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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Colorado Senate panel approves needle-exchange measure - The Denver Post

Colorado Senate panel approves needle-exchange measure - The Denver Post

A bill to allow needle exchange programs for illegal drug users cleared a Senate committee today amid complaints from Republicans the legislation would subsidize junkies and condone shooting up.

Under current laws governing drug paraphernalia, local health authorities can collect dirty syringes but can't pass out clean ones to drug users. Senate Bill 189, sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, would create an exception to allow local health authorities to operate needle exchange programs without fear of prosecution.

"This is a public health issue," Steadman told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Steadman, who lives just a few blocks from the Capitol, said he finds used needles in the bushes and the alleys around his house.

"This isn't just a risk for me, this is a risk for the children that play in our neighborhood," he said.

Steadman said Hepatitis C and HIV is commonly spread through dirty needles, and repeated studies have shown that needle exchange programs don't increase the rate of drug use in a community.

Boulder County already operates such a program, despite the law. Health officials there testified in favor of the bill, as did Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, a Democrat who recently announced his intention to run for state attorney general.

But Republicans were skeptical.

"We're creating a new policy that says we endorse distribution of drug paraphernalia," said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. "This is a major policy change for the state of Colorado."

Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said the bill was a move toward eliminating "the negative consequences of this behavior that's not acceptable to the majority of Coloradans."

In a statement released later, Senate Republicans said Democrats were essentially endorsing illegal drug use.

"Dirty needles are an occupational hazard for drug users, sure, but so are laced drugs and gun fights," Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said in the statement. "Does Senator Steadman think we should buy heroin and bullet proof jackets for druggies too?"

The committee approved the bill on a 5-2 vote, with Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, the only Republican voting in favor. The measure now moves to the full Senate.

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