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.
Proposition 102 tries to hoodwink voters into thinking it would make us safer.
But backers may have another interest: Boosting the bail bond industry's profits.
Don't just take my word for it. A broad coalition is rallying against the measure that would add to the list of charges for which defendants must post bond.
Police chiefs and district attorneys say the proposal doesn't ensure public safety. Sheriffs say it would crowd jails and force the release of higher-risk inmates. The criminal defense bar and civil-rights activists say it would add to economic disparities: Poor folks would be locked up while the wealthy walk free.
"This isn't about fighting crime," says Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson. "This in my mind only benefits the for-profit bond industry in Colorado."
Nationwide, bondsmen are fighting pretrial services that keep arrestees out of jail by tracking them with ankle bracelets, Breathalyzers and other forms of monitoring. The industry sees those programs as competition and blasts them as unsafe.
"By releasing people without requiring them to post any security, the State is inviting these dangerous criminals to become fugitives, and that makes them much more likely to continue victimizing the people of Colorado," claims Safe Streets Colorado, the Pro-102 campaign.
The group's characterization of pretrial programs as "criminal welfare" is unfounded. Those services cost far less than jailing people awaiting plea deals, trials and sentencing. And they ensure more oversight than bondsmen who pocket their premiums and cross their fingers that clients show up for court.
"It's not a welfare system. It's a safety mechanism whereby people who are released pending prosecution are watched, supervised or in treatment. It's a lower-cost alternative to having them sit in jail," says the District Attorneys Council's Ted Tow.
Complaints are rising against Colorado's 500 licensed bondsmen. Last month, the state fined International Fidelity Insurance Company $442,000. Two other companies are under investigation for ripping off customers.
Prop 102's registered agent is 21-year-old Matt Duran, who describes himself as a video game junkie and napper.
Mike Donovan, the guy leading the effort, moved to Colorado just before launching the measure and says his interest is "purely ideological."
As it happens, he works for Pennsylvania- based Bail USA, a national industry giant.
Its campaign in Colorado is under fire for allegations that it staged a fake protest last week. A group picketed in front of the Mesa County Sheriff's Office and justice center, decrying officials for opposing Prop 102. According to the sheriff, about 20 were hired through a temp agency. At least one was on a county work- release program. He earned four hours of pay for one hour of spirited chanting.
Donovan says Safe Streets didn't rent the phony rabble-rousers.
But the county isn't so sure.
"Be wary of anybody who resorts to the shameful practice of hiring protesters," warns Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey.