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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deputies should be on paid leave - The Denver Post

Deputies should be on paid leave - The Denver Post

A fatality in the intake area at the new Denver jail raises questions about why deputies who subdued the man who eventually died remain on active duty.

The death of homeless pastor Marvin Booker is under investigation, but we find it odd that the deputies who forcibly restrained Booker and administered electric shocks to him before he was found dead continue to work at the jail.

The deputies ought to be placed on paid administrative leave while investigators review the death and determine if there was any wrongdoing by deputies. Booker, 56, was being processed at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility for a charge of possessing drug paraphernalia in the early-morning hours of July 9.

Two witnesses who were contacted separately by The Denver Post's Kirk Mitchell describe events that preceded Booker's death that, if true, are beyond troubling. Both witnesses were also at the jail due to arrests. The two men were charged with minor offenses and have had previous brushes with law enforcement.

Booker, while an ordained minister, was no stranger to police, though the bulk of his arrests for disorderly conduct type offenses in Denver occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.

The witnesses said Booker was sitting in the open intake area at the new jail that is meant, by its design, to minimize violent disputes. Because the facility allows inmates to move about more freely and doesn't confine them to crowded cells — unless they present a known danger — experts say conflicts should be fewer than at the holding tank of the old jail.

Nevertheless, when a deputy called Booker to the processing desk, tensions soon escalated. Booker refused to take a seat, saying he preferred to stand. When the deputy threatened to have Booker placed in a holding cell, he allegedly headed off to get his shoes.

A scuffle turned into a struggle, and witnesses said as many as five deputies held Booker face down on the floor, while one of them held the man in a headlock and another shocked him with a Taser.

Booker went limp and the deputies reportedly hauled him into a holding cell and left him face down on the floor. The witnesses told Mitchell they saw that Booker didn't appear to be breathing and told the guards, who had reportedly high-fived each other after leaving Booker in the cell.

Mitchell reported that as of last Friday, Denver police detectives investigating the fatality had not yet talked to the two inmates who said they witnessed Booker's treatment. We hope they do so.

Typically, if a law enforcement officer kills a suspect, the officer is placed on paid administrative leave while the death is investigated, even if the use of force appears justified from the outset.

Jail spokesman Capt. Frank Gale tells us that it remains unclear that Booker's death resulted from his treatment. A coroner's report has not yet been completed.

The city's position is that such leave would be inappropriate. We don't follow that logic.

It's unfair to leave the deputies on the job when their actions are under a cloud that could affect how they respond to future incidents. And it's also unfair to Denverites so long as there is a possibility that the deputies used unnecessary force.

Officials should rethink their position.

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