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.
It's not too often that a ballot measure earns an all but unanimous denunciation the way that Proposition 102 has.
The initiative would throw a monkey wrench into the good systems that have been developed to supervise criminal defendants who are awaiting trial by forcing them into the hands of bail bondsmen.
We hope voters will shoot it down.
Proposition 102 is worded in such a way that voters might be led to believe they are supporting increased public safety by voting in favor of it.
That's just not true.
In Colorado, if someone is arrested for a crime, one of the first things that frequently happens is a judge orders a defendant to be assessed by pretrial services. These government professionals interview the defendant, look at his or her criminal and personal history, and make recommendations about how and whether the defendant could be safely supervised while awaiting trial.
Often, a judge will look at the recommendations and order pretrial supervision and what is called a personal recognizance bond. That is essentially a promise to appear, and it is usually given to defendants with a stable residence and a job. No money is involved.
This system is good for the community because the defendant is supervised by professionals, is able to continue working, and the public isn't paying to keep these lower-risk defendants in already overcrowded jails. Also, defendants don't have to ante up bond, which is good for people who may not have the means to post a cash, property or surety bond.
The goal is to keep communities safe and ensure defendants show up for their court dates.
Now, back to Proposition 102. It is sponsored by bail bondsmen and would effectively force more defendants into using their services.
The initiative would prevent nearly all defendants from being supervised via the aforementioned pretrial services program unless they posted a bond. Instead, most of them would end up remaining in costly jail cells.
A coalition of Colorado prosecutors, defense lawyers, law enforcement and other judicial system professionals oppose Proposition 102.
These folks have various interests in opposing it. For instance, the sheriffs who have to keep an eye on their corrections budgets predict the change would flood their jail cells with people who could safely be in the community while awaiting the disposition of their cases.
Public defenders and defense lawyers see it as a way to force their clients, many of whom are of little financial means, to pay bail bondsmen a fee to have the bondsmen post their bail.
If defendants can't raise the cash to pay a bondsman, they'll go to jail, potentially lose their jobs and leave their families without support, causing a host of other problems.
Prosecutors tell us that bail bondsmen have no incentive to supervise defendants the way that pretrial services programs do.
In fact, it is to the benefit of bondsmen if their clients commit another crime. Another arrest means another bail bond to be posted and another fee for bondsmen to collect.
Proposition 102 is a thoroughly bad idea and we hope voters will see through it and vote it down.