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.
For Eric Miracle, 40, the past four years have been . . . well, a miracle.
Miracle had spent almost 10 years in and out of prisons and jails, his methamphetamine addiction fueling thefts and family turmoil.
His three small children grew up without him, their mother struggling to provide for them. His wife was pregnant with his second child when he did his first stint in the Colorado Department of Corrections. When he was released from prison in 2002, he went right back to drug use, the wrong crowd and getting in trouble.
When confronted with prison again, his family wrote letters and pressured the court to send Miracle to an addictions program at Arrowhead Correctional Center in Cañon City. It was called Crossroads to Freedom.
Instead, the judge sentenced him to prison for theft and told Miracle he'd have to figure out a way to get into the program if it was really what he wanted.
He did. Although there was a waiting list, he kept writing staff at the addictions therapeutic community. Eventually, he was admitted.
"You have to be willing to give up your way of thinking, give up everything, and trust someone else. If it wasn't for that program, I wouldn't be where I am today," Miracle says.
Today, he is a graduate of the program at Arrowhead, as well as Peer I, a therapeutic community in Denver, where he chose to continue his treatment instead of being put on parole. "Peer I taught me that even though you're a felon, it's not how you lived before. It's about how you live today and tomorrow."
Miracle is four years into his goal of becoming a journeyman electrician in Denver. And last month, he married his second wife, who is equally committed to sobriety. His children, now teens, spend summers with him.
Participation in a therapeutic community in prison and then in the community reduces recidivism, thus saving money in an already distressed economic environment. It also greatly reduces generational criminal and addictive behavior. Combined treatment in prison and then in the community is cost-effective, and studies show that the treatment works. For every $1 invested in treatment, there is a $7 return to the community.
In his 2008 budget report to the Colorado legislature, Department of Corrections executive director Ari Zavaras wrote, "In 1998, a department outcome study found that therapeutic community participants who stayed in treatment at least six months had a 43 percent reduction in recidivism rates when compared to control groups."
Further, "A continuation study completed in 2004 has shown that the outcome effect is dramatically improved when prison treatment is combined with the community Peer I TC [therapeutic community] and parole supervision."
The recidivism rate for offenders who did not participate in any form of therapeutic community was 45 percent. With the prison therapeutic community alone, the rate dropped to 37 percent. With prison and community programs combined, recidivism rates dropped to 8 percent.
Zavaras cited this data when asking for increased funding for prison and community corrections substance abuse treatment. The state increased funding, but not at the level requested.
The prison and community corrections programs focus not only on addiction treatment, but also on behavior modification, cognitive behavioral approaches designed to promote positive social attitudes, and emotional growth and development. Participants focus on changing criminal thinking errors that led them to incarceration.