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 years, Colorado has denied court-appointed counsel to poor defendants charged with minor crimes until the accused have heard prosecutors make a pitch for a plea deal.
The practice violates a defendant's Sixth Amendment constitutional right to representation, and it must change.
The hitch, in a state as cash- strapped as Colorado, is the price tag. Hiring enough staff to afford defendants their constitutional rights will cost an estimated $5 million to $6 million annually.
However, cost cannot be an excuse in failing to abide by the U.S. Constitution.
The issue made its way into the spotlight when two non-profits earlier this month filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn the Colorado law.
In the lawsuit, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition cite a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision saying defendants have a right to counsel during any "critical stage" of proceedings against them.
Another decision, rendered by the court in 2010, held "that the negotiation of a plea bargain is a critical phase of litigation for purposes of the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel."