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.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cost-effective justice - Boulder Daily Camera

Cost-effective justice - Boulder Daily Camera

State legislators are moving toward reducing Colorado`s criminal justice costs, while emphasizing treatment -- rather than the more expensive incarceration -- of criminals who abuse substances.

One of these laws is House Bill 1352, which on Friday advanced out of the appropriations committee on its way to the full House.

The state now houses more than 4,500 prisoners convicted of non-violent drug crimes under its rarely-reformed state laws that make possessing even small amounts of drugs a felony.

Keeping addicts out of lengthy, pricey prison sentences, and focusing on their addictions, will reduce recidivism and slash costs up front. The bill, based on recommendations from by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, has wide bi-partisan support, and is expected to save the state $50 million in the first five years. It was endorsed by more than 50 community organizations, including police associations, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Drug Endangered Children and the Independence Institute.

The law dictates that a portion of the savings be directed to community-based programs that treat addictions.

The bill marks a triumph of common sense over the desire to punish scofflaws: It lowers the penalty for just using drugs. It lowers the charge for small amounts of marijuana, two ounces or less, to a petty offense to be punished by a fine of "not more than $100." It includes exceptions for medical marijuana, which is legal in Colorado.

Intuitively, we know that an addict with some cocaine and a dealer who doles out death for profit are different: The laws too often treat them the same. This law draws the important distinction between possessing drugs (other than marijuana) and being involved in the manufacturing, selling or distributing those drugs. It maintains felony charges for adults who sell or give drugs to children. It includes stiff penalties for those with drugs who have deadly weapons within their immediate reach.

The bill also marks triumph of the commission itself. The group included a couple of dozen members of the criminal justice system`s often-quarrelsome sides: from district attorneys to public defenders, judges and sheriffs, victim advocates and treatment providers.

"We`re very pleased about the amount of work that we were able to get done. This body doesn`t typically work together as well as it did," said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, the Judiciary Committee Chair.

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