Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Federal Court Limits the Use Of Tasers...

That's my girl Julia Yoo on this case....
New York Times

In a case that could set the first broad judicial standards for the use ofTasers, a federal appeals court in California has ruled that the police can be held liable for using one of the devices against an unarmed person during a traffic stop.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, said the electrically disabling device constituted excessive force when used against an unarmed man who did not pose a threat, and it refused to allow a police officer immunity for its use.
In a vividly worded opinion issued by the court this week, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw described a “bad morning” for Carl Bryan, a 21-year-old Californian who drove over large stretches of Southern California to retrieve car keys mistakenly taken by a friend and ended up being Tasered by a Coronado, Calif., policeman and breaking four teeth when he fell to the ground.
Mr. Bryan was stopped twice on his driving odyssey, once for speeding and again for not wearing his seat belt. After the second stop, Mr. Bryan was “agitated, standing outside his car, yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs, clad only in his boxer shorts and tennis shoes,” the court said.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Judge rules Centennial closed pot shop illegally - The Denver Post

Judge rules Centennial closed pot shop illegally - The Denver Post

CENTENNIAL — An Arapahoe County judge today barred the city of Centennial from shutting down a medical marijuana dispensary, saying that the city had no right to use federal law as a pretext for doing so.

"The city of Centennial cannot use the potential violation of a federal law to order a business legally operating under our state constitution to cease and desist its business," District Court judge Christopher Cross said.

The ruling could have broad implications for medical marijuana regulation in Colorado.

The rationale Centennial used in forcing the dispensary to shut down — that, because the business distributed marijuana contrary to federal law, it was in violation of the city's land use code — is one also adopted by a number of other local governments to block dispensaries from opening in their communities, including Aurora, Castle Rock and Greenwood Village. The attorney for a dispensary in Castle Rock that had its business license partially revoked on similar grounds said she would use today's ruling to seek that action's reversal.

Cross's ruling resulted in a preliminary injunction against Centennial from enforcing its cease and desist order to the dispensary, CannaMart. The broader issue, such as whether Cross's injunction should be permanent and his ruling become part of case law, is still yet to be decided at trial, a process that could take years to resolve.

Cross acknowledged in his ruling — announced from the bench this afternoon — that the legal issues surrounding medical marijuana and the operation of dispensaries in Colorado are still very much in flux. Cross called the case one of "first impression," with very few prior cases in Colorado or around the country providing much guidance on how to reach a decision.

"This is a very complex puzzle as everyone knows," Cross said. "There are many interrelated and contradictory pieces to that puzzle."

"No one knows what the law is," Cross added later.

Immediately after the ruling, CannaMart's owners, lawyers and a handful of patients listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit exchange hugs. Outside the courtroom, patient Shannon Mosher, who suffers from multiple medical problems that cause him severe pain, said he was proud to represent patients across Colorado in the matter.

"It's a big, ground-breaking moment," Mosher said. "It's a big deal."

Read more:http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14094504#ixzz0bEAXR9Wa

Southern Injustice

Mother Jones
For the better part of four decades, Victory Wallace, 70, has made a monthly trip from New Orleans to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola to visit her brother Herman, who just turned 68. The 140-mile journey has shades of Heart of Darkness, following the course of the Mississippi River to a remote prison colony from which most inmates never return. At the dark heart of this former slave plantation, Herman Wallace has lived most of the past 37 years in solitary confinement, imprisoned alone for 23 hours a day in a 6-by-9-foot cell.
When Herman was moved in the spring of 2009 from Angola to Hunt Correctional Center near Baton Rouge, Vickie's trip got a bit shorter. But what she found when she arrived on her most recent visit was even worse than usual. Because of a disciplinary infraction, Herman had been placed in "extended administrative lockdown." That meant Vickie was denied a contact visit, and was permitted to see her brother only through a glass partition as they spoke over a telephone. His hands were shackled to the table. (Other recent visitors reported that the shackles made it hard for him to hold the phone to his ear, while his hearing loss made communication over the telephone difficult.) Herman complained to Vickie that he was cold, and she thought that he had lost weight. His spirits, she said, were not the best.
Click to Read Mother Jones

High Expectations? States Weigh Marijuana Reforms

Washington Post

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 27, 2009; 2:36 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington is one of four states where measures to legalize and regulate marijuana have been introduced, and about two dozen other states are considering bills ranging from medical marijuana to decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the herb.
"In terms of state legislatures, this is far and away the most active year that we've ever seen," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which supports reforming marijuana laws.
Nadelmann said that while legalization efforts are not likely to get much traction in state capitals anytime soon, the fact that there is such an increase of activity "is elevating the level of public discourse on this issue and legitimizing it."
"I would say that we are close to the tipping point," he said. "At this point they are still seen as symbolic bills to get the conversation going, but at least the conversation can be a serious one."

In 2009, New York on Track For Fewest Homicides

The New York Times
There were days upon days in New York City when not a single person was murdered in 2009. Two such stretches, in February and March, lasted nearly a week each.
There were some pockets of the city where homicide was a singular occurrence: 12 of the city’s 77 police precincts, in locations as varied as Hamilton Heights, in Upper Manhattan, and Park Slope, Brooklyn, had logged one each through Sunday.
The story line of murder in New York is one that has been undergoing constant revision since 1963, when the Police Department began tracking homicides in a way that officials now deem reliable. (Before then, homicides were not counted until they were solved.) There have been rises — the number peaked at 2,245 in 1990 — and subsequent falls. But there have never been as few homicides as this year.
The city is on track, for the second time in three years, to have the fewest homicides in a 12-month period since the current record keeping system began. As of Sunday, there had been 461; the record low was in 2007, when there were 496 for the entire year.
The toll has gone down despite predictions that it would rise in a bad economy — a notion rejected by the city’s police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly. But challenges persist: With the city facing a $4.1 billion budget deficit, the police force — which has been reduced by 6,000 officers since 2001 — may have to shrink further.
“The mantra of ‘do more with less’ is certainly a very important principle in the Police Department,” Mr. Kelly said. “And these numbers show it.”
The decline in homicides is happening not only in New York. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s uniform crime report for the first half of 2009, homicides fell 10 percent nationwide compared with the same period in 2008. But New York showed a 19 percent decline, the report said, and the city’s homicide rate of 6 per 100,000 people was far lower than those of New Orleans, Chicago or Baltimore.
In the first half of 2009, homicides fell in Los Angeles by 29.8 percent, in Atlanta by 14 percent, in Chicago by 11.8 percent, in Philadelphia by 11.2 percent and in Boston by 10.3 percent. They rose in Detroit by 11.6 percent, in Baltimore by 9.5 percent and in New Orleans by 3.2 percent.

Rogers Story

Pueblo Chieftain
Roger Vigil was a pitcher when he was a kid in La Junta.

He was out of place in Oklahoma.

In East Los Angeles, he found a home.

“It was Primera Flats this and Primera Flats that,” Vigil said, his voice deep and rough but accented by a hard edge of pain. “It was representing. The neighborhood came first.”

Unknown to his parents, the young Vigil had joined a gang, forever changing his life, committing to the Surenos for the past quarter century. That was until Vigil, freshly 40 and free for the first time in almost five years, felt he owed it to his late parents to leave the life he had embraced.

But even after deciding to leave the Surenos, he called Los Angeles to seek permission to depart.

His folks are gone Ñ his dad died in 2005, his mother last year. Vigil, who might be perceived to be potentially menacing by his pouncing, almost tiger-like posture, looks like a lost kid when he talks about making it right with his family and “growing up.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pot dispensaries forced to shut down await court ruling - The Denver Post

Pot dispensaries forced to shut down await court ruling - The Denver Post
About 99.9 percent of her business comes from the sale of medical marijuana, but Amber Ostrom, owner of Plants 4 Life, will have to make do selling acupuncture and other services.
The medical-marijuana dispensary in downtown Castle Rock was shut down by the town after officials said selling weed is illegal under federal law.
Town Clerk Sally Misare issued her decision Dec. 19, revising the business and tax license of the store to exclude the sale of medical marijuana.
Ostrom can still offer acupuncture, message therapy and holistic medicine at the store on North Wilcox Street.
But not having a chance to build a clientele for the wellness services since opening in mid-October, Ostrom worries that her $30,000 investment could be lost forever. She acknowledges that almost all of her sales had come from medicinal marijuana.
"You can't just issue things left and right, then just take them away," Ostrom said. "I thought things would go in our favor. It's a clean facility and run like a doctor's office."
Ostrom and other dispensaries that have been shut down may get a court ruling this week that could have a big say in their futures.
In October, Centennial shut down the CannaMart dispensary, so CannaMart sued. An Arapahoe County District Court Judge is expected to rule in the case Wednesday.
Ostrom said she too is considering appealing the ruling in district court.
The town council in November instructed the Castle Rock's town manager to enforce codes already on the books that prohibited anything that was illegal under federal or state law.
"We didn't outlaw medical-marijuana dispensaries or put a ban," Castle Rock Mayor Randy Reed said.
"We just recognized in our code that we're not supposed to do that."
He was not sure why the town granted the license to Plants 4 Life in the first place. Another medical-marijuana facility also was granted a license, but that business has since left town.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Female inmates in Denver gain life skills - The Denver Post

Female inmates in Denver gain life skills - The Denver Post

Sheriece Hurd, convicted of involuntary manslaughter, wiped away her tears with a red Christmas napkin on a recent afternoon at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.

In her green uniform, sitting with two other inmates, she spoke on a panel about Making Choices, a restorative-justice program focused on life-planning and decisionmaking skills.

"If I had this program when I had him, I wouldn't be here now," she said.

In 2004, when she was 21, Hurd shot and killed her boyfriend, the father of two of her three children. She'd called police a few times in the previous year to report that he was violent but never left the abusive relationship.

"I wanted to see what I could do differently with my thought processes," she said of her decision to join the Making Choices program. "Because I was not thinking during the whole situation of domestic violence that I was involved in."

Over the past 10 years, the program has proven highly effective for the 450 women who have taken the training.

Prison officials say the recidivism rate is 54 percent for Colorado's prison population in general, but for women who graduated from Making Choices, it is just 12 percent. It drops to 8 percent for those who take a follow-up booster program, which 122 women have done.

"When I heard that, it blew me away," said warden Travis Trani, who arrived here months ago from a job as warden of Limon Correctional Facility.

Trani said the Department of Corrections does a good job providing academic programs and career and technical education.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Family Center Aims for $500K by July

The Coloradoan
vSara B. Hansen
For Loveland Connection

The Family Center/La Familia has a big goal to hit by July 1.
The center, which provides affordable, bilingual education for children 6 weeks to 5 years old, has started a capital campaign to raise $500,000, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the Bohemian Foundation on all donations made through June.
Maury Dobbie, who is leading the capital campaign, said it's important for people to recognize their donations are an investment in the future.

"I really believe in early childhood education," she said. "We are raising the next generation."

Alan Cohen, the center's executive director, said it's better to invest in education now rather than pay for prison space later.

"Studies show you can judge by third-grade reading scores how many prison beds you'll need 16 years later. We'd rather see people spend that money now."

The center now owns three quarters of the building it is in and will use the $1 million to pay off that mortgage and to also buy the additional 4,000 square feet of space. That will give the center 12,000 square feet.

Eliminating the monthly mortgage payment will allow the center to instead spend that $4,500 to on its programs.

In addition to child care, the center also offers family strengthening and education services, youth and teen programs, Parents as Teachers home visits and parent education classes. The center's budget is generated by 38 percent grants, 32 percent government reimbursement and 20 percent parent fees, Cohen said.
The center’s day care is licensed for 70 children and currently has 57 enrolled, Cohen said. The expansion will allow the center to increase its capacity to 105 children and allow it to create a special playground for younger children.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Windsor pot shop to stay open despite moratorium - The Denver Post

Windsor pot shop to stay open despite moratorium - The Denver Post
WINDSOR, Colo.—Dozens of Colorado towns have put moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries.

One northern Colorado pot shop says it'll stay open anyway.

The Medigrow dispensary in Windsor says it will defy a moratorium passed Dec. 16 in the Weld County town. Medigrow opened five days before the moratorium was approved, but it was not included on a list of dispensaries that could stay open during the moratorium.

Windsor officials say the dispensary could be fined up to $300 a day for staying open despite the moratorium. Dispensary owners tell The (Greeley) Tribune that they'll pay any fines while they contest being left off the list.

Two dispensaries in Windsor have been allowed to stay open during the moratorium. A Feb. 18 court date has been set for the Medigrow dispute.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Smart Answers On Recidivism

The New York Times
Faced with soaring prison costs, states are finally focusing on policies that would help former prisoners stay out of jail after they are released. Some legislatures are reshaping laws that land parolees back inside for technical violations that should be dealt with on the outside. More than a dozen cities and counties have taken steps that make it easier for qualified ex-offenders to land government jobs, except in education and law enforcement and other sensitive areas from which people with convictions are normally barred by law.
Still, the nation as a whole needs to do much more about laws that marginalize former offenders — and often drive them back to jail — by denying them voting rights, parental rights, drivers licenses and access to public housing, welfare and food stamps, even in cases where they have led blameless lives after prison.
New Jersey — a state with a terrible record of marginalizing former prisoners — could lead the way. Before the State Legislature in Trenton is a comprehensive package of reforms that would help ex-offenders rejoin society’s mainstream and lower the chances, and costs, of recidivism.
New Jersey lawmakers heard some depressing testimony in hearings leading up to the legislation. Deterred by barriers to jobs, housing and education, about two-thirds of the people released from prison in New Jersey end up back inside within three years. Since taxpayers spend about $48,000 per prison inmate per year, by some estimates, the state could reap significant savings from even a small decline in the return-to-prison rate.

Friends bond priest out of jail | Greeley Tribune

For the first time in almost five months, a Catholic priest who came to Weld County last August to protest nuclear weapons is out of jail.

Friends of Father Carl Kabat, 76, bonded him out of jail Monday — with his permission — after his first day of trial on misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and trespassing at a nuclear missile silo near New Raymer.

For a case involving misdemeanor charges, Monday's trial unfolded as if attorneys were dealing with more serious crimes in a weeklong case, taking almost an entire day, for example, to pick a jury of seven. Attorneys are objecting at the slightest misstep of the opposing table.

Both charges carry at most a year in jail upon conviction. If that happens, Kabat would get credit for the nearly five months he's already served.

The nature of the case, however, involves a breach of national security and a much broader concern of Catholic condemnation of nuclear weapons as a “crime against humanity.”

On Aug. 6 — the anniversary of the American bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 — Kabat drove from St. Louis to Colorado to protest nuclear weapons. He went to the N-8 missile silo of Colo. 14 west of New Raymer, hung up banners for his cause, cut a hole in the fence and went inside and prayed until he was arrested by authorities from Warren Air Force Base from Cheyenne. He's been in jail since that day, refusing to post bond to get out.

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Arapahoe DA targets probationers using medical marijuana - The Denver Post

Arapahoe DA targets probationers using medical marijuana - The Denver Post

Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers has told the 18th Judicial District probation department that she intends to revoke the probation of any person caught smoking medical marijuana, even if a judge approved it.

In a Dec. 14 e-mail to Chief Probation officer Robin Leaf, Chambers wrote:

"We are taking the position that people who use medical marijuana while on probation are in violation of federal law and must be revoked. That is true even if a judge is telling them it is not. A state judge cannot change federal law and a violation of federal law is a violation of probation.

"Obviously, we do not make the laws, we only enforce them and we cannot pick and chose (sic) which ones we enforce and which ones we do not. When we get a case where this is an issue, we will take the ruling up to the Court of Appeals so that we can get some clarification. I think the sooner we can do this, the better."

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said, through a spokeswoman, that his department is working with the courts to determine a policy about probationers and medical marijuana. In the meantime, he said each case will be decided individually. He added that no one admitted in Drug Court will be allowed to use medical marijuana.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Schwarzenegger makes last plea to U.S. Supreme Court in prison case - San Jose Mercury News

Schwarzenegger makes last plea to U.S. Supreme Court in prison case - San Jose Mercury News

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has made one last plea to the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the legality of a federal court's unprecedented order requiring California to shed nearly 40,000 inmates from its prison system over the next two years.
In court papers filed Tuesday night, state officials urged the Supreme Court to intervene in the case, following up on an appeal filed this past fall seeking to overturn a three-judge panel's orders requiring swift action to relieve prison overcrowding. The Supreme Court will consider the request at its Jan. 15 conference.
The panel found California's 33 prisons are so overwhelmed with inmates that the state can no longer provide adequate medical and mental health care, violating prisoners' constitutional rights. The judges have ordered the state to reduce the prison population to 137 percent of capacity, a move that would force at least 37,000 inmates from the system by 2012.
The governor in November submitted his latest plan to meet that goal through a number of changes, including the early release of certain nonviolent offenders, construction of new prison space and shipping more inmates out of state and into private prisons.

Man wounded by Longmont cops - The Denver Post

Man wounded by Longmont cops - The Denver Post

Prisoner Move to Colorado Puts Strain on Families

HUDSON, Colo. -- Mary Madore and Maggie Crank aren't related, but they consider one another family.
"The first time we talked, it was like we had known each other forever.  It was really something else," Crank said.
Both women lived in Alaska for 30 years, but they met for the first time in Arizona just a few years ago.
"We did not know each other... Interesting, huh? We had to come to Arizona to meet," Crank said with a laugh.
The two met through their sons, who were inmates at the Red Rock Correctional Facility in Eloy, Ariz.
"My son was in prison with her son, and her son Edward said to my son Matthew, ‘I haven't seen my mom in three years,'" Madore said.
"Matt says, 'that's no problem, she can come and stay with my mom, my mom will bring her over here to the prison. My mom's got a car'" Madore said.
In 2003, the Alaska Department of Corrections was forced to send hundreds of inmates to the medium-security facility in Arizona because of overcrowding in Alaska prisons.
Madore and Crank are two of only about a dozen who moved from the Last Frontier to the desert to be close to their loved ones.
"I don't know how many people realize, but when a loved one goes to prison, it isn't just that person that's in prison. The family is basically in prison with 'em," Madore said.
They live about 10 minutes away from the Red Rock prison, close enough to see their sons almost every day.
"It was a blessing ‘cause I could hold her hand, give her a hug and a kiss. It was nice," said inmate Edward Page, Crank's son.
"It felt good. To just feel the love of my family, to be able to see them," said Matthew Pease-Madore, Madore's son.
Now Madore and Crank can't see their sons when they want to.
All the inmates at Red Rock were recently moved to the Hudson Correctional Facility in Colorado, about 30 miles northeast of Denver.

Arguments continue in Colo. pot lawsuit - The Denver Post

Arguments continue in Colo. pot lawsuit - The Denver Post
CENTENNIAL, Colo.—A medical marijuana dispensary in this Denver suburb must wait until after Christmas to find out if it can reopen after the town forced it shut down. CannaMart finished two days of arguments Tuesday asking for an Arapahoe County judge to force Centennial to reverse the closure of the dispensary a couple months ago after just six weeks in business.
CannaMart claims cities can't ban dispensaries because voters in 2000 allowed medical marijuana in the state constitution.
"If marijuana is legalized for people with debilitating medical conditions ... the supply of it must also be legal," CannaMart lawyer Robert Corry said.
District Court Judge Christopher Cross, who initially planned to rule Tuesday, said after a full day of arguments that he would need to wait until after Christmas.
A lawyer for Centennial said a decision in CannaMart's favor would chill cities struggling to regulate proliferating dispensaries.

Al LaCabe retiring as Denver's safety chief - The Denver Post

Al LaCabe retiring as Denver's safety chief - The Denver Post

Al LaCabe, Denver's safety manager, plans to retire from his job overseeing the city's police, fire and sheriff's departments by the middle of 2010.
Eric Brown, spokesman for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, confirmed that LaCabe had informed the administration of his plans.
"It's still too early for details on a search process for a replacement," Brown said. "But we appreciate the notice he has given us."
Speculation on possible replacements has centered on Tracie Keesee, the division chief of Research, Training and Technology in the Police Department, and Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal, who reviews and oversees police discipline decisions.
The decision on who ends up as the next safety manager will ultimately rest with Hickenlooper because the position is an appointee of the mayor.
Rosenthal could not be reached.
"I'm just working here," Keesee said. "That's a new one on me."
LaCabe, who for the past six years has been in charge of formulating the city's safety policies, declined to comment.
LaCabe runs the agency responsible for spending nearly half of the city's operating budget. His duties range from deciding how to punish police officers who violate protocols to preparing budgets for agencies where life-and-death decisions are made.
During his tenure, LaCabe overhauled the way police were disciplined. He replaced a decades-old system that relied on past punishments to guide discipline decisions with a new harder-line system that spelled out specific punishments. Before his successful effort, city officials had seen six other attempts to change the department's old system fail.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Prison Costs Shackle State

Longmont Times Call

A few facts will help explain why Colorado needs to reform its criminal sentencing guidelines.
It costs an average of $28,759 a year to house an inmate, and there were 23,144 people imprisoned in Colorado last year. That’s more than $665 million. The Department of Corrections budget eats up about three times as much of the state’s general fund as it did 25 years ago.
More than one in five people sent to prison in Colorado are convicted of drug offenses, more than for any other crime.
As of 2008, 29 percent of people sent to prison in Colorado were being returned for technical violations of parole.
In 2008, 85 percent of women sent to Colorado prisons were convicted of non-violent offenses.
Colorado should be tough on crime, but as these facts reveal, the punishment can be tough on Colorado.
State leaders know that, so a commission has been charged with recommending an overhaul of the state’s sentencing guidelines. Among its reasonable goals: to ensure public safety; to make sentences proportionate to the gravity of offenses; to achieve offender rehabilitation and reduce recidivism.
Changes in sentencing for drug offenses are among those being considered, to address the problem of nonviolent offenders crowding prisons.
Members of the commission don’t want to move forward without first hearing from you.
Therefore, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett and House Rep. Claire Levy welcome your input at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4, in the Longmont City Council Chamber, 350 Kimbark St. Regardless of your stance on reform, you should be heard.

Alaskan Prisoners In Colorado

KTUUMonday, December 21, 2009

HUDSON, Colo. -- For the past three years, hundreds of Alaska prisoners were housed in Arizona because the state had nowhere to put them.
But the state's contract with Red Rock Correctional Facility in Eloy, Ariz., is up, and now 850 Alaska inmates are in a new facility a little closer to the Last Frontier.
This month all of the prisoners being housed in Arizona were transferred to Colorado.
"This really is a state-of-the-art prison. I've been to 11 different prisons that I was stationed at with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and this is probably the nicest prison I've ever been in. Of course it's the newest prison," said Rick Veach, the warden at Hudson Correctional Facility.
The Hudson Correctional Facility has 1,250 beds, but right now, only Alaskans are being housed there.
In Arizona, the facility also held prisoners from Hawaii, California and Washington.
"The buildings are spacious; it's a very nice design. We have a central control center in each building. The housing units have a lot of room," Veach said.
"I'm impressed with it. I'm impressed with the start up by Cornell staff, the programming space, the recreational space, food service, the operation," said Garland Armstrong with the Alaska Department of Corrections.
The prison also has a large recreation area, including an 8,000 square foot gymnasium with work-out equipment and two spacious outdoor recreation yards with grass -- something most of these prisoners haven't seen in quite some time.
"When I was here two weeks ago, I happened to observe the rec period for an hour or so, and some of our prisoners were on grass, in bare feet, playing soccer - which I haven't seen in 25 years in the department," Armstrong said.

Johnson: Dad will be home for Christmas joy - The Denver Post

Johnson: Dad will be home for Christmas joy - The Denver Post

I started by asking when he knew he hit bottom. Most guys would cough, hack and fiddle, trying to soft-pedal it. Not Mike Irby.

"It happened after the first year and a half in prison," he said. "I was into a lot of self-pity then, you know, how I'm a screw-up, my kids will never know me, how my life is over.

"I got fat. I was getting even lazier. One day I was sitting on my bunk in my underwear, and I just said, I can't do this anymore."

That afternoon, he signed up for classes. He talked to the teachers about what he needed to do to be successful.

He remembers the date Feb. 12, 2008, as if it were his birthday. "No forgetting that day," he says. It was the day he walked out of prison.

I think we can use all the Christmas stories we can get our hands on, and Irby's is a good one.

For the first time in 11 years, he will spend the day with his now-15- year-old daughter, Lyia, in his very own home. Trust me, this is a huge thing.

He was a burglar but, clearly, not a very good one. He explains it this way:

"I was such an avid methamphetamine user, I couldn't reason or think clearly. I had to have money and my drugs somehow, so I resorted to burglary."

Authorities in Denver, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties got him on a host of charges.

"You don't just break into one house and get 14 years," Irby, 41, says flatly.

Through his prison teachers, he entered an intensive, 18-month behavior-modification program. He was to observe others, identify their negative behaviors and apply it to his own life. It opened his eyes, he said.

Once released from prison, he immediately enrolled in James Thomas' offender re-entry program in Aurora called the Road Called STRATE, which seeks to reunite former inmates with their families by helping them find jobs, enroll in school and generally atone for their past.

Irby enrolled first in a parenting class. He "just paid attention," he said. He wanted Lyia back.

Read more:http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_14039396#ixzz0aQN9oZOz

Colorado court pulls the curtain back on adoption records - The Denver Post

This is still going to be a widespread problem when we still have parents who are losing their children because of prison and policy.
Colorado court pulls the curtain back on adoption records - The Denver Post

When Patricia Dukeman started trying to find her biological parents, Ronald Reagan lived in the White House, Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was record of the year, and the Supreme Court decided it was OK for us to use those new VCR things to tape TV shows.
In the 25 years since, Dukeman, 48, has spent a lot of money and learned a lot about Colorado adoption laws.
Yet, she's still searching.
That's partly bad luck. Like a small but significant number of adoptees, she fought long and hard to get her birth certificate, only to discover the information on it is false.
It's also because access to adoption records in Colorado is governed by a patchwork of laws stitched together through years of changing attitudes and knee-jerk reactions.
"It's a complex mix of emotions, politics and money. And rights," said Richard Uhrlaub, co-director of Adoptees in Search — the Colorado Triad Connection.
In April, however, a landmark Colorado Court of Appeals decision unlocked the vault for thousands of adults determined to learn their biological heritage.
The court ruled that, contrary to a widely enforced interpretation, adoptees do not have to hire a confidential intermediary to access their records — as long as they were born between 1951 and 1967, the years that happened to be covered in the particular law the court ruled on.
The ruling also opens up adoption files themselves, which are in the custody of the state Department of Human Services. Those files often contain clues as to why a mother gave up a baby for adoption.

Read more:http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14045792?_requestid=1445523#ixzz0aQLqJASR

Monday, December 21, 2009

Father Woody Christmas Party brings meal, gifts and cheer to a record 2,865 people in Denver - The Denver Post

Father Woody Christmas Party brings meal, gifts and cheer to a record 2,865 people in Denver - The Denver Post

2009 November Population Reports

DOC November 2009 Population Report

Early Release Program Could Increase Public Safety

Greeley Tribune
Colorado Department of Corrections director Ari Zavaras defended a plan Saturday to reduce prison costs by releasing some prisoners up for parole early.

“We didn't just decide, you know we've got the budget crisis, we've got to save some buck,” he said. “The goal of this is increased public safety. Not only do I not think this is not a public safety risk, I think we're going to increase it, and I think the research has shown that.”

Zavaras — a longtime law enforcement official and former Denver police chief — spoke at a community forum hosted by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, at the Evans Community Complex. He said some of the revenue saved by the early release program will go to increased monitoring of those on parole and programs to help the prisoners adjust back into society after leaving prison.

More than 50 people, including Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner attended the forum. Garner and Cooke expressed concerns about the plan.

Zavaras told the crowd that since its beginnings in September, only about 12 prisoners have been released early into the northern Colorado region. The early release program — officially known as accelerated release to parole — was announced in August. It is part of the effort to close the state's budget gap this year. The program allows the parole board to release prisoners who are within six months of release early.

The program was initially projected to save $19 million. Karl Spieker, the chief financial officer for the Department of Corrections said that because early releases have been slower than projected, it's too early to tell how much exactly the program will actually save. He said it costs about $20,000 a year to house a prisoner for a year.

Zavaras said that while the first objective of the plan is to improve public safety by giving paroled prisoners a better chance to return to their community without falling back into criminal activity, the budget savings also are important.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Return sanity to marijuana rules - The Denver Post

Return sanity to marijuana rules - The Denver Post

Medical pot dispensaries growing at a fast clip - The Denver Post

Medical pot dispensaries growing at a fast clip - The Denver Post

When Andy Cookston and his wife opened Denver's first medical-marijuana dispensary three years ago, they hung no sign outside their door.
They did no advertising; patients were drawn exclusively by word of mouth. They were unsure whether the state would even allow them to include their dispensary's full name — Cannabis Medical Technology — on their business license because of its pot-tinged terminology.
Such modesty is no longer a concern.
"Now that the door's been cracked open," said Cookston, who also owns a graphics company, "people are rushing it."
Colorado's medical-marijuana industry — just in its infancy — is already in the throes of a dramatic change.

Read more:http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14035186#ixzz0aKQcunSo

Officers Label Women WIth Aids

Colorado Bureau of Investigation records state Teresa Tomaino sold sex "with knowledge of AIDS."
She's outing herself as a prostitute, she says, if that's what it takes to "let people know that cops are making stuff up."
Safety officials offer no explanation for why Tomaino was branded with carrying the deadly, stigmatizing virus that she doesn't in fact have. The negligence — if not viciousness — in her case and at least one other suggest the city doesn't bother with details.
Tomaino is homeless and has spent many of her 38 years making bad choices about her body, drugs and the law. In 2007, she was busted for offering an undercover cop "a good time" in exchange for twenty bucks and carrying a crack pipe that vice officers found in her bra. She was booked on prostitution.
Fair enough. Though what happened next is sick.
After her arrest, someone with access to CBI records took it upon themselves to pile on to Tomaino's charges in the computerized database. A felony charge added without her knowledge accuses her of knowingly exposing clients to AIDS.
Health department test results disclosed by Tomaino read negative for HIV.
Prosecutors never pursued the extra charge. She learned of it this year, two years after the ticket, while seeking help to kick her drug habit, get a job and find a home.
"I was in shock. I still am," she says of the moment the letters A-I-D-S popped onto the computer screen when

a social worker called up her record.

She isn't the only one.
Kim, a 37-year-old Denver woman who also has worked as a prostitute, recalls the day she learned of the virus that she, too, doesn't have.

Read more:http://www.denverpost.com/greene#ixzz0aEey14ON

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pot doctors worrying Colorado health officials - The Denver Post

Pot doctors worrying Colorado health officials - The Denver Post

Prison Population First Drop Since 1972

DALLAS — The United States may soon see its prison population drop for the first time in almost four decades, a milestone in a nation that locks up more people than any other.
The inmate population has risen steadily since the early 1970s as states adopted get-tough policies that sent more people to prison and kept them there longer. But tight budgets now have states rethinking these policies and the costs that come with them.
"It's a reversal of a trend that's been going on for more than a generation," said David Greenberg, a sociology professor at New York University. "In some ways, it's overdue."
The U.S. prison population dropped steadily during most of the 1960s, and there were a few small dips in 1970 and 1972. But it has risen every year since, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
About 739,000 prisoners were admitted to state and federal facilities last year, about 3,500 more than were released, according to new figures from the bureau. The 0.8 percent growth in the prison population is the smallest annual increase this decade and significantly less than the 6.5 percent average annual growth of the 1990s.
Overall, there were 1.6 million prisoners in state and federal prisons at the end of 2008.
In the past, prison populations have been lower when drafts were enacted, including during World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
"People who go to war are young men, and young men are the most likely to get arrested or prosecuted," said James Austin, president of the JFA Institute, a research organization that advises states on prison issues.
The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't involved in a draft.
Instead, the economic crisis forced states to reconsider who they put behind bars and how long they kept them there, said Kim English, research director for the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.
In Texas, parole rates were once among the lowest in the nation, with as few as 15 percent of inmates being granted release as recently as five years ago. Now, the parole rate is more than 30 percent after Texas began identifying low-risk candidates for parole.
In Mississippi, a truth-in-sentencing law required drug offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentences. That's been reduced to less than 25 percent.
California's budget problems are expected to result in the release of 37,000 inmates in the next two years. The state also is under a federal court order to shed 40,000 inmates because its prisons are so overcrowded that they are no longer constitutional, Austin said.
States also are looking at ways to keep people from ever entering prison. A nationwide system of drug courts takes first-time felony offenders caught with less than a gram of illegal drugs and sets up a monitoring team to help with case management and therapy.
Studies have touted significant savings with drug courts, saying they cost 10 percent to 30 percent less than it costs to send someone to prison.
"I don't think they work. I know so," said Judge John Creuzot, a state district judge in Dallas.
The reforms in many state prisons and courts come even as crime rates continue to drop nationwide.
"It's economically driven, but the science is there to support it," Austin said. "They are saving money, but not doing it in a way that jeopardizes public safety."
One exception to the trend is Florida, which has enacted a law requiring all convicts to serve a high percentage of their sentences. The law is straining the state's prison resources.
"They know that they are stuck in a time bomb they can't get out of," Austin said.

Cañon City correctional officer avoids prison in bribery case - The Denver Post

Cañon City correctional officer avoids prison in bribery case - The Denver Post
Over the objections of a federal prosecutor, a combat veteran was sentenced Friday to five years of probation rather than prison for selling tobacco to inmates at a Florence prison.
Prosecutors wanted John K. Brownfield Jr. to spend a year and a day in prison, but Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane said he was concerned Brownfield is suffering from trauma due to serving three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Figuratively speaking, Brownfield returned from the war, but never really came home," Kane said.
Brownfield pleaded guilty to bribery of a public official for smuggling tobacco to at least seven inmates in 2007 in exchange for $3,500 in bribes.
The sentence requires Brownfield to participate in any treatment and counseling ordered by his probation officer. If he violates his probation, Brownfield faces prison time.
Brownfield, 25, of Cañon City, is a decorated Air Force veteran and was an independent overseas contractor before he began his job at the Florence prison as a correctional officer.
About three months into his deployment to Afghanistan, Brownfield responded to an explosion where he had to dig out the bodies of three adults and three children, and the incident is just one of many that altered his mental state, the judge wrote in his 28-page order.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda McMahan said there is no evidence that Brownfield has post-traumatic stress disorder and that his abuse of alcohol began before he enlisted in the military.
"I am very sympathetic to the fact that you have a veteran in front of you, but the government has treated this veteran with honor and respect," McMahan said. "He used his prior military service for his own benefit and it allowed him to obtain lucrative contracts overseas."
McMahan also argued in court records that other defendants who committed similar crimes received a sentence of a year and a day and that granting Brownfield a probationary sentence would lead to a sentencing disparity and would not provide a deterrent to other correctional employees.
McMahan said she was not sure whether the government will appeal the sentence.
Brownfield told the judge he was sorry for what he did.
"I understand what I did was wrong and I appreciate the court is hearing both sides about all this," he said. "I hope I will have the chance to change and get help through therapy and counseling."
Brownfield's attorney, Vaughn McClain, said his client did not have an alcohol and anger problem until he returned from his tours of duty.
Kane said he suspects the same and fears prison time won't solve the problem.

Laws clash in medical pot lawsuit - The Denver Post

Laws clash in medical pot lawsuit - The Denver Post

CENTENNIAL — As state and local governments try to get a grip on the burgeoning medical-marijuana industry, the city of Centennial defended in court Friday its decision to close down an existing dispensary and institute a six-month moratorium on new ones.

Three licensed users of medical marijuana along with the two owners of the CannaMart dispensary tried to convince an Arapahoe County judge that, by closing the dispensary, the city was trying to use federal law to circumvent state law and that it was trying to ban an entire industry.

"In January 2000, 54 percent of the state's voters approved Amendment 20 to the state constitution," argued attorney Robert Hoban, representing the users and dispensary owners. "No city gets to decide if Amendment 20 is right or wrong. You can't prevent an entire industry from operating within a community."

But attorney Andrew Nathan, representing Centennial, argued before Arapahoe County District Judge Christopher C. Cross that the city had the right to close the dispensary because it violated both local zoning laws and federal drug laws.

"Federal law prohibits the use of the marijuana," Nathan said. "So this dispensary never operated legally. It was located in a B-1 zoning area, which is for general office use that does not permit retail sales."

Igor Kaminer and Stan Zislis opened the CannaMart Wellness Center on East Arapahoe Road near Interstate 25 on Sept. 18, with a retail-sales license it obtained from Centennial five days earlier. The two claim to have served more than 600 patients before the city issued a cease-and-desist letter on Oct. 15.

No sooner did the first witness take the stand for the plaintiffs then Cross stopped the interrogation and asked the witness, Shannon Mosher, a licensed user, if he was aware he was forgoing his Fifth Amendment rights and incriminating himself by admitting he used marijuana.

Cross said he had just received an e-mail from Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers saying that she plans to review all trial testimony and consider prosecuting admitted users. She also advised the judge that she thinks the use of marijuana for any reason by people on probation violates the terms of their probation and that she may prosecute them.

After examination by the judge, Mosher said he was prepared to continue testifying and that he wasn't worried about being prosecuted. Another witness, Kirsten Lamb, said the same and testified about her use of medical marijuana to treat pain from her multiple sclerosis.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ritter Administration Stands By Early Release Decision

More than 200 state inmates—no sex offenders, but probably some convicted of assaults, thefts and drug charges—have left prison so far under a much-debated initiative by Gov. Bill Ritter granting some prisoners parole up to six months early. Ritter administration officials confirmed the updated status of the program this week and say they remain committed to the effort—originally touted as a budget-cutting measure—despite disappointingly low savings.
The early releases, initially projected to save the state budget $19 million, are now likely to net closer to $5 million in savings, according to Ritter administration spokesman Evan Dreyer.
Shortly after the program’s announcement last August, the initiative drew a flurry of attention from the media as well as criticism from some minority Republicans in the legislature who raised concerns about public safety. That was followed by media accounts in October indicating far fewer inmates were deemed appropriate for early release than had been anticipated—meaning scaled-back savings–and that some of those who were being released had extensive and even violent criminal histories.
Dreyer defended the program at the time as “good public policy and good fiscal policy.” However, David Michaud, Chair of the Colorado State Board of Parole, had told the Denver Post that public safety was his primary concern, trumping the budget concerns.
“I’m not going to let someone out early if I don’t think it’s safe,” Michaud said in an Oct. 15 Post report. “I don’t care how much money they save or don’t save.”
The parole board has so far granted early release to a total of 235 prisoners as of Dec. 15.  Michaud said today that no prisoners have been released who have committed serious crimes.

Dude, they're putting pot in more than brownies - The Denver Post

Dude, they're putting pot in more than brownies - The Denver Post
DENVER—Any slacker living over his parents' garage can make pot brownies. Gourmet chefs are taking the art of cooking with marijuana to a higher level. In Denver, a new medical-marijuana shop called Ganja Gourmet serves cannabis-infused specialties such as pizza, hummus and lasagna. Across town in the Mile-High City, a Caribbean restaurant plans to offer classes on how to make multi-course meals with pot in every dish.
And in Southern California, a low-budget TV show called "Cannabis Planet" has won fans with a cooking segment showing viewers how to use weed in teriyaki chicken, shrimp capellini and steak sandwiches.
The evolution of pot cooking was perhaps inevitable given the explosion of medical marijuana around the country in recent years. Many health-conscious patients would rather eat the drug than smoke it. And they would prefer to eat something other than sugary treats.
"When I started using marijuana, I was eating a brownie every day. I gained a ton of weight," said Michael DeLao, a former hotel chef who hosts the "Cannabis Planet" cooking segments on Los Angeles' KJLA. "Then I learned how to really cook with marijuana, and once more people learn about all the possibilities, we're going to see a lot more people wanting this in their food."
Ganja Gourmet's menu includes lasagna ("LaGanja"), "Panama Red Pizza" and an olive tapenade called "ganjanade," along with sweets such as cheesecake, muffins and brownies. Employees wear tie-dyed T-shirts that proclaim, "Our food is so great, you need a license to eat it!!!"
All patrons at the Ganja Gourmet must show a medical marijuana card that proves they have a doctor's permission to use pot for some kind of malady. The place opened last week, and so far, 90 percent of its business has been takeout.

How Does Someone In Jail Have A Baby With No One Noticing

Over the past year, incarcerated women and their allies have achieved a remarkable string of victories against inhumane treatment. First, they persuaded the Bureau of Prisons to issue a new policy in October 2008 limiting the use of restraints on women who are in labor, giving birth or recovering after childbirth; the Marshals Service, which transports people in federal custody, followed suit. Next, they won legislation in the spring and summer of 2009 restricting the use of restraints on pregnant women in New Mexico, Texas and New York. Finally, they successfully petitioned the US Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit for a rehearing of the full court in a case from Arkansas, which resulted in a ruling in October that shackling women in labor is unconstitutional.
These developments send a strong signal to the rest of the country to stop subjecting women to this dangerous and degrading practice. But what happens to pregnant women in prison before they wind up in chains at a hospital?
When women are brought to a hospital in shackles, the pain and humiliation they endure likely caps months of difficulty from being pregnant behind bars, months without adequate prenatal care or nutrition, or even basics like a bed to sleep on or clothes to accommodate their changing shape.
The lack of common sense and compassion with which imprisoned pregnant women are treated is chilling. Three stories illustrate the dangers women face when they cannot get anyone to take their medical needs seriously.
First, some women are not taken to the hospital until after they have already given birth, despite having informed staff members that they are in labor. Women wind up giving birth in their cells with the assistance of a nurse, corrections officer or cellmates. Others give birth in their cells with nobody to help. Both situations endanger the woman and her baby. Nineteen-year-old Terra K. screamed, pounded on the door and asked for the nurse in the Dubuque County Jail in Iowa, only to give birth alone in her cell. Afterward she asked, "How does somebody have a baby in jail without anybody noticing?"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pot dispensary near Stapleton school ignites controversy - The Denver Post

Pot dispensary near Stapleton school ignites controversy - The Denver Post

A medical-marijuana dispensary opening near a high school is creating divided opinions in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood and seems likely to have narrowly beaten new rules that could restrict dispensary operations in the city.

"I voted for medical marijuana, but I didn't expect it to be in my backyard," said Will Robbins,who lives in the neighborhood built on the site of the city's old airport.

Robbins said he has friends with debilitating diseases who would benefit from medical marijuana, which Colorado voters authorized when they passed Amendment 20 in 2000. But he said he worries about the high school students whom he used to coach in lacrosse at the nearby Denver School of Science and Technology, rated the top school in Denver.

"The last thing those students need is a medical-marijuana dispensary within a mile of them, let alone 500 feet," Robbins said.

Tonya Le, a server at the An's Lemon Grass Grille restaurant in the same commercial complex as the planned dispensary, said she doesn't understand all the fuss.

The restaurant serves alcohol near the high school but follows pertinent regulations and doesn't sell to those underage, Le said. Surely, a business selling medial marijuana could also follow proper regulations, she said.

Read more:http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14005945#ixzz0Zrm4kYTT

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cannais Therapy Institute Reform Calendar

Please attend some of these upcoming meetings and events to get further
involved in medical cannabis reform and patient rights.
Denver City Council Safety Committee Meeting
When: Wed., Dec. 16
Time: 8:30 am
Where: Council Conference Room, Room 391
City & County Building
1437 Bannock Street, Denver, CO
On the west side of the Civic Center Park.
What: Discuss Councilman Charlie Brown's proposed medical marijuana
Email: Denver City Council dencc@ci.denver.co.us
Click here to read Charlie Brown's proposal (PDF file)
Click here to read attorney Rob Corry's comments on the proposal
Court Hearing in Centennial on Constitutionality of Medical Marijuana
Business Ban
When: Fri., Dec. 18
Time: 1:30 pm
Where: Arapahoe County District Court
7325 S. Potomac St., Centennial, CO
What: A coalition of medical marijuana patients and caregivers are
challenging the City of Centennial's decision to shut down CannaMart, a
medical cannabis caregiving business. Attorneys Bob Hoban, Rob Corry, and
Jessica Corry will appear for the plaintiffs.
Sensible Colorado Stakeholder Meeting
When: Sat., De. 19, 2009
Time: 1-4pm
Where: University of Denver Sturm College of Law: Forum
2255 East Evans Ave., Denver, CO 80208-0001
What: Stakeholder Meeting to craft a unified legislative agenda for 2010.
Sponsored by: Sensible Colorado
Contact: Brian Vicente <info@sensible.org>
For more information:
NORML Monthly Re-Legalization Rally
When: Dec. 26, 2009
Time: 3pm to 5pm
Where: State Capitol Building, West Steps, Denver, CO
What: Activists will be educating the public and distributing directories
of all the state legislators. Merry Cannabis and Hempy Holidays.
Sponsored by: Mile High NORML
For more information:

AIDS Activists Cheer End to Ban on Needle Exchange Funding

AIDS Activists Cheer End to Ban on Needle Exchange Funding
For years, needle exchange programs in three dozen states have provided clean needles to intravenous drug users as a way to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. But the programs have relied solely on state and local funding because of a longtime ban at the federal level, where some have regarded needle exchange as an incentive for drug addicts to continue to use.

"People have been afraid that this is going to conflict with some sort of zero tolerance policy," says Bill McColl, who is with the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group AIDS Action. He says the vote to lift the ban is a vote for science over outdated stereotypes.

"There are eight federal reports that show that syringe exchange will decrease HIV and Hepatitis," he says. "It doesn't increase substance abuse. You know, this is a real opportunity to do some serious outreach to a population that is often overlooked."

In some places, such as Maine, needle exchange rates have been on the rise. At the Eastern Maine AIDS Network, for example, about 4,000 dirty needles are swapped out for clean ones every month. Just three years ago, only 300 clean needles were given out monthly.

Observers credit a new director with effective outreach. But Maine has also had an increase in IV drug use. And Andrew Bossie of the Maine AIDS Alliance says that's why federal funding for needle exchange is so important -- as many as 12 percent of people being infected with HIV are getting infected by injecting drugs.

"So we're really very happy that the U.S. House and Senate have lifted this ban and that we're on our way to more sound policies that prevent the spread of HIV."

Though it's a rural state, Maine has four needle exchange programs which Bossie says are all facing funding problems. Around the country there are about 200. President Obama has previously expressed support for liftting the ban on federal funding of needle exchange as a way to reduce rates of infection.

And while his expected signing of the bill later this month won't guarantee programs get additional funding, activists say it could give more options to those affected by state and local budget cuts.

Pot Advocates Have Signatures For Ballot

SF Gate

(12-14) 16:56 PST SACRAMENTO -- Advocates of legalizing marijuana say they've collected more than enough signatures to have California voters decide next year whether to tax and regulate the drug.
The signatures in support of the Tax and Regulate Initiative, which would give local governments the authority to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana, will be submitted to state election officials early next year for verification.
Delaying the submission of signatures improves the chances that the measure will be on the ballot in November, said Richard Lee, the measure's chief supporter.
The petition drive collected more than 680,000 signatures in two months, less than half the time allowed for such a drive, said Lee, who owns two marijuana businesses in Oakland - Oaksterdam University and Coffeeshop Blue Sky.
The signature-gathering effort, which was managed by a professional firm and so far has cost more than $1 million, needs 433,971 valid signatures from registered voters to make the ballot, he said.
"It's long overdue," Lee said. "It was very easy. People were eager to sign. We heard they were ripping the petitions out of people's hands to do it."
He said supporters hope to raise $7 million to $20 million to pass the measure. Law enforcement groups, including a group of narcotics officers, are expected to oppose the measure if the initiative qualifies for the ballot.
Proponents of the initiative say it is similar to the regulation of alcohol and tobacco products. It would give local governments the power to tax and regulate sales of small amounts of marijuana to adults 21 and older.
The measure also calls for increasing penalties for providing marijuana to a minor and prohibits consumption of marijuana in public, smoking marijuana while minors are present and possession of marijuana on school grounds.
Supporters say studies from the Board of Equalization, California's tax regulator, suggest that taxing and regulating of marijuana could raise as much as $1.4 billion in annual revenue.
The possibility of raising such revenue in cash-strapped California, which faces a $22 billion budget deficit in the coming year, has sparked support from some surprising sources.
"This initiative is moral, sensible and the right thing to do," Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, an effort by religious groups to ease drug laws, said Monday. "Regulating cannabis is a common-sense solution that puts our priorities in order and reflects our values."
A recent California Field Poll suggested that a majority of California voters, 56 percent, support the idea of legalizing and taxing cannabis.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Villafuerte withdraws as U.S. attorney nominee - The Denver Post

Villafuerte withdraws as U.S. attorney nominee - The Denver Post
Stephanie Villafuerte has withdrawn her name from consideration to become Colorado's next U.S. Attorney.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, who nominated her for the post, and Attorney General Eric Holder, Villafuerte said she was confident she would have "served well in this important position" but was withdrawing because of "political attacks" surrounding her role in the 2006 Colorado gubernatorial campaign.
"Unfortunately, a needless and extraneous political fight has emerged in Colorado and that fight, in my judgment has completely overshadowed the deliberative and independent assessment of my qualifications for this important office," Villafuerte wrote. "I continue to stand by my statements and maintain that my involvement was appropriate at all times."
The move comes two days after U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked that consideration of her nomination as Colorado U.S. attorney be delayed because her record is "incomplete."

Carroll: Colorado's marijuana mess - The Denver Post

Carroll: Colorado's marijuana mess - The Denver Post
State lawmakers shouldn't kid themselves about the looming fork in the road for medical marijuana, or the inescapable tradeoffs.
On the one hand, they can pass some version of Denver Sen. Chris Romer's plan to provide state licenses to marijuana dispensaries and growers. But if do, they'll solidify a marijuana industry that serves not only a rapidly growing number of genuine patients but many recreational-minded frauds as well. And Colorado will have created, in one fell swoop, a class of potentially influential marijuana entrepreneurs.
Or, lawmakers can elect to return to the medical marijuana model that Colorado followed before this year's explosion of retail dispensaries (brought about in part by a change in federal enforcement policy). If they take this path, the industry will once again sink below the public's radar as dispensaries disappear. Meanwhile, however, hundreds and maybe thousands of legitimate patients who swear by marijuana's effectiveness will be forced into an anxious world where they secure their pain or nausea relief from unregulated strangers.
As the debate sharpens, advocates on either side will deny this tradeoff exists. Some will claim that the previous system worked just fine and that dispensaries cater to a clientele that for the most part is gaming the system. Their opponents, meanwhile, will pack hearing rooms with patients relating poignant stories of their suffering before dispensaries emerged, while insisting that a well-written law will screen out bad actors.
Neither side's claims are fully believable.

A plan for medical marijuana - The Denver Post

A plan for medical marijuana - The Denver Post
Marijuana. Most people see it as a recreational drug and are skeptical of its tangible, medical benefits for patients with chronic pain, including those whose use of prescribed narcotics often leaves them vulnerable to addiction.
Take, for instance, Janice Beecher. A Coloradan since 1968, she suffers from osteoarthritis and chronic back pain. Until recently, she had to take as much as four oxycodone just to make it through the day. Fortunately for her, a permit to use marijuana legally allows her to live without debilitating pain to go days without taking this highly addictive drug.
Janice explained that "the blessing comes with the knowledge that I can pick what works for me at the dispensary. I don't have to just take what I can get on the black market."
It is cases like Janice's that compel us to make common sense policy for medical marijuana usage. Colorado voters spoke clearly when they passed a constitutional amendment that permitted medical marijuana use, but the amendment left many oversight and regulatory questions unanswered. That is why we are acting in 2010 to honor the intent of the constitution and help patients.
We need a model that, on the one hand, destigmatizes and makes available medical marijuana for those who have a medical need, and on the other, keeps it out of the hands of recreational users and black market dealers. The amendment did not fully legalize marijuana. To that end, any legislation must address the needs of a number of interested parties.
Patients must have access to physicians in good standing who can make sound recommendations. They also need reasonable access to dispensaries, and some assurance that the marijuana is safe and legally grown.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Inmate who won settlement after prison rape complains about being kept amid sex offenders - The Denver Post

Inmate who won settlement after prison rape complains about being kept amid sex offenders - The Denver Post

After paying a $70,000 settlement for failing to protect a burglar from a known prison rapist, the Colorado Department of Corrections has now transferred that burglar to a new home — surrounded by sex offenders.
James Mervin says he has nightmares and sleeps only a few hours at a time at Fremont Correctional Facility, where 76 percent of the population are sex offenders.
"I try not to get in a deep sleep," Mervin said in a recent interview at the Cañon City facility. "I have these night terrors, flashbacks. It's horrible. It's like I'm being raped again. It's like someone is overpowering you. You feel worthless, degraded."
Mervin, who agreed to allow publication of his name, was raped in 1993 by serial killer Marvin Gray, just days after Gray had raped another inmate.
In 2000, the DOC paid Mervin $70,000 to settle his claims over that incident.
Now, DOC officials have told Mervin he has his own bad behavior to blame for his placement at Fremont in May.
Mervin has gotten into trouble so often that he created his "own crisis," said a July 30 letter to Mervin from Paul Hollenbeck, DOC's classification chief. Because of the inmate's security level he can only be held in 11 of the system's 23 prisons, and many of the eligible ones are off-limits to him because of conflicts he'd had with inmates at those prisons.
"If you chose to behave differently, there would be more options open for your placement," Hollenbeck said.
Now Mervin, who is serving a life sentence for breaking into hundreds of homes, has written 28 complaint letters. He said he dreads the next assault and vows a new lawsuit.
"I feel like I am suffocating," Mervin said in a June 12 grievance letter.
It may appear on the surface that sending a rape victim to Fremont is a bad decision, but there are many factors that determine placements in a system with more than 20,000 male prisoners, DOC spokeswoman Alison Morgan said.

Read more:http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_13986806#ixzz0ZZTALMMS