled all of last year.

In the past week, the group Peer Assistance Services has been deluged with calls, activity it traces to publicity surrounding the case of former Rose Medical Center surgical tech Kristen Diane Parker, who has admitted she stole fentanyl-filled syringes and at times replaced them with her dirty needles filled with saline. Eleven cases of hepatitis C have so far been diagnosed from Rose from the time she worked there. what's been in the paper; more nurses are realizing the severity of addiction, and they are seeking help," said Rebecca Heck, director of the Peer Assistance nursing

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Number Of Life Terms Hits Record


CORONA, Calif. — Mary Thompson, an inmate at the California Institution for Women here, was convicted of two felonies for a robbery spree in which she threatened victims with a knife. Her third felony under California’s three-strikes law was the theft of three tracksuits to pay for her crack cocaine habit in 1982.

Like one out of five prisoners in California, and nearly 10 percent of all prisoners nationally in 2008, Ms. Thompson is serving a life sentence. She will be eligible for parole by 2020.More prisoners today are serving life terms than ever before — 140,610 out of 2.3 million inmates being held in jails and prisons across the country — under tough mandatory minimum-sentencing laws and the declining use of parole for eligible convicts, according to a report released Wednesday by the Sentencing Project, a group that calls for the elimination of life sentences without parole. The report tracks the increase in life sentences from 1984, when the number of inmates serving life terms was 34,000.

Vote On California Prison Plan Delayed

LA Times

By Michael Rothfeld
July 23, 2009
Reporting from Sacramento -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders on Wednesday held together their plan to close California's $26.3-billion deficit by delaying until next month a vote on a controversial provision to reduce the amount of time that thousands of inmates spend in prison.

The decision followed a blowup a day earlier in which Assembly Republican leader Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo said after the details became public that he had no knowledge of the prison plan and threatened to withdraw his support for the entire budget deal if the proposal to cut the inmate population by 27,000 was included.

No Exit: The Expanding Use Of Life Sentences In America

National Report: 1 in 11 Prisoners Serving a Life Sentence - 140,000 in State and Federal Prisons

  • Life without parole sentences triple since 1992, now at 41,095
  • U.S. only nation with juveniles serving life without parole sentences, 1,755 nationally
  • Disproportionate life imprisonment: Two-thirds of persons serving life sentences are racial and ethnic minorities

Washington, DC
A new report released by The Sentencing Project finds a record 140,610 individuals are now serving life sentences in state and federal prisons, 6,807 of whom were juveniles at the time of the crime. In addition, 29% of persons serving a life sentence (41,095) have no possibility of parole, and 1,755 were juveniles at the time of the crime.

No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences in America represents the first nationwide collection of life sentence data documenting race, ethnicity and gender. The report's findings reveal overwhelming racial and ethnic disparities in the allocation of life sentences: 66% of all persons sentenced to life are non-white, and 77% of juveniles serving life sentences are non-white.

"Life sentences imposed on juveniles represent a fundamental and unwise shift from the longstanding tradition that juveniles are less culpable than adults for their behavior and are capable of change," said Ashley Nellis, Ph.D., Research Analyst of The Sentencing Project and co-author of No Exit.

Other findings in the report include:
  • In five states - Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York -at least 1 in 6 prisoners is serving a life sentence.
  • Five states - California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania - each have more than 3,000 people serving life without parole. Pennsylvania leads the nation with 345 juveniles serving sentences of life without parole.
  • In six states - Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota - and the federal government, all life sentences are imposed without the possibility of parole.
  • The dramatic growth in life sentences is not primarily a result of higher crime rates, but of policy changes that have imposed harsher punishments and restricted parole consideration.

The authors of the report state that persons serving life sentences "include those who present a serious threat to public safety, but also include those for whom the length of sentence is questionable." One such case documented is that of Ali Foroutan, currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life for possession of 0.03 grams of methamphetamine under California's "three strikes" law.

The report is released at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two Florida cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole. In Graham v. Florida, 17-year-old Terrance Graham was convicted of taking part in an armed home-invasion robbery while on probation for committing a violent crime when he was 16 years old, and was sentenced to life without parole.In the case of Sullivan v. Florida, Joe Sullivan was convicted of sexual battery committed when he was 13 years old and sentenced to life without parole. Sullivan is now 33 and is severely debilitated by multiple sclerosis.

The Sentencing Project calls for the elimination of sentences of life without parole, and restoring discretion to parole boards to determine suitability for release. The report also recommends that individuals serving parole-eligible life sentences be properly prepared for reentry back into the community.

"Life without parole sentences have proven to be costly and shortsighted," said Ryan S. King, Policy Analyst of The Sentencing Project and report co-author. "Locking up someone for life without any option for release ignores the potential for transformative personal growth and undermines efforts to seek forgiveness and redemption."

The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy for criminal justice reform. Click here to download No Exit.

Aurora and FBI Meet Over Police Conduct

The Denver Post

AURORA — City officials met with the FBI on Tuesday about concerns that police harassed a lawyer who is representing the family of a man shot by police.

Councilwoman Deborah Wallace and City Attorney Charlie Richardson met with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's ethics division to talk about the possible harassment of attorney Derek Cole by Aurora police.

They would not say what was talked about or whether the FBI had agreed to look into the allegations.

"We have been asked by the FBI not to discuss anything that happened," said Richardson, who wouldn't confirm whether the FBI agreed to investigate.

The FBI did not return phone calls for comment.

If the FBI declines to investigate, Wallace said she will order an internal investigation.

Cole said police ran his license plate through a criminal database at least 19 times and last month unjustly towed his legally parked car for improper registration, later shown to be a mistake by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

El Paso County Starts War Court

The Denver Post

A new court that will open in El Paso County next month is designed to provide returning veterans accused of felonies with an alternative to the conventional justice system, which is not always sympathetic to combat-related brain injuries and stress disorders.

"It's based on drug court, where there are immediate consequences, with a lot of heavily supervised probation," said El Paso County District Judge Ron Crowder, a two-star general in the Colorado Army National Guard, a former paratrooper in Vietnam and holder of the Distinguished Service Medal.

Crowder is developing the court with a group that includes mental-health counselors, court administrators and veterans advocates.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Pot Rules Torched

Denver Daily

Medical marijuana advocates walked away from a 12-hour Board of Health hearing yesterday hooting and hollering over the fact that the board preserved rights already afforded to medical marijuana patients.

The nine-member board’s 5-4 vote came after a marathon of testimony from opponents of the health department’s proposal to limit so-called caregivers to five patients and require them to perform “significant” care for their patients, including far-reaching services like cleaning patients’ houses and picking up groceries.

But with nearly 200 speakers taking to the microphone in favor of current medical marijuana laws set by voters in 2000, the board ultimately voted in favor of medical marijuana advocates.

The usual stereotypes associated with marijuana users went up in smoke yesterday, as the crowd came well-dressed in suits and ties — they even left their demonstration signs at the door. Despite pleas from organizers to “be on your best behavior,” some, however, let emotion get the best of them as they occasionally hissed and booed at supporters. Overall, though, the meeting yesterday was a demonstration of democracy at its best, on both the part of the board and the public.

The throngs of more than 500 advocates — including lawyers, patients, caregivers, war veterans and doctors — gathered at the Auraria Campus and spoke one after the other of the harmful affect the new rules would have on their and their patients’ lives. It was the largest health department hearing in history.

Damien LaGoy, an HIV and Hepatitis C patient, said the new rules would force him to the street to find marijuana, which helps him fight nausea caused by the plethora of medications he takes to keep him alive.

“Imagine what happens to me if all 100 pounds of me goes looking for marijuana on Colfax Avenue?” LaGoy asked the Board of Health.

He was named as a plaintiff in a 2007 lawsuit filed against the state for imposing similar rules. District Judge Larry Naves ruled at the time that the state had imposed the new rules illegally by not holding public hearings, and that the state had made a “capricious decision” to enact the rules. Naves’ decision is what brought the board to hold a public hearing yesterday. Opponents of the proposed rule changes cheered the twist of fate in their direction.

LaGoy said it would be difficult for him to find a caregiver if they were all capped at five patients. He said his apartment is too small for him to grow himself, and he’s often too sick to grow.

Despite losing once before, state health officials still attempted to pass the new rules, bringing to the hearing yesterday a handful of law enforcement officials who support the change.

Cronkite Knew A Failed War When He Saw One


Everyone knows Walter Cronkite was "the most trusted man in America" and someone whose rare expressions of personal opinion -- such as on the Vietnam War -- could powerfully influence the views of Middle America. But fewer are aware of a passion of his that he came to relatively late in life -- ending the nation's disastrous war on drugs.

I first learned of Cronkite's interest in the drug war back in 1995, when a producer for The Cronkite Report -- an occasional series on the Discovery Channel -- called to ask for my help on a documentary that he and Cronkite were doing on the drug war. The one-hour report that resulted provided a devastating critique of the nation's drug policies.

Focusing on the lives of three women who had been sentenced to many years in Bedford Hills prison in New York, the program revealed the utter waste of human lives and taxpayer dollars that define the drug war.

Neither Cronkite nor the women involved suggested that they had done nothing wrong. But the extraordinary lengths of the prison terms to which they had been sentenced, for relatively minor participation in the illicit sale of drugs, combined with the impact on their children and families, and the absurd amount of money being spent to punish rather than help and treat -- all this shaped Cronkite's devastating indictment of the drug war.

Walter Cronkite got it -- and he got it early. He knew a failed war when he saw one.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Health Board Rejects Changes

The Denver Post

In addition to rejecting a plan to limit medical marijuana caregivers to five patients, the board also refused to require caregivers also help patients with their daily activities.

The decision was met with a loud cheer from the 50 or so people remaining in the audience that had numbered 500. People stood up, jumped up and down and screamed.

Hundreds of patients authorized to use medical marijuana testified Monday that proposed changes to the state's medical-marijuana law would have devastating health implications for them.

The Colorado Board of Health meeting contemplated new definitions to parts of the law that governs who may grow medical pot and how many patients they serve.

The most controversial change to the amendment would have limited growers — known as caregivers — which sometimes take the form of dispensaries serving hundreds of patients, to supplying five patients at a time.

Jonathan Edens, an Iraq war veteran, is one of the 350 who signed up to testify at the meeting, held at the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria campus.

No Number Change

DENVER (AP) — Colorado's state health board has rejected a move to limit suppliers of medical marijuana to helping only five patients at a time.

The board voted 6-3 Monday night after several hours of testimony to defeat the proposal by the state health department. People in the audience of about 100 cheered.

The board adopted other recommended changes, including a requirement that patients get their signatures notarized on applications for the medical marijuana registry.

State health and law enforcement officials argued the system is susceptible to fraud and causes confusion over who can legally grow marijuana.

Opponents objected to meddling with the voter-approved constitutional amendment allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Colorado Board of Health May Revise Law

The Denver Post

The Colorado Board of Health today will vote on a proposal that may cut off some of 7,360 registered patients' access to medical marijuana.

The proposal would shut down small and large medical marijuana dispensaries by limiting them to selling their medical herbs to five patients at a time.

Currently there is no limit to how many patients they can supply.

At issue is wording in Amendment 20, passed in 2000 by Colorado voters, which allows people with debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, to grow their own marijuana or appoint a "caregiver" to do it.

Caregiver has, however, in some cases taken the form of dispensaries that serve more than 600 patients each.

The health board is proposing to tighten the definition of caregiver to someone who does more that just supply marijuana.

More than a thousand people are expected to attend today's meeting to voice their opposition to the changes, said Brian Vincente, the director of Sensible Colorado, a pro-marijuana nonprofit advocacy group.

One of those opposed is Damien LaGoy, who is HIV-positive and his caregiver's ninth patient.

LaGoy uses medical marijuana to treat the severe nausea he says comes with his daily cocktail of HIV medications.

"If I lose my caregiver, I don't know what I'll do," LaGoy said. "I'll have to find someone on Colfax or by the Civic Center and get it off the street."

To keep patients from buying marijuana on the streets, it should be treated like any other medicine dispensed by a doctor or pharmacy, Vincente said.

"If you go to Walgreens, they won't say, 'Sorry, we've already helped five people, we're not going to help,' " he said.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Writing Contest

No affiliation. I don't know where they got the name....hmmm.



Resilience Multimedia, publisher of the widely praised book, “Think Outside the Cell: An Entrepreneur’s Guide for the Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated,” is sponsoring its second writing contest for people who are or were in prison, and their loved ones. The best submissions will be included in books in Resilience’s “Think Outside the Cell Series,” which is intended to help the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated tackle hard challenges and have successful lives. The books will be widely distributed and widely read. They are being produced with funding from the prestigious Ford Foundation, which for more than 70 years has been working to improve lives and create opportunity for people around the world.

Contestants may write personal stories about one or more of these topics:

  • Reentering society after incarceration
  • Waiting for loved ones to return home from prison
  • Prison marriages and relationships

Three winners will be chosen for each topic and will receive these prizes:

  • 1st Place: $300
  • 2nd Place: $150
  • 3rd Place: $ 75

Stories that do not win cash prizes will still be eligible for inclusion in the series.

These are the contest rules:

  • Stories must be original and about events or situations that actually happened.
  • You may submit stories on more than one topic.
  • Stories may be up to 3,000 words.
  • Stories should be typewritten and double-spaced.
  • Handwritten stories will be accepted as long as they are legible.
  • Each page must include page number, your name, contact information and story title.
  • Resilience Multimedia reserves the right to edit stories for clarity, punctuation, spelling and grammar, and retains the rights to stories in order to ensure the widest possible publicity and distribution, both in the United States and abroad.
  • Story entries will not be returned.

Here’s how to enter:

Email your story, indicating which topic it is intended for, to:


OR mail your story to:

Resilience Multimedia

511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525

New York, NY 10011

Questions? Email resiliencemultimedia@verizon.net, call 877-267-2303 or write to the above address.

Limits on Medical Marijuana Up For Hearing Monday

The Denver Post

DENVER—Backers of medical marijuana are protesting a proposal to limit marijuana providers to five patients each, a change which could affect dispensaries that have sprouted up to serve a growing number of patients around Colorado.

The state health board is set to consider the five-patient limit on Monday during a hearing on several changes to how Amendment 20, passed by voters in 2000, is carried out. The board voted to limit caregivers to five patients in 2004 but a Denver judge threw that out three years later because the board didn't hold a hearing first.

Colorado is one of 13 states that has passed laws allowing people to use marijuana for medical reasons. Amendment 20 allows people who suffer from debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV and multiple sclerosis, to smoke marijuana in private once they get a doctor's note and register with the state, paying a $90 fee.

As of June 30, there were about 9,100 people registered to use medical marijuana, according to the Department of Public Health and Environment, which maintains the registry. That's a 1,500 increase over May.

The names on the list are confidential and the department doesn't keep track of caregivers which has led to confusion in law enforcement over which growers are truly legal and which aren't.

The law says patients and their caregivers can grow six marijuana plants themselves or possess two ounces of marijuana. Caregivers are defined as people who have "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient." However, it doesn't discuss the details of where pot should be grown.

In a draft of the proposed rule changes, the health department states that there's nothing in Amendment 20 that allows for the creation of dispensaries and that caregivers supplying patients with marijuana must be people, not businesses. The department also states that home health nurses typically see no more than five patients a day.

Department spokesman Mark Salley said the proposed changes are in keeping with the spirit of Amendment 20 but declined further comment.

Health board member Jeanne McGinnis declined to comment on the reasons for the five-person limit and other board members didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Robert Corry, a lawyer who has represented medical marijuana patients, said it's already difficult for patients to find people who can provide them with marijuana and the proposed change will make it more difficult. He said some people have complained to the state that they can't get a consistent supply.

"The remedy for that problem is, if they don't like their caregiver, is to go find another," he said.

Corry said he hoped the board would keep an open mind on the proposed changes but he also said he's prepared to sue to block the five-patient limit if the board approves it.

The board is preparing for a large crowd for Monday's hearing.

They'll meet in a room that can hold about 450 people on the Auraria Campus near downtown Denver. The board is expected to vote on whether to adopt the changes following the hearing, which is scheduled to last seven hours.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Prisons Hiring in Colorado

The Forbes

DENVER -- Despite implementing a hiring freeze last fall, Colorado is still hanging a help wanted sign.

The state is looking to hire about 140 people for jobs ranging from nurses and police dispatchers to prison librarians and vocational instructors, even though Gov. Bill Ritter has already ordered departments to cut their budgets by 10 percent.

Most Trusted Man In America Supported Drug Reform


RIP Walter Cronkite! In the summer 1992, I was told by an assistant that I had a phone call, and that “unless the person on the phone was kidding, that it was someone claiming to be Walter Cronkite.”

I took the call and it was in fact Mr. Cronkite, who wanted to talk about his concerns regarding America’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. We talked for about half an hour and he asked me to fax him some data and/or reports to support some of the information I’d related to him regarding arrest rates, racial disparity and I think the efficacy of medical cannabis. As he related his fax number to me I recognized the exchange as coming from Dukes County, MA (which is principally Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Islands). I told Mr. Cronkite that I had grown up in close proximity to his locale, across Nantucket Sound in the Cape Cod town of Chatham. That sparked an additional half hour conversation about striped bass, giant Atlantic bluefin tuna and the importance of knowing where you derive pleasure.

All in all, a most pleasant conversation with a journalist I’d grown up watching and had always generally respected.

I was heartened some years later when Walter Cronkite started speaking out strongly against the war on some drugs, including doing fundraising letters and videos for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Drug war is a war on families
By Walter Cronkite

Article Published: Sunday, August 08, 2004

In the midst of the soaring rhetoric of the recent Democratic National Convention, more than one speaker quoted Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, invoking “the better angels of our nature.” Well, there is an especially appropriate task awaiting those heavenly creatures - a long-overdue reform of our disastrous war on drugs. We should begin by recognizing its costly and inhumane dimensions.

Much of the nation, in one way or another, is victimized by this failure - including, most notably, the innocents, whose exposure to drugs is greater than ever.

This despite the fact that there are, housed in federal and state prisons and local jails on drug offenses, more than 500,000 persons - half a million people! Clearly, no punishment could be too severe for that portion of them who were kingpins of the drug trade and who ruined so many lives. But by far, the majority of these prisoners are guilty of only minor offenses, such as possessing small amounts of marijuana. That includes people who used it only for medicinal purposes.

The cost to maintain this great horde of prisoners is more than $10 billion annually. And that’s just part of the cost of this war on drugs: The federal, state and local drug-control budgets last year added up to almost $40 billion.

These figures were amassed by the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the foremost national organizations seeking to bring reason to the war on drugs and reduce substantially those caught in the terrible web of addiction.

There are awful tales of tragedy and shocking injustice hidden in those figures - the product of an almost mindlessly draconian system called “mandatory sentencing,” in which even small offenses can draw years in prison.

Thousands of women, many of them mothers of young children, are included among those minor offenders. Those children left without motherly care are the most innocent victims of the drug war and the reason some call it a “war on families.”

Women are the fastest-growing segment of the prison population, with almost 80 percent of them incarcerated for drug offenses. The deep perversity of the system lies in the fact that women with the least culpability often get the harshest sentences.

Unlike the guilty drug dealer, they often have no information to trade for a better deal from prosecutors, and might end up with a harsher sentence than the dealer gets.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jake Jabs Daughter Sentenced.

The more interesting story is how the prosecutor only got 2 1/2 years for 6 1/2 ounces of cocaine.
The Denver Post
BILLINGS, Mont.—A former Carbon County prosecutor who hosted cocaine parties and tried to scuttle at least one drug case to cover up his activities will spend 2 1/2 years in federal prison.

Robert Eddleman, 51, was sentenced Thursday on a single count of maintaining a drug-involved premises. His companion and co-defendant, Terri Jabs Kurth, 44, was sentenced to eight months in prison and another four months in home detention on an identical charge.

Eddleman resigned in March after the pair was convicted of giving cocaine to guests at parties they hosted over four years at Kurth's houses in Billings and Red Lodge.

The parties began two years before Eddleman took office in 2006 and continued until last fall, when the pair was indicted following a joint state-federal investigation.

"You considered yourself above the law," U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull said in handing down Eddleman's sentence. "You were indeed the law."

Prosecutors said that in August 2006—two months after he took office—Eddleman undermined a drug case against an associate to keep his own activities from being exposed.

Law enforcement officials said they later learned Eddleman provided that associate with cocaine.

Cebull ordered Eddleman to serve three years on probation upon his release from prison, and recommended he enter a 500-hour drug treatment program while incarcerated.

Eddleman had faced a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Prosecutors and defense attorneys recommended he serve two years.

Cebull said the stiffer sentence he imposed (an extra six months? emphasis mine) reflected Eddleman's violation of the public trust and his "arrogance" as an elected official who did not follow the same laws he was sworn to uphold.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From The Pen To The Plate

The Denver Post

The men wearing green uniforms and tall rubber boots spread out across the compound, herding goats into pens, pouring grain into feeding troughs and serving as nursemaids to those giving birth.

Many of these guys, all prisoners at the Skyline Correctional Center in Cañon City, had never touched a goat or heard one bleat before becoming involved with Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the state Department of Corrections. It's likely, too, that few of the prisoners had ever tasted goat cheese.

But that's what happens to nearly every drop of milk the prisoners draw from the animals, most of which goes to Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Longmont. Cheesemakers there transform thousands of gallons of milk from the Cañon City goats into chevre logs, cubes of feta, pungent rounds of raw milk cheese and more.

And then a shopper at a Costco in Littleton, or a cheese connoisseur at a gourmet boutique in Philadelphia, or a diner at a fancy restaurant in San Diego will buy the cheese. The diner will chew the slice of Red Cloud and marvel over its evocative flavor.

How does milk from a prison complex in remote Colorado end up on the fork of a debutante?

It begins in the pen.

Tall, muscular, tattooed and in prison for cocaine distribution, Thomas R. Major III seems an unlikely nurturer of goats.

But a year into his seven-days-a-week apprenticeship, he's one of the leaders of the goat-milk operation.

"It's human nature. You get attached to something the more you hang out with it," said Major, 31, as 56 goats standing on a pair of high concrete platforms on either side of him ate grain and permitted prisoners to connect milking contraptions to their udders. Between the goats' staccato cries and the rhythmic shushing sound of the milking machines, he had to nearly shout to make himself heard.

Intense Combat Tied To Homicides In Ft. Carson

The Denver Post

Fort Carson soldiers charged with or convicted in homicides upon returning from Iraq had experienced intensive combat, several claiming they had witnessed war crimes, according to an Army report released Wednesday.

Many were plagued by pre-existing problems, and the combination contributed to a series of crimes when they returned, including the killing of a soldier's infant daughter and the slaying of two people with an AK-47.

A broader investigation of Fort Carson soldiers returning from Iraq found regular use of drugs and alcohol to "self-medicate," a growing number of waivers allowing troubled personalities into the ranks, and an unwillingness to use programs meant to help soldiers cope because of the stigma attached.

Move to Legalize Takes Root

LA Times
Dan Neil hits the nail on the head ("" July 7). The relatively minor negative consequences that Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps had to endure for being outed for his marijuana use is Exhibit A that the war on marijuana is coming to an end. The American people are tired of the hypocrisy and extremism inherent in the war on (some) drugs.

In a 1969 Gallup poll, only 12% of Americans supported making marijuana legal. By 2005, support had grown to 36%. And in a Zogby International poll taken earlier this year, 44% of Americans said marijuana "should be taxed and legally regulated like alcohol and cigarettes." The most interesting information, however, is in the demographic breakdown.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Travis Henry Gets Three Years Federal For Drugs


Ex-NFL player gets 3 years in cocaine case

BILLINGS, Mont. — A federal judge Wednesday sentenced former NFL player Travis Henry to three years in prison for financing a drug ring that moved cocaine between Colorado and Montana.

Henry, 30, of Frostproof, Fla., was arrested by federal drug agents last October — just a few months after the running back’s release from the Denver Broncos.

He pleaded guilty in April to a single count of conspiracy to traffic cocaine. In handing down Wednesday’s sentence, U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull in Billings also gave Henry five years of probation and recommended he enter a 500-hour drug treatment program.

Completion of the treatment program could knock off up to a year from Henry’s sentence. His attorney, Harvey Steinberg, said that with additional time off for good behavior Henry could be out of prison within 16 months.

Henry has said that at the time of his arrest, he was struggling to keep up with child support payments after fathering at least nine children with nine women. But Cebull said it was Henry’s addiction to marijuana that destroyed the his career and ultimately landed him in federal court.

“This is a unique case in that you’re a unique individual. You’re a heck of a football player,” Cebull said. “You are not unique in this sense: your drug habit.”

Anti-Drug Groups Give Up On Marijuana

CBS News
Over the last several years, without many people realizing it, the U.S. government has changed the focus of its anti-drug efforts, deemphasizing marijuana in favor of prescription drugs.

A CBS News survey of government and nonprofit anti-drug groups has found a retreat from anti-marijuana campaigns over the past several years as prescription and over the counter drug abuse has grown amongst teens.

In fact, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, the nation's largest creator of anti-drug messages, hasn't produced a single anti-marijuana public service advertisement since 2005.

The change comes as a result of the decline in marijuana use amongst teens, and growing worry over the abuse of prescription drugs. Marijuana use has been declining for 10 years and past-month use is down 25 percent since 2001 according to the largest tracking study in the U.S., "Monitoring the Future" by the University of Michigan.

Meanwhile prescription drug abuse has held steady over the past five years according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, with nearly one in five teens (19 percent) abusing prescription medications to get high.

"There is a new threat in town," Robert Dennisoton of the Office of National Drug Control Policy said.

The concern about pills has been highlighted by a string of high profile deaths like that of Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and possibly Michael Jackson -- all tied to the abuse of legal prescription drugs.

In an effort to spread awareness about the dangers of the misuse of prescription drugs, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America even refers to young people today as "Generation Rx" in TV advertisements that point to the dangers of misuse of those drugs.

Giving Life, Wearing Shackles and Chains


One day last November, the first shudders of childbirth woke Venita Pinckney before dawn. She was well into her ninth month of pregnancy. She was also incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a state prison.

Before she left for the hospital, Ms. Pinckney said, a corrections officer wrapped a chain twice around her waist and handcuffed her to it. Then he covered the handcuffs with a locked black box to further limit her range of motion. Finally, her ankles were shackled.

“You can’t walk like a normal human being,” said Ms. Pinckney, 37. “When you’re pregnant, you have a hard time keeping your balance to begin with.”

At least once a week, somewhere in one of New York’s prisons or jails, a pregnant women goes into labor. Nearly all of them, including Ms. Pinckney, are behind bars for drug offenses. Even so, they are often as severely restrained in the final hours of pregnancy as the most nimble and dangerous of criminals. While their bodies heave toward childbirth, they become walking, clanking jail cells.

“I told the officer he’s not supposed to shackle me,” Ms. Pinckney said last week. “He said he was just following procedure.”

From just about every wing of state government, there is agreement that such restraints are needless and risky. The state department of corrections formally limited their use nine years ago.

Barbara Margolis .Prisoner Advocate Dies At 79

New York Times

Barbara Margolis, a longtime volunteer in New York City jails who 20 years ago founded Fresh Start, a widely praised training program that brings the city’s finest chefs to Rikers Island to train inmates in culinary arts, and then helps those inmates find restaurant jobs upon release, died on July 3 in Manhattan.

She was 79 and had homes on the Upper East Side; in Quogue, N.Y.; and in Tourrettes-sur-Loup, in the south of France.

Mrs. Margolis’s death, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was from complications of cancer, her daughter, Nancy Margolis King, said.

Long active in civic affairs, Mrs. Margolis was the New York City commissioner of protocol under Mayor Edward I. Koch. In that capacity, she was the city’s official greeter, welcoming visiting dignitaries like Pope John Paul II and Diana, Princess of Wales, for an annual salary of $1. (On New Year’s Eve 1977, Mayor Koch was sworn in for his first term at the home of Mrs. Margolis and her husband, David I. Margolis, who became one of the mayor’s close advisers.)

All the while, Mrs. Margolis was deeply involved in prison reform. Besides founding Fresh Start, she directed or helped create programs at Rikers in horticulture, journalism and athletics. Several are still going, including three educational, therapeutic and vocational programs run by the Horticultural Society of New York, of which Mrs. Margolis was chairwoman of the board at her death.

A fourth program, developed under Mrs. Margolis’s supervision and also run by the Horticultural Society, is scheduled to start today. It will teach Rikers’s adolescent inmates — 16- and 17-year-old boys — how to turn a large field on the island into a community garden.

None of Mrs. Margolis’s associates interviewed last week could recall what first prompted her to volunteer in the city’s jails in the early 1960s. Even her daughter was not completely certain. To those who knew her, Mrs. Margolis was so utterly at home at Rikers that it seemed simply as if she had always been on the island, which is home to one of the largest penal complexes in the world.