Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prison violence requires answers - The Denver Post

Prison violence requires answers - The Denver Post

Colorado's budget crisis is exacting a grim and vicious toll on some state prisoners.

An uncomfortable number of high-risk inmates are now being housed with less dangerous offenders, creating a volatile mix that has led to three inmate murders and a surge of assaults.

The problem could be solved if Colorado had the money to staff a new, $208 million maximum-security prison that workers will finish building in CaƱon City this summer.

But where, in these times of budgetary woes, to get the $20.5 million to run the facility that will sit empty?

The problem is indicative of the difficult fiscal dilemmas the new governor of Colorado will face. We think the candidates for Colorado governor should address the problem on the campaign stump and tell us how it might be solved.

Given the strictures on the state budget, merely saying they'd make cuts elsewhere won't work. Do you cut K-12 education further — and how, given the constraints of Amendment 23? Or do you whack higher education again? Would you raise revenues, and how?

Gov. Bill Ritter tried to save money by letting certain prisoners within six months of mandatory release out of prison early. But the savings have been less than projected because the parole board struggled with difficult decisions about which inmates could be trusted to move into early release.

Lawmakers now must cut $1.4 billion from the state budget, which already has been assiduously trimmed.

Colorado State Penitentiary II, the new 948-bed maximum-security prison, was intended to house some of the state's more dangerous prisoners, keeping them in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. A year ago, Ritter pitched the idea of delaying its opening to save money as the state contemplated cutting spending on education, mental health services and furloughing state workers.

These difficult choices now will fall to the next governor. We'd like to hear how Republicans Scott McInnis and Dan Maes and Democrat John Hickenlooper would handle it.

A Denver Post story by staff writer Kirk Mitchell, published Sunday, said instances of inmates assaulting one another have grown by 16 and 17 percent annually during the past couple of years. At the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, 45 percent of the inmates at the medium-security prison are too dangerous to be there, according to the story.

No comments: