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, February 02, 2010

CCJRC 2010 Legislative Agenda

2010 Legislative Session – CCJRC Agenda
This is going to be (and already has been) a very intense legislative session for CCJRC. The major themes of our legislative agenda are sentencing reform, parole reform, and removing employment barriers for people with criminal records. Some of the most anticipated bills related to sentencing reform have not yet been introduced but will be shortly. Our highest priority is passage of a sensible drug sentencing reform bill that would lower sentences for drug use and drug possession in order to achieve cost savings in the Department of Corrections that can be reinvested into community-based treatment.  This bill was developed by the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (in which CCJRC participated) and has bi-partisan support both in the House and Senate. 
Due to the volume of bills we are working on and our concern about over-taxing our members, CCJRC will only send out action alerts on bills that look like they really need community input, whether that’s to support or oppose. We will keep you posted frequently during the legislative session.
One of the major discussions at the legislature is what to do with CSP II, the administrative segregation prison (long-term, solitary confinement) that the state authorized construction for using a form of debt financing called certificates of participation.  In 2003, CCJRC opposed this bill in 2003 and filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the funding mechanism without voter approval.  CCJRC was unsuccessful its efforts. However, what we said is coming to be true. Don’t build a prison you don’t need with a form of debt financing you can’t afford. CCJRC will be engaged in these debates, particularly to raise awareness around the high rate of incarceration of the mentally ill and people broadly labeled as “gang” members, who make up the majority of people confined in long-term solitary confinement in Colorado.
Wish us luck…. help us out….. There’s an awful lot on the table this year!
HB 1023: Concerning Clarifying Civil Liability Regarding Negligent Hiring Practices For An Employer That Hires A Person With A Criminal Record
Sponsors:  Representative Mark Waller (R) and Senator Evie Hudak (D); co-sponsors include Representatives Gagliardi (D), Kagan (D), Kefalas (D), Summers (R) and Senators Boyd (D), Sandoval (D), Scheffel (R), and White (R)
CCJRC Position: SUPPORT (priority)
Description: CCJRC helped develop this bill which was endorsed by the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction task force chaired by Rep. Kefalas. This bill would limit the admissibility of evidence of an employee’s criminal history in a civil action against an employer where the criminal history did not have a direct relationship to the underlying cause of action in the civil case, the criminal record was sealed prior to the acts underlying the cause of action, the criminal history consists of an arrest that did not lead to a criminal conviction, the conviction received a pardon, or the defendant successfully completed a deferred judgment. This bill was unanimously approved by the House Judiciary Committee on January 28, 2010.
HB 1112: Concerning the “Correctional Education Program Act of 1990”
Sponsors: Representative Miklosi (D) and Senator Newell (D)
CCJRC Position: SUPPORT (priority)
Description:  This bill is the result of a report CCJRC issued in August 2009 that highlighted deficiencies in vocational programs offered in prison. In particular, CCJRC raised concerns that very few people in need of vocational programming actually received it while in prison, that many of the vocational programs offered do not provide training in skills that are marketable in today’s economy, that completion rates are unacceptably low, and that there is inadequate reporting of vocational program performance and cost by the Department of Corrections. This bill sets performance measures for vocational programs to include market-relevant training and mandates an annual report. This bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on February 1, 2010, on a vote of 9-1 (with one excused).
SB 54: Concerning The Provision Of Educational Services For Juveniles Against Whom Charges Have Been Filed in District Court
Sponsors: Senators Hudak (D), Steadman (D) and Representative Levy (D)
Description: This bill requires school districts to provide educational services during the school year to a juvenile who is held, pending trial as an adult, in a jail located within the school district (unless the juvenile has already obtained a GED or graduated from high school). The school district is also required to comply with the federal “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” if the juvenile has a disability. On January 27, 2010, this bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-2 vote (1 excused) and was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill has over a $100,000 fiscal note which could make passage difficult in a year of budget cuts.
SB 06:  Concerning Reductions in Barriers to Obtaining Identity-Related Documents
Sponsors: Senator Boyd (D) and Representative Summers (R); co-sponsors include Senators Hudak (D), Sandoval (D), White (R) and Representatives Gagliardi (D), Kefalas (D), and Waller (R)
CCJRC Position: SUPPORT (priority)
Description: This is another bill that is coming out of the Economic Opportunity & Poverty Reduction Task Force. CCJRC participated in this task force and was able to include some provisions that would impact people who were struggling to get identification documents after release from prison. Among other things, this bill would prohibit the state from charging a fee to obtain a birth certificate if referred by a state agency or county department of social services or human services. The bill would also restore, in limited circumstances, the authority of a district court to allow a person with a criminal record to legally change their name with notification to all necessary parties. This bill is currently scheduled to be heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on February 4, 2010.
HB 1011: Concerning Authorization for the Department of Revenue to Obtain Fingerprint-Based Criminal History Record Checks for Employment Purposes
Sponsors: Legislative Audit Committee Members - Representatives J. Kerr (R), McNulty (R), Miklosi (D), Primavera (D) and Senators Schultheis (R), M. Carroll (D), Mitchell (R), and Tochtrop (D)
CCJRC: Seeking amendment
Description: This bill would authorize the Department of Revenue to obtain fingerprint-based criminal history record checks for current and prospective department employees with access to driver’s licenses and state identification cards or personal identifying information. It also allows the Department to use information obtained from the background check in making employment decisions. CCJRC is seeking an amendment to clarify that the Department may use this information in making employment decisions “when such criminal history reveals information that a current employee or prospective employee would be unfit or pose a risk to the public given the specific responsibilities of the position.” With this amendment, CCJRC is attempting to prevent a blanket policy of not hiring (or retaining) employees that have a criminal background regardless or how long ago it was or how unrelated the criminal history is to the job duties.  This bill has been assigned to the House Finance Committee but has not yet been calendared for a hearing.
HB 1082: Concerning Disqualification From School Employment For Conviction of Certain Offenses, And, In Connection Therewith, Enacting the “Felon-Free Schools Act of 2010”
Sponsors: Representative McNulty (R) and Senator Penry (R)
Description: This is a similar bill to the one Representative McNulty introduced last year that CCJRC opposed and that was killed in the House Judiciary Committee. This bill would prohibit a school district or public school from employing as a nonlicensed employee a person who has a conviction for certain offenses, including any felony drug offense. The bill also amends existing mandatory disqualifications for licensed educators to include any conviction for a felony drug offense.  This bill is currently scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on February 4, 2010.
HB 1201: Concerning Duties Related To Peace Officer Contacts
Sponsors: Representative Middleton (D), T. Carroll (D), Ferrandino (D), McFadyen (D), Miklosi (D), Pace (D), Vigil (D), and Weissman (D) and Senator Steadman (D)
Description: This bill was developed by the Colorado Progressive Coalition and CCJRC joined their effort to seek its passage. The bill would require a peace officer to receive written consent from a person before an officer can conduct a consensual search of a car, person in the car, a home or a pedestrian. The consent applies only to searches where there is no legal basis for the search but the officer is seeking permission for the search (aka consensual searches). The Colorado Progressive Coalition anticipates that there will be efforts to amend the bill by law enforcement. This bill is currently scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on February 22, 2010.
HB 1090: Concerning the Punishment for a Person Who Is Convicted Of Driving A Motor Vehicle With Knowledge That His Or Her Driver’s License Is Under Restraint
Sponsors: Representative Waller (R) and Senator Morse (D)
Description: This bill would eliminate the mandatory 5-day jail sentence for a person who is convicted of driving a motor vehicle or off-highway vehicle upon any highway of the state with knowledge that his other license or privilege to drive is under restraint for any reason other than conviction of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while ability impaired (DWAI), or underage drinking and driving.   This bill passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee on January 28, 2010.
HB 1104: Concerning Authorization For the Establishment Of A Veterans Treatment Court Program in Judicial Districts
Sponsors: Representative Looper (R) and Senators Williams (D) and Penry (R)
CCJRC Position: Seeking Amendment
Description: The bill authorizes each judicial district to establish a program for the treatment of certain defendants who are veterans or members of the military (veterans court). A court may place an active duty or veteran of the military in a supervision program without entering a judgment of conviction, unless the defendant committed an offense for which the suspension of sentence or sentence of probation is prohibited by state law. The court may seal court and arrest documents if the defendant is successfully discharged from supervision, unless the district attorney objects. Currently, veterans who have been dishonorably discharged would not be eligible for veterans court and CCJRC is seeking an amendment to include the dishonorably discharged. This bill is currently scheduled to be heard before the House Judiciary Committee on February 8, 2010.
HB 1219: Concerning the Authorization For the Sale of Correctional Facilities Owned by the Department of Corrections
Sponsors: Representative Vaad (R) and Senator Penry (R)
Description: This bill authorizes the executive director of the Department of Corrections to sell by competitive bid the correctional facilities owned by the state. Under current law, private prisons may only house medium security or lower security inmates. The bill removes that limitation. This bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Sentencing reform recommendations from the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (CCJJ)
The following summaries are sentencing and parole reforms that were recommended by the CCJJ that requires legislation to implement. These bills have not yet been introduced in the legislature but we anticipate they will be shortly. Where bill sponsors are known, they are indicated.  These will all be priorities for CCJRC.
HB____: Drug sentencing reform
Sponsors: Representative Mark Waller (R) and Senators Steadman (D) and Mitchell (R)
CCJRC Position: SUPPORT (priority)
Description: on 11/13/09, the Commission approved significant reforms to drug sentencing laws. Most of the sentencing reforms are focused on lower level use/possession offenses and marijuana reform.
HB ______:  Escape
Sponsors: Representative Terrance Carroll (D) and Senator ___________
Description:  The Commission approved legislation to modify the escape statute to repeal the mandatory and consecutive provisions (while still giving the court discretion to impose a consecutive sentence) for people on diversion in community corrections and people on ISP-parole. Inmates from DOC that are in halfway houses (called “transition” clients) would still face the mandatory consecutive sentence for walking away from a halfway house. 
HB_______: Two-prior felony rule
Sponsors: Representative Beth McCann (D) and Senator ____________
Description: The Commission approved legislation that would only apply the two-prior felony rule if one of the prior convictions was for a crime of violence.  The two-prior felony rule states the people who have two prior felony convictions cannot be sentenced to probation on a third felony conviction without consent of the district attorney.
HB ______:  Increasing earned time
Sponsors: ___________
Description: In 2009, CCJRC worked to get HB 1351 passed which increased earned time from 10 days to 12 days a month for people in prison if they met specific eligibility requirements and required the parole board to release people who met this same set of eligibility requirements either 30 days (if convicted of a class 6 felony) or up to 60 days (if convicted of a class 4 or 5 felony) prior to the mandatory release date. These eligibility criteria included no history of a violent conviction, not serving a sentence for a violent offense, and no prison rule violations.  The Commission approved some revisions to this bill, including:
·         Putting a time limit on when prison write-ups would disqualify an otherwise eligible inmate.   If an inmate received a code of penal discipline (COPD) conviction within the past twelve months for a Class II violation or within the past twenty-four months for a Class I COPD conviction, then they would be not be eligible for the increased earned time.  
·         Limiting the disqualification for certain offenses only to the felony crimes enumerated under the particular statute (in other words, excluding the misdemeanor offenses).
·         Adding a number of other crimes that would make someone ineligible, to include CRS §§ 18-6-701 (contributing to the delinquency of a minor), 18-3-303 (false imprisonment), 18-3-305 (enticement of a child) and 18-3-306 (internet luring of a child).
HB______: Eliminating several mandatory arrest requirements for parolees 
Sponsors: _________________________
Description: The Commission approved a recommendation (upon request of the DOC), to eliminate several of the mandatory arrest requirements for parolees under CRS § 17-2-207(3). Examples include, if a parolee leaves the state without lawful permission; if a parolee is within a county where a correctional facility is located without permission; if a parolee resides within a county where a correctional facility is located without permission. Under current law, these scenarios trigger a mandatory arrest by the parole officer. This modification would remove the mandatory arrest and leave the discretion to the parole officer as to what course of action is appropriate (arrest or not.)
At its next meeting (2/5/10), the Commission will be voting on another proposal that would make changes to the statutory parole guidelines. CCJRC has been working very hard on this proposal for the past six months.  

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