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.
Guadalupe Herrera was an eighth-grader at Skyview Middle School, a tough girl with attitude and a gang wardrobe, when she learned another girl was spreading rumors about her. One day, she walked by the girl, who pointed at her and began whispering.
"I said, 'If you've got something to say to me, say it to my face,' " said Guadalupe, who turned and walked away. "I wasn't even 5 feet away from her when she said, 'That psycho border-hopper.'
"It was like a spit in the face," Guadalupe said. "I was born and raised here. I'm just as American as she is. My blood zoomed up. I started shaking."
Guadalupe's violent reaction, which ended with her arrest after pummeling her tormenter on a field outside the school, made her
part of the fastest-growing criminal segment at both the state and federal levels: teenage girls.
"I hit her hard, with everything I had," Guadalupe said. "I was bombing on her."
In Colorado, while overall violent crime by girls has gone down, the number of assaults — such as Guadalupe's fistfight — has gone up about 5 percent a year since 2001, said Lisa Pasko, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Denver.
Pasko has just completed a two-year study of violent middle-school and high-school girls in Colorado's juvenile-justice system, funded by a grant from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, to find out how best to reduce the number of girls in the system and prevent recidivism. The report, scheduled to be presented to the state's Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Task Force on Dec. 1, shows a spike in the number of girls in the system.
Between 2003 and 2006, the commitment rate for girls ages 12 to 17 increased 52 percent, while the detention rate increased 28 percent. Commitment is long-term incarceration, similar to prison, while detention is for shorter terms, like a county jail.