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.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No On Prop 102

Aurora Sentinel

For more than 200 years, Americans have been struggling to strike a balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of the community.

When it comes to finding such an accord for those accused of crimes, however, Proposition 102 works against all sides.

The measure clearly sought to protect the public by ensuring that dangerous criminals aren’t allowed to leave jail while awaiting trial.

Proposition 102 fails on all fronts.

It not only doesn’t really accomplish balance, it’s likely that Proposition 102 would instead lead to already overcrowded jails becoming even more dangerously packed. More importantly, it would mean two systems of justice in Colorado: one for the rich and one for the poor.

When someone’s accused of a crime, the legal system has to persuade a court that enough evidence exists to warrant a trial. Once that happens, the defendant is advised of charges and in most cases allowed to work out an agreement with the court to ensure the suspect returns for a trial rather than skip town. Courts can have the choice of forcing a suspect to either promise to return to court or pay a fine, or in cases where the crime is more serious or the suspect more sketchy, the court can require a suspect to put up cash before the trial, or work a deal with a bail bondsman to post a bond.

In either case, the courts in Colorado rely on a host of pretrial service agencies to assess whether the suspect is potentially dangerous to the public, and whether the suspect will actually show up in court to face charges. In addition, these agencies help monitor suspects who are “free on bail,” to ensure they keep court dates.

Proposition 102 would restrict those allowed to post an unsecured bond on most second felony offenses. Most poor suspects are unable to come up with thousands of dollars of cash and don’t own real estate and other items to use for collateral for a bail bondsman. That means that the majority of poor suspects will wait in jail for court dates, a proposition they can ill afford and one that will cost taxpayers dearly.

Legislative experts estimate the change would cost Colorado taxpayers about $3 million a year from the get go as suspects who would have made it to trial under the current system are forced into lengthy jail stays.

While it’s clear that getting suspects to court has always been a problem, the numbers show that the pretrial services system is far more efficient at keeping risky suspects off the streets and ensuring justice is served. Vote no on this wrongheaded proposal.

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