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, May 26, 2010

Program helps parolees embrace life without gangs - The Denver Post

Program helps parolees embrace life without gangs - The Denver Post

Alexander Garcia is letting his hair grow longer to hide a gang tattoo emblazoned in thick, dark letters on the nape of his neck.

For the 35-year-old father and former gang leader, it is much more than a symbolic gesture as he attempts to sever ties with a gang whose allegiance kept him locked up most of his life.

Garcia must change the way he speaks, dresses, walks and thinks. He must stop visiting his old "'hood," never meet with former gang members and swallow his pride when taunted by former rivals.

"It's a whole different mind-set," Garcia said. "It's time for me to hang up my guns."

On Tuesday night, Garcia and seven other parolees accepted graduation certificates from "Flippin' the Script," a six-week program recently created through a collaboration between state parole officials and the Rev. Leon Kelly, executive director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.

"Each of these guys have a huge rap sheet," Kelly said. "I've always felt if these kids were given the support they needed, they could break away from gangs."

Tim Hand, Colorado's deputy director of parole, said the program is completely voluntary. It was offered to 450 parolees identified with gang affiliations. About 50 expressed interest in joining but ultimately 10 signed up.

The first meeting was about two months ago. The offenders met at a parole office every Thursday, and Kelly had individual meetings with them. Kelly said two of the younger parolees, who still have the "rabbit in them," lost interest and stopped coming.

The program doesn't offer direct incentives, such as promises of reduced parole terms, but the skills they learn can possibly help them avoid parole revocations and could earn them increased privileges, Hand said.

"We want to see evidence of true sincerity," he said. "We want to see tattoos removed. They have to come in and work, participate in the discussions."

The group works much like a 12-step substance-abuse program. Members talk about the unique challenges of their circumstances: re-establishing relationships with wives and children after prison stints, finding a job despite a criminal record, and finding transportation to work.

Kelly, who served time in prison in the 1970s and 1980s before earning a doctorate in religion from Colorado Christian University, offers his advice, but much of the discussion is generated by men who are trying to to leave white-supremacist, black and Latino gangs.

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