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.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Colorado boot camp graduates final class of inmates - The Denver Post

Colorado boot camp graduates final class of inmates - The Denver Post

The last graduating class from a military-style prison boot camp in Buena Vista received certificates Thursday, ending a program that failed to meet expectations and became too costly to run.

If Thursday's class of 23 follows the record of previous graduates, 12 of them will commit new crimes within three years of their release.

Although given big rewards — including shorter prison sentences — 51 percent of the 155 inmates released from prison through boot camp in fiscal year 2007 have already returned to prison.

The 51 percent recidivism rate of these nonviolent offenders was only 2 percentage points better than the record of inmates convicted of crimes such as robbery and murder.

"The lowest-risk offenders go into the camp," said Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections. "You would have expected a huge difference in recidivism."

The boot camp graduates were rewarded as though their prospects for success were dramatically raised. The graduates were five times as likely to win an early release as their peers. They qualified for release 28 months before their parole eligibility dates and were immediately eligible for sentence reductions.

But the deciding factor leading to the closure of the program was it became too costly as fewer inmates qualified or volunteered for the program. Just in the past year, the cost per inmate rose from $78 a day to $110.

Low-risk inmates drop

Colorado's prison system has seen a steady drop in the number of minimum-security inmates, while the number of more dangerous offenders is climbing steadily, Sanguinetti said. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of boot camp enrollees dropped 40 percent from 540 to 322.

In a state suffering a budget crisis, the DOC had to shift funds from the boot camp to higher-security prisons, she said.

The three-month boot camp, which opened in 1991, offered a GED program, substance-abuse treatment and immediate consequences for bad behavior. About 90 percent of the offenders had drug- or alcohol-abuse problems, Sanguinetti said.

But the duration of the counseling may not have been long enough to result in permanent change. They may have done better if given ongoing drug treatment, she said.

Colorado is far from the only state to achieve disappointing results from a boot camp program. In Pennsylvania, a 2000 study found that boot camp graduates were actually more likely to fail at following parole restrictions after their release from prison, and only slightly less likely than the general prison population to commit new crimes.

A June 2003 U.S. Department of Justice study determined that nationally there were only small or negligible differences in recidivism rates between boot camp graduates and the general prison population.

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