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.
In Afghanistan, Colorado's Bill Zalman is leading a team of U.S. corrections experts who are training wardens of that nation's 33 regional prisons how to solve ancient problems with new tools and strategies.
"Prison is prison the world around," Zalman said in a telephone interview from his office in Kabul. "What we offer is a modern-day corrections program."
They teach their Afghan counterparts how fixing septic systems prevents disease and that teaching rug-weaving reduces prison violence. They also school them in defense tactics against an attack from outside the prison.
Zalman's work in Afghanistan is part of an expanding role by Colorado corrections experts in teaching prison operators in small nations around the globe from Afghanistan to Morocco to Mexico how to safely hold and transport prisoners.
Dozens of Mexican federal corrections officers recently spent three weeks in a Colorado transportation training program, and other Colorado experts are in Central America training guards how to deal with gang members.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David T. Johnson, who heads the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said he tapped Colorado because the state is a leader in the U.S. in the corrections field, along with California and Maryland.
Johnson toured Four Mile Correctional Facility in Cañon City last week, reviewing many of the state's vocational training programs that range from running a 3,000-head goat farm to a culinary arts program for inmates who could one day become chefs.
Ari Zavaras, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, said inmates not only learn trades but develop a work ethic that keeps them out of trouble in prison and prevents recidivism.
Johnson said part of the reason he asked experts from state prison systems to do the federally funded training instead of federal prison experts was because the state systems were closer in size and role to some of the smaller developing nations they were helping.
He said the Afghan prisoners, while including Taliban insurgents, are mostly garden-variety criminals, including thieves.
Zalman accepted a contracting role in Afghanistan within a month after retiring as DOC's director of offender services, in which he oversaw the department's risk- assessment system and vocational training.