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, May 10, 2010

Denver's need and cost for jail annex sparks debate - The Denver Post

Denver's need and cost for jail annex sparks debate - The Denver Post

The city of Denver has spent about $300,000 incarcerating Ron Schnei der on more than 500 criminal charges and municipal violations in the past 20 years, mostly because of run-ins after he huffs paint.

Schneider says in court records that he once had a promising career as a chef, managing the kitchen at the Paramount Cafe and working on the cooking staff for U.S. Sen. Gary Hart.

Now, the 50-year-old shuttles in and out of homeless shelters and jail.

Schneider, who could not be reached for comment, is described by judges as a model prisoner who teaches other inmates cooking skills in the jail's kitchen.

Privately, city officials have been holding an intense debate over the best way to handle people like Schnei der.

The outcome of those discussions could decide whether the city continues with plans to build a $25 million jail annex along Smith Road to supplement the inmate cells already there.

Denver Councilman Doug Linkhart wants to block the new 256-bed jail annex, approved by voters in 2005, and steer the money the city would spend operating the annex toward rehabilitation programs.

Declining jail populations make the annex unnecessary now that the city has built a new 1,500-bed downtown jail, Linkhart said.

He said he may push for a ballot issue asking the voters whether they would rather spend the annex's $25 million construction costs on recreation centers.

The city could also redirect the money toward another "justice-related" construction project, which would mean the issue would not have to go back to the voters, he said.

At the very least, Linkhart said, he hopes to delay for at least a year consideration of the construction contract.

"We're not supposed to be running a boarding room," he said. "Jail is supposed to be for people who are criminals, not people who are troubled. So many in there are just troubled."

On the other side are officials in the sheriff department who say blocking the annex would disrupt their long- range plans for the city's jail system.

Department officials want to tear down seven buildings at the Smith Road location that they view as antiquated, construct the annex and build a new parking lot.

Reforms reduced population

The plans at Smith Road were approved by voters as part of a $378 million justice-center package that also authorized a new courthouse and a new downtown jail along with the annex.

Shortly after voters approved the package, skyrocketing inmate populations had some fearing the city should have pushed for even more jail space.

Work by the Crime Prevention and Control Commission, which Linkhart chaired for two years, helped bring inmate populations down.

The city is now spending $2.3 million annually on programs pushed by the commission.

One city study found that the reforms reduced the average daily jail population by 227 inmates.

Throughout this year, David Edinger, special assistant to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper handling safety issues, has been listening to Linkhart and officials in the sheriff department to try to bridge the divide.

This week, Linkhart pressed his case in a closed-door meeting with Hickenlooper, City Council President Jeanne Robb and others.

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