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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Drug War Has Met None Of It's Goals

AP Story
MEXICO CITY — After 40 years, the United States' war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.
Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn't worked.
"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified."
This week President Obama promised to "reduce drug use and the great damage it causes" with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.
Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.
Kerlikowske, who coordinates all federal anti-drug policies, says it will take time for the spending to match the rhetoric.
"Nothing happens overnight," he said. "We've never worked the drug problem holistically. We'll arrest the drug dealer, but we leave the addiction."
His predecessor, John P. Walters, takes issue with that.
Walters insists society would be far worse today if there had been no War on Drugs. Drug abuse peaked nationally in 1979 and, despite fluctuations, remains below those levels, he says. Judging the drug war is complicated: Records indicate marijuana and prescription drug abuse are climbing, while cocaine use is way down. Seizures are up, but so is availability.
"To say that all the things that have been done in the war on drugs haven't made any difference is ridiculous," Walters said. "It destroys everything we've done. It's saying all the people involved in law enforcment, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It's saying all these people's work is misguided."
In 1970, hippies were smoking pot and dropping acid. Soldiers were coming home from Vietnam hooked on heroin. Embattled President Richard M. Nixon seized on a new war he thought he could win.
"This nation faces a major crisis in terms of the increasing use of drugs, particularly among our young people," Nixon said as he signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The following year, he said: "Public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive."
His first drug-fighting budget was $100 million. Now it's $15.1 billion, 31 times Nixon's amount even when adjusted for inflation.
Using Freedom of Information Act requests, archival records, federal budgets and dozens of interviews with leaders and analysts, the AP tracked where that money went, and found that the United States repeatedly increased budgets for programs that did little to stop the flow of drugs. In 40 years, taxpayers spent more than:
_ $20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico — and the violence along with it.
_ $33 billion in marketing "Just Say No"-style messages to America's youth and other prevention programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have "risen steadily" since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.
_ $49 billion for law enforcement along America's borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.
_ $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.
_ $450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all federal prisoners in the U.S. were serving sentences for drug offenses.
At the same time, drug abuse is costing the nation in other ways. The Justice Department estimates the consequences of drug abuse — "an overburdened justice system, a strained health care system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction" — cost the United States $215 billion a year.
Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron says the only sure thing taxpayers get for more spending on police and soldiers is more homicides.
"Current policy is not having an effect of reducing drug use," Miron said, "but it's costing the public a fortune."
From the beginning, lawmakers debated fiercely whether law enforcement — no matter how well funded and well trained — could ever defeat the drug problem.
Then-Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who had his doubts, has since watched his worst fears come to pass.
"Look what happened. It's an ongoing tragedy that has cost us a trillion dollars. It has loaded our jails and it has destabilized countries like Mexico and Colombia," he said.
In 1970, proponents said beefed-up law enforcement could effectively seal the southern U.S. border and stop drugs from coming in. Since then, the U.S. used patrols, checkpoints, sniffer dogs, cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, drone aircraft — and even put up more than 1,000 miles of steel beam, concrete walls and heavy mesh stretching from California to Texas.
None of that has stopped the drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy says about 330 tons of cocaine, 20 tons of heroin and 110 tons of methamphetamine are sold in the United States every year — almost all of it brought in across the borders. Even more marijuana is sold, but it's hard to know how much of that is grown domestically, including vast fields run by Mexican drug cartels in U.S. national parks.
The dealers who are caught have overwhelmed justice systems in the United States and elsewhere. U.S. prosecutors declined to file charges in 7,482 drug cases last year, most because they simply didn't have the time. That's about one out of every four drug cases.
The United States has in recent years rounded up thousands of suspected associates of Mexican drug gangs, then turned some of the cases over to local prosecutors who can't make the charges stick for lack of evidence. The suspects are then sometimes released, deported or acquitted. The U.S. Justice Department doesn't even keep track of what happens to all of them.
In Mexico, traffickers exploit a broken justice system. Investigators often fail to collect convincing evidence — and are sometimes assassinated when they do. Confessions are beaten out of suspects by frustrated, underpaid police. Judges who no longer turn a blind eye to such abuse release the suspects in exasperation.
In prison, in the U.S. or Mexico, traffickers continue to operate, ordering assassinations and arranging distribution of their product even from solitary confinement in Texas and California. In Mexico, prisoners can sometimes even buy their way out.
The violence spans Mexico. In Ciudad Juarez, the epicenter of drug violence in Mexico, 2,600 people were killed last year in cartel-related violence, making the city of 1 million across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, one of the world's deadliest. Not a single person was prosecuted for homicide related to organized crime.
And then there's the money.
The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for 1 percent of all commerce on the planet.
A full 10 percent of Mexico's economy is built on drug proceeds — $25 billion smuggled in from the United States every year, of which 25 cents of each $100 smuggled is seized at the border. Thus there's no incentive for the kind of financial reform that could tame the cartels.
"For every drug dealer you put in jail or kill, there's a line up to replace him because the money is just so good," says Walter McCay, who heads the non-profit Center for Professional Police Certification in Mexico City.
McCay is one of the 13,000 members of Medford, Mass.-based Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of cops, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens and others who want to legalize and regulate all drugs.
A decade ago, no politician who wanted to keep his job would breathe a word about legalization, but a consensus is growing across the country that at least marijuana will someday be regulated and sold like tobacco and alcohol.
California voters decide in November whether to legalize marijuana, and South Dakota will vote this fall on whether to allow medical uses of marijuana, already permitted in California and 13 other states. The Obama administration says it won't target marijuana dispensaries if they comply with state laws.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon says if America wants to fix the drug problem, it needs to do something about Americans' unquenching thirst for illegal drugs.
Kerlikowske agrees, and Obama has committed to doing just that.
And yet both countries continue to spend the bulk of their drug budgets on law enforcement rather than treatment and prevention.

Drug war story advisory - latimes.com

Drug war story advisory - latimes.com
Originally the domain of rock stars, hippies and inner-city junkies, heroin is re-emerging as a dangerous drug of choice across the nation. But this isn't 1970s heroin. These days, Mexican drug smugglers are luring new demographics of users by increasingly peddling a form of ultra-potent heroin that's cheap, pure and frequently deadly.

An Associated Press review of drug overdose data shows that so-called "black tar" heroin and other forms of the drug are contributing to a spike in overdose deaths across the nation and attracting a new generation of users caught off guard by its potency. It's also leaving behind the tortured stories of loved ones whose fathers, mothers, daughters and sons became unwitting victims of the drug trade.

The AP IMPACT story by St. Louis correspondent Jim Salter and El Paso correspondent Alicia Caldwell, slugged BC-US--Drug War-Mexican Heroin, has moved and is accompanied by video, photos and an interactive graphic.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Alan Sudduth Learned Young That You Never Snitch: But the Truth Can Set Him Fr

This was published during the height of the legislative session and I missed it.  Excellent article
On the night of April 1, 1995, Alan Sudduth's mother was out, again, leaving the sixteen-year-old and his fourteen-year-old brother alone in their bleak two-bedroom apartment in Aurora. There was a world of ways Nicholas Reed, a kid who lived nearby, stopped by with the suggestion that he invite over a girl he'd met at the Buckingham Square Mall and her friend. A proposition like that would never have flown when Alan was younger and living under the doting care and strict rules of his paternal grandmother and, later, his uncle Reggie. In fact, Reggie had taken Alan to a church concert earlier that evening, and Alan was still wearing some of his best clothes: a dress shirt over black Dickies, clean British Knights. But Alan had been drifting away from that world since he'd moved in with his mother a few years earlier. His dad, lost to alcohol, crack and violence, hadn't been around for years, and his mom wasn't much better. These days, school was optional, while ripping and running the streets, smoking weed and chasing girls were all mandatory. So Alan told Nicholas to give the girls a call.
The two girls, white fifteen-year-olds from the southern suburbs, soon showed up in a car one had snatched from her parents. Alan was usually hyper and goofy — maybe to compensate for his 5' 2" frame, maybe to angle for the attention that came so easily from one side of his family and so rarely from the other — but he kept quiet for a while, unsure of what to do around girls like this. Still, the mood lightened once the boys broke out a deck of cards to play strip poker — as well as a fifth of Hennessy that Alan's mom had left out. Nicholas had also brought over a gun, a chrome 9mm Ruger, and he was flaunting it every chance he got.

Durango Herald News, Ritter and crime

Durango Herald News, Ritter and crime
Changes in drug sentencing laws are part of a package of bills meant to bring Colorado's criminal justice system more into line with contemporary thinking. The changes seem to move the state in the right direction.

In particular a law passed by the Legislature and signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Bill Ritter brings lowers penalties for possession of small amounts of pot and other banned substances. Instead of jail time, the change would treat drug use - this does not apply to drug dealers - more as a public health problem and shifts the emphasis toward treatment programs.

Under the provisions of House Bill 1352 people caught with between 1 and 4 grams of drugs such as cocaine, heroin or illegally obtained prescription drugs could be charged with a Class 6 felony and sent to prison for up to 18 months. That is down from a Class 4 felony and up to six years. A similar change applies to methamphetamine, although the amount is limited to no more than 2 grams.

For marijuana, the penalty for having between 1 and 2 ounces is now a fine instead of up to 18 months in prison. Possession of between 2 and 8 ounces can land the person in county jail for ups to a year; down from 18 months in prison. And having between 8 and 12 ounces translates to up to 18 months in prison instead of a maximum of six years.

The changes are intended to do several things. For one, they better reflect the public's priorities and evolving attitude. Locking up people for possessing pot simply does not make sense to most people.

Plus, prisons are expensive. For drug users, treatment programs can not only help them but save the taxpayers money.

The new sentencing guidelines are also intended to codify what is already happening to a great extent. Many drug users charged with possession - again, not dealers - are already being diverted to treatment programs, drug courts and probation. By signing HB 1352 into law, Ritter brought the law closer to reality. That is always a healthy thing.

It is also part of a larger effort that reflects both a philosophical shift and an attempt at cost-cutting. Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, wants more of an emphasis on rehabilitation and lowering the rate of recidivism.

With that in mind, the governor convened the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Made up of prosecutors, lawmakers, public defenders, law enforcement personnel and others involved with the justice system, it recommended a series of reforms, such as the drug sentencing changes.

Related bills passed by the Legislature in the just-ended session will make it easier for prisoners convicted of multiple nonviolent felonies to get parole, increase the amount of time prison sentences can be reduced for good behavior, and cut penalties imposed on parolees for technical violations.

Colorado boot camp graduates final class of inmates - The Denver Post

Colorado boot camp graduates final class of inmates - The Denver Post

The last graduating class from a military-style prison boot camp in Buena Vista received certificates Thursday, ending a program that failed to meet expectations and became too costly to run.

If Thursday's class of 23 follows the record of previous graduates, 12 of them will commit new crimes within three years of their release.

Although given big rewards — including shorter prison sentences — 51 percent of the 155 inmates released from prison through boot camp in fiscal year 2007 have already returned to prison.

The 51 percent recidivism rate of these nonviolent offenders was only 2 percentage points better than the record of inmates convicted of crimes such as robbery and murder.

"The lowest-risk offenders go into the camp," said Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections. "You would have expected a huge difference in recidivism."

The boot camp graduates were rewarded as though their prospects for success were dramatically raised. The graduates were five times as likely to win an early release as their peers. They qualified for release 28 months before their parole eligibility dates and were immediately eligible for sentence reductions.

But the deciding factor leading to the closure of the program was it became too costly as fewer inmates qualified or volunteered for the program. Just in the past year, the cost per inmate rose from $78 a day to $110.

Low-risk inmates drop

Colorado's prison system has seen a steady drop in the number of minimum-security inmates, while the number of more dangerous offenders is climbing steadily, Sanguinetti said. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of boot camp enrollees dropped 40 percent from 540 to 322.

In a state suffering a budget crisis, the DOC had to shift funds from the boot camp to higher-security prisons, she said.

The three-month boot camp, which opened in 1991, offered a GED program, substance-abuse treatment and immediate consequences for bad behavior. About 90 percent of the offenders had drug- or alcohol-abuse problems, Sanguinetti said.

But the duration of the counseling may not have been long enough to result in permanent change. They may have done better if given ongoing drug treatment, she said.

Colorado is far from the only state to achieve disappointing results from a boot camp program. In Pennsylvania, a 2000 study found that boot camp graduates were actually more likely to fail at following parole restrictions after their release from prison, and only slightly less likely than the general prison population to commit new crimes.

A June 2003 U.S. Department of Justice study determined that nationally there were only small or negligible differences in recidivism rates between boot camp graduates and the general prison population.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Program helps parolees embrace life without gangs - The Denver Post

Program helps parolees embrace life without gangs - The Denver Post

Alexander Garcia is letting his hair grow longer to hide a gang tattoo emblazoned in thick, dark letters on the nape of his neck.

For the 35-year-old father and former gang leader, it is much more than a symbolic gesture as he attempts to sever ties with a gang whose allegiance kept him locked up most of his life.

Garcia must change the way he speaks, dresses, walks and thinks. He must stop visiting his old "'hood," never meet with former gang members and swallow his pride when taunted by former rivals.

"It's a whole different mind-set," Garcia said. "It's time for me to hang up my guns."

On Tuesday night, Garcia and seven other parolees accepted graduation certificates from "Flippin' the Script," a six-week program recently created through a collaboration between state parole officials and the Rev. Leon Kelly, executive director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.

"Each of these guys have a huge rap sheet," Kelly said. "I've always felt if these kids were given the support they needed, they could break away from gangs."

Tim Hand, Colorado's deputy director of parole, said the program is completely voluntary. It was offered to 450 parolees identified with gang affiliations. About 50 expressed interest in joining but ultimately 10 signed up.

The first meeting was about two months ago. The offenders met at a parole office every Thursday, and Kelly had individual meetings with them. Kelly said two of the younger parolees, who still have the "rabbit in them," lost interest and stopped coming.

The program doesn't offer direct incentives, such as promises of reduced parole terms, but the skills they learn can possibly help them avoid parole revocations and could earn them increased privileges, Hand said.

"We want to see evidence of true sincerity," he said. "We want to see tattoos removed. They have to come in and work, participate in the discussions."

The group works much like a 12-step substance-abuse program. Members talk about the unique challenges of their circumstances: re-establishing relationships with wives and children after prison stints, finding a job despite a criminal record, and finding transportation to work.

Kelly, who served time in prison in the 1970s and 1980s before earning a doctorate in religion from Colorado Christian University, offers his advice, but much of the discussion is generated by men who are trying to to leave white-supremacist, black and Latino gangs.

Gov. Ritter Signs CJ Bills


Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law a package of 10 criminal justice bills that will improve public safety by strengthening the state’s commitment to being tough on crime and smart on crime.

Six of the bills stem directly from recommendations from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, a 27-member bipartisan panel created by Gov. Ritter in 2007.

“Our criminal justice system is tasked with one of the most important responsibilities in our society – maintaining public safety and protecting communities,” said Gov. Ritter, who served as Denver’s district attorney for 12 years before becoming governor. “What we have created here in Colorado, particularly the past few years, is a system that is tough on crime and smart on crime.

“We can do both. We are doing both, because public safety is not a zero-sum game. Certainly, we can always do better. We can always make improvements. And that’s what we are doing here today by signing this legislation into law.”

The six bills proposed by the Criminal Justice Commission:

House Bill 1347 (Levy/Morse) enhances punishments for repeat drunken drivers through increased, mandatory and consistent jail sentences -- 10 days for a second offense, 60 days for a third or subsequent offense – and mandatory post-jail treatment for alcohol and substance abuse.

“Too often, repeat offenders get away with a slap on the wrist from some judges. There’s simply not enough consistency in penalties for chronic drunk driving,” Rep. Claire Levy said. “We’ve heard the public’s concern loud and clear: If you are a repeat drunk driver, you will see the inside of a jail cell - period. This law makes sure Colorado’s roads and Colorado’s families are safe.”

“This bill strikes an important balance between the certainty of punishment if you drive drunk and necessity of treatment for chronic alcohol abusers,” Sen. John Morse said.

House Bill 1081 (Priola/Steadman) places the crime of money laundering under the state’s fraud statutes and allows the prosecution of offenders under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act.

House Bill 1338 (McCann/Steadman)
allows judges to create appropriate sentences and allows for additional offenders to be eligible for probation. “HB 1338 restores judicial discretion in sentencing certain nonviolent offenders to probation rather than prison. This bill saves money and saves lives,” Sen. Pat Steadman said.

House Bill 1352 (Waller/Steadman) recognizes the distinction between drug users and manufacturers and dealers. It reduces the penalties for possession of smaller quantities of certain drugs while increasing the penalties for sale of drugs by an adult to a minor. Importantly, it uses the projected savings of $1.5 million for offenders’ substance abuse treatment.

House Bill 1373 (T. Carroll/Hudak) allows the sentences for certain community corrections escapes to be served concurrently rather than consecutively.

House Bill 1374 (Ferrandino/Penry) givers the state Parole Board new tools to decide who might be paroled and to determine the conditions of parole. “This bill will give the parole board the tools to make smarter and more transparent decisions while ensuring public safety,” said Rep. Mark Ferrandino

The other four bills signed into law today:

House Bill 1277 (DelGrosso & Waller/Steadman) prohibits sexual conduct between inmates in juvenile and community corrections facilities and volunteers, contractors and staff.

House Bill 1360 (Pace/Steadman) allows punishment in the community for technical violators who are on parole for low-level, nonviolent crimes with no pending felony involvement.

“It saves the state millions of dollars by providing more intermediate sanctions for technical parole violators,” Rep. Sal Pace said. “These programs not only save the state money, but more importantly they are proven though research to reduce recidivism rates. That means fewer crimes, fewer victims and greater cost savings in the future.”

“This is a smart on crime way to make better use of taxpayer funds to help parolees successfully transition back to society rather than returning prison,” Sen. Steadman said.

House Bill 1413 (Levy & May/Newell & Lundberg) refines the process of filing serious charges against youthful offenders. It acknowledges the appropriateness of more transparency and oversight when juveniles are to be charged as adults.

“Children who commit crimes need to understand the consequences of their actions, and the courts need to look at all considerations while charging and sentencing a child,” Sen. Linda Newell said. “This bill ensures that justice will be served while also ensuring that children are treated fairly."

“I'm grateful that the governor is signing House Bill 1413,” Sen. Kevin Lundberg said. “This bill strikes the right balance for district attorneys and the courts when charging a minor with adult felony crimes.”

Senate Bill 54 (Hudak/Levy) requires school districts to provide educational services during the regular school year to juveniles who are charged as adults and being held pending trial in county jails or other facilities that detain adult offenders.

Ritter signs DUI measure requiring jail for repeat offenders - The Denver Post

Ritter signs DUI measure requiring jail for repeat offenders - The Denver Post

Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation Tuesday that requires jail sentences for people who repeatedly get caught driving drunk.

The new law imposes a minimum 10-day sentence for a second offense and 60 days for third and subsequent offenses. It permits work-release programs but not in-home detention if a second offense occurs within five years of the first.

Speakers at the signing ceremony said it was time for Colorado to treat persistent drunken driving as a serious threat to public safety.

"If you have a third DUI, the judge has to put you in jail," Ritter said before signing the bill.

In Colorado, "we were operating a revolving door for drunk drivers," said Rep. Claire Levy, the House sponsor. "I can't think of a bigger risk to public safety than what is literally a loose cannon on our public streets."

In a series of stories last year, The Denver Post reported that some drunken drivers were sentenced to no time in jail on their fourth, fifth and even seventh offenses. The Post also found that sentences for repeat offenders varied widely from court to court and from county to county, and some offenders were spared jail time after they killed people while driving drunk.

Unlike most states, Colorado still has no felony law for people who rack up a series of drunken-driving convictions. The new DUI law, however, does require repeat offenders to be on probation for two years and enter alcohol-education and treatment programs.

Ritter signed other bills Tuesday designed to reduce Colorado's prison population in favor of treatment and supervision alternatives, particularly for people convicted of possessing but not selling illegal drugs.

Illegally possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana, for example, becomes a petty offense. People caught with more than 1 ounce previously faced first-degree misdemeanor charges.

The law also reduces potential prison time for possessing small amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and illicit prescription drugs.

Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, wept as Ritter signed the drug bill and then handed her the pen.

She said it culminated a decade-long campaign to treat drug addiction as a disease, not a serious crime.

"This bill will save lives," she said. "We have members who have OD'd and died, who weren't able to get into treatment. I think of them today."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Youth detention center employee charged with arranging fight - The Denver Post

Youth detention center employee charged with arranging fight - The Denver Post
An officer at a youth detention center in Denver was charged today with arranging a fight between two jailed offenders.

The Denver District Attorney's Office said in a statement that William Pride, 35, "while on duty at Gilliam Youth Services Center, brought a juvenile over from an adjacent pod to enter another juvenile's room and assault him."

The ages of the male juveniles were not released and the court records are sealed, according to a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's office.

Gilliam is a court-ordered facility at 2844 Downing St. in Denver is under the administration of state Department of Human Services.

Gilliam's director, Cornelius Foxworth, said only, "Right now it's an ongoing investigation with the Denver Police Department," and referred other questions to a DHS spokeswoman Liz McDonough.

McDonough said Pride, who was hired in 2005, is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the case against him.

DHS's Division on Youth Corrections incarcerates juveniles 10 to 20 years old for crimes commited before their 18th birthday. McDonough said its rare to have inmates as young as 10 or as old as 20, however. Most are teenagers younger than 18, she said.

Pride was arrested on May 13 and is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a felony, and official oppression, a misdemeanor.

He is free on a $50,000 bond and will be in court on June 1, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Treatment Key Part Of Sentencing Bill

The Coloradoan
A sentencing-reform bill on Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk will shift the focus for some drug offenders in Colorado from punishment to treatment.
House Bill 1352 also would mandate savings expected to be incurred from fewer criminals spending time behind bars be used to pay for rehabilitation treatment programs and efforts.
The proposal lowers penalties for those facing charges for use or possession of drugs but increases consequences for anyone who deals drugs to children.
“In terms of those who have possession-related offenses, evidence-based practices have shown that warehousing them does not solve the problem,” said bill sponsor Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs. “The reason I ran House Bill 1352 was to put more dollars toward treatment in order to reduce the recidivism that is all too common in the system. It’s just a better use of our resources to treat the addiction problem as opposed to just putting them in jail.”
Passing through both the House and Senate with widespread support, the bill is seen as a positive step toward saving bed space in jails and prisons. The bill will likely be signed by Ritter this week and will go into effect in August.
According to a legislative fiscal note analyzing the impact of the bill, the Department of Corrections is expected to save more than $54 million during the next five years.

Gov. Ritter signs bundle of bills to promote rehabilitation of criminals - The Denver Post

Gov. Ritter signs bundle of bills to promote rahabilitation of criminals - The Denver Post

Gov. Bill Ritter today will sign several bills that aim to lessen punishment for criminals and promote rehabilitation among the convicted.
Curbing the rate at which criminals reoffend has been part of Ritter's agenda since taking office, but this year was the first that he and bipartisan allies targeted controversial topics such as sentencing and parole reform to pay for it.
Jailing fewer low-level drug offenders, diverting more criminals to community programs and paroling inmates more often could save more than $91 million over five years — though critics doubt the estimate — and fund an array of treatment programs, according to legislative estimates.
Colorado joins several other states in shifting limited resources from containment to treatment, though critics say the changes endanger public safety by tinkering with a system that works.
Ritter said enhancing treatment options is the best way to ensure criminals snared by the justice system emerge productive members of society.
"The attitude has been 'Just lock them up.' We've really seen violent crime decrease over time, but the downside is we weren't ... spending time considering these are actually health issues and public safety issues," the Democratic governor said. "This is the biggest year in terms of a major policy shift. The sentencing policy is a more difficult nut to crack. Always has been."
Lowering penalties
The biggest bills came from the Ritter-convened Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, a mix of prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement, human services officials, lawmakers and other advocates.
Ritter pointed to the lowering of penalties for some drug offenses as the epitome of the philosophical shift afoot in the state's criminal justice system.
House Bill 1352 increases the amount of drugs a person can posses before facing jail time, instead diverting offenders to substance-abuse treatment centers paid for by the savings on avoiding incarceration.
Other bills that passed with bipartisan support ease parole restrictions, emptying more prison beds and instead paying for services that aid those on probation and help recently released inmates find housing and employment.
House Bill 1360 lessens penalties for parolees who make technical violations. House Bill 1338, makes it easier for people previously convicted of two or more nonviolent felonies to obtain parole. And House Bill 1374 increases the amount of time off their sentences that well-behaved inmates can earn for each month served.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey favors treatment, but he predicts the reforms will make the streets less safe by allowing drug dealers to peddle greater quantities and put people back on the street before they're ready.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Labia Lift" and other humiliations descried in letter from prison

My thanks to Alan for once again telling the story that no one else will tell...
As any viewer of MSNBC's Lockup knows, prison is about punishment, plain and simple, not rehabilitation or even "correction." But does that mean it has to be dehumanizing, too?
Put aside the sadistic guards and power-mad wardens of pulp fiction who enjoy making their charges grovel; the reality of a mind-numbing bureaucracy, overloaded with rules governing every aspect of daily conduct (and always changing for the worse), is bad enough. Prisoners have no way to blog about such things, but that hasn't stopped Krystal Voss from trying to give the outside world a little taste of what life in a Colorado women's prison can be like.
Voss is serving twenty years for child abuse as a result of the 2003 death of her nineteen-month-old son in Alamosa. The Colorado Court of Appeals found her trial was marred by judicial errors and improper conduct by the prosecution but declined to put aside her conviction; I have written on several occasions about the dubious nature of the evidence against her, including here and here.
In addition, she was one of six inmates profiled last fall in "The Quality of Mercy," a feature that pointed out the millions of dollars Governor Bill Ritter could save the state budget if he wanted to address tainted and excessive sentences through clemency.
But her own quest for exoneration aside, Voss writes frequently to outside supporters and family about the way the screws keep tightening on inmates' rights, health care and basic dignity. Here are some excerpts from a missive dealing with recent developments at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility, including now-mandatory strip searches of inmates before seeing visitors, new restrictions on being outdoors, and even green-toed shoes:

"There is a lot going on here I want to share... Many of us have exhausted our Administrative remedies in [trying to challenge] the 'Labia lift' strip search procedure. Prisoner complaint packets are on order from the Federal Court House. It is simply not appropriate for any officer to demand such an invasive examination of our bodies, and it can be abused in many ways. "The new Warden has an aversion, it seems, to allowing inmates (for the record, I hate the term 'offender') the benefits of fresh air and sunlight. The chairs in the only small outdoor area to sit were removed. Everyone is required to be upright and moving outside. Therefore, the disabled and tired are excluded. The gravel terrain of the yard is not suitable for wheelchairs or unsteady feet.
"Patients wearing medically-provided shoes now have the toes spray painted neon green. In my opinion, this violates H.I.P.P.A and has subjected these women to ridicule by staff and other inmates! It even violates their own regulations ensuring medical confidentiality. Many receiving these medical shoes lack the strength or drive to file grievances and later litigation on this issue. I feel this a deliberate taking advantage of those unable to defend themselves.
"Next time, I will tell you about the newest (ware)housing situation the Warden has also implemented."
In other letters, Voss has written about everything from a sex-assault scandal at a private lockup to being disciplined for having a messy desk. She still has a lot of time to serve, but it sounds like some of her keepers have even more time on their hands.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ritter vetoes sex-offender bill containing controversial amendment - The Denver Post

Ritter vetoes sex-offender bill containing controversial amendment - The Denver Post

Gov. Bill Ritter on Friday vetoed a bill that would have reauthorized a sex-offender management program because of an amendment attached near the end of the legislative session and intended by its author to punish a lone therapy provider.

"On an issue that is this critical to public safety and the overall success of the sex-offender treatment program, this failure of adequate vetting and thorough debate constitutes a fatal flaw with the bill," Ritter said.

Ritter's decision will force the legislature to quickly decide early in 2011 whether to reauthorize the Sex Offender Management Board, which approves the individuals and companies that provide therapy for convicted sex criminals. Under Colorado's sunset law, the board is scheduled to disappear in July 2011.

The veto thwarts the effort of state Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver, who said a treatment agency she thinks mistreated her brother-in-law should be barred from working for the state.

Foster, without disclosing her family connection to the program, Teaching Human Existence, or THE, criticized the provider, saying on the Senate floor, "I personally don't even think (THE) should be on the provider list," as she introduced the amendment.

Her amendment, which required sex offenders to be given a choice by their probation officer of three providers, rather than being told where to go, was approved on a voice vote. The bill later passed easily.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lie Doesn't Tarnish Bills Worth

The Denver Post
Joyce Foster is a state senator and a rabbi's wife.
She's also somewhat of an anti-hero.
Given the chorus against her this week, you'd think the Denver Democrat had walked up and shot someone's dog.
Twice, The Denver Post asked if she had a relative once enrolled in the sex-offender program whose exclusive referrals her amendment sought to end. Twice, she said no.
She lied.
This presents obvious problems for a state lawmaker and rabbi's wife, not necessarily in that order.
But as the witch hunt continues — as Foster faces ethics complaints and a possible veto of the bill containing her amendment — let's consider the context.
Like the rest of us who hear from people with problems, Foster says she long received complaints about THE, Teaching Humane Existence, a treatment program said to use the threat of life sentences to keep offenders in line. Founder Greig Veeder believes there's no cure for clients, who pay hundreds a month, often indefinitely.
Given the 11,085 registered sex offenders in Colorado, I suspect Veeder's right about lots of predators. But I'm also sure he's wrong about plenty of folks on the list, including the 18-year-olds who consensually touched 14-year-olds.
Three years ago, defense lawyers began working with the state to examine why probation officers feed cases to certain treatment programs. They also looked into why other programs were blacklisted.
Foster is a

former Denver councilwoman who once worked for Jewish Family Service. People confided in her. She heard complaints about THE well before Julian Newman — married to the sister of her husband, Steven Foster — moved to Colorado, enrolled in the program after a sex-assault conviction in Wisconsin and started griping. I don't doubt it was her idea, not her brother-in-law's, to float an amendment allowing sex offenders a choice among programs so they're not forced to pay for and undergo indefinite treatment that's not helping. State law allows drug and domestic-violence offenders choices in treatment.
I have no reason to suspect Foster was motivated by anything but the desire to protect Newman's identity, as is the tendency with clergy, and by instincts to shield her relatives from shame, as families are apt to do.
"I lied. And I apologize. But I did it to protect people," says Foster. Newman left Colorado years ago and wouldn't have benefited.

For Thirty Years he Has Studied Gangs, Seeking An Antidote

The Denver Post
Daniel "Nane" Alejandrez arrived in Denver on Tuesday and spent Wednesday sitting in a wing-back chair fielding questions from Dr. Vincent Harding and his daughter, Rachel. Have you met Dr. Harding? Alejandrez asks me.
At that point, I hadn't even met Alejandrez, who has a national reputation for his three decades of work with youth involved in gangs, in the life of the street that supplants the life of the soul. "The madness that destroys our youth," Alejandrez calls it.
He'll be speaking Friday night at 6:30 at Su Teatro on Seventh Avenue at Santa Fe. Admission is free.
"You have to meet Dr. Harding," Alejandrez says. "He's a great man."
Harding was friend and speechwriter to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He's now professor emeritus of religion and social transformation at Iliff School of Theology. Twelve years ago, he started the Veterans of Hope project. It revolves around in-depth interviews with key leaders, thinkers and activists in civil-rights movements past and present.
"When Dr. Harding called me and said he wanted me to be one of his veterans, I almost had tears in my eyes," Alejandrez says. "Do you know who some of these veterans are? I go, 'Man, why does he want to interview me?' "
This kind of reaction, it turns out, is fairly typical of Alejandrez. It suggests neither false modesty nor a lack of belief in his own work but rather that, after all these years, he still sees himself as a student. Of human nature,

gang dynamics, economics, history. To a community that might say to him, "We don't know how to stop the madness," he will answer: "I didn't know how either, and I still don't. But I'm looking for the answers, and I keep looking." The question that leads me to seek out Alejandrez is one he really can't answer to my satisfaction. This may be because I don't work daily with troubled youth. I don't visit prison yards and attempt to get rival gangs to join an indigenous dance (and so I miss the triumphant moment when they do, hands linked, feet shuffling to beating drums). I do not coordinate peace summits between brown and black gangs. Instead, I drop into neighborhoods where I am sometimes overcome by how entrenched the poverty is and how isolated its youth are, by the defiance masking a sense of inferiority that is only reinforced outside the neighborhood.
It may be because I don't have his life experience. Alejandrez is the child of migrant workers. He spent years in the fields with his parents. "You know when school lets out for the summer and kids say, 'What camp are you going to?' That was my camp." He writes of watching his father humble himself, eyes lowered, shoulders bowed, before "the boss man." His father drowned that swallowed pride in alcohol.

Ban the Box Wins In Connecticut

Progressive States
Last week, the Connecticut Senate unanimously voted to enact HB 5207, which prevents discrimination against ex-prisoners based solely on their criminal record.  In March, the Connecticut House of Representatives also voted unanimously in favor of the bill.  The new law will prohibit state government employers from inquiring into a job applicant’s criminal record until the applicant has been deemed qualified for the position.  It will provide similar standards for those seeking state licenses and certifications for trades or vocations.
The so-called “Ban the Box” law is so named because it eliminates from state job application forms the question requiring job-seekers to put a check-mark in the box if they have ever been convicted of a crime.  Nationally, about two-thirds of people released from prison are convicted and sent back to jail (“recidivating”) within three years.  Studies show that stable employment soon after leaving prison can substantially reduce recidivism, and with it state and federal costs for incarceration, prosecution, and law enforcement.  A 2004 Loyola University study of recidivism in Illinois found that, while the state’s overall recidivism rate was 54%, that rate declined substantially with employment - for ex-prisoners who found jobs for at least 30 days, only 24% went back to prison; for those who maintained employment for twelve consecutive months, the rate was only 8%.
The National Employment Law Project has a recent report highlighting new initiatives to reduce barriers to employment by ex-prisoners.  The “Ban the Box” movement began in 2003 as a grassroots effort to improve reintegration of ex-prisoners and reduce recidivism, and has been gaining steam ever since.  New Mexico (§ 28-2-3) enacted similar legislation earlier this year, as did Minnesota in 2009, with other “Ban the Box” bills introduced in California, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Rhode Island this year.  To date, twenty cities and counties and seven states (including Connecticut) have passed laws prohibiting discrimination based solely on criminal record.  Most laws apply only to public employers, although some apply to state/municipal contractors (e.g., Indianapolis and Philadelphia) and/or private sector employers (Hawaii and Kansas).

CCJRC Wins!! 2010 Legislative Summary

  CCJRC WINS!! 2010 Legislative Summary

Dear [FNAME]

Upcoming Community Event: “A Community Forum on Gang Peace and Criminal Justice Reform”
Date/Time: Friday, May 21, 2010 (5:30-6:30 p.m. – Reception and 6:30-8:30 p.m. Forum)
Location: Su Teatro (At the Denver Civic Theater ), 721 Santa Fe (7th & Santa Fe), Denver, CO
Featuring: Daniel "Nane" Alejandrez, founder of Barrios Unidos and joined by local activists Carroll (Sadikia) Watkins Ali, Imam A. Rahim Ali, Lisa Calderon, Terrance Roberts and Councilman Paul Lopez.
Sponsored by Veterans of Hope Project and the Denver Mayor’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations
For more information or to RSVP, please contact Veterans of Hope Project 303-765-3194 or gsmith@iliff.edu.
2010 Legislative Summary
The 2010 legislative session ended on May 12th and, overall, it was a tremendous session for criminal justice reform. The follow is just a brief summary of some of the bills, it is not a complete listing of all the criminal justice related bills. CCJRC will have a much more in-depth analysis of the legislative session in our June newsletter. 
CCJRC Priority Bills
The following is the list of CCJRC priority bills where we were actively involved in the development of the policy reforms and lobbying effort. Our priorities were drug sentencing reform, parole reform, reducing re-entry barriers, particularly in employment and getting a state identification card, and enfranchising parolees so they could vote. 
HB 1023: Concerning Clarifying Civil Liability Regarding Negligent Hiring Practices for an Employer That Hires a Person with a Criminal Record
Sponsors:  Representative Waller (R) and Senator Hudak (D); co-sponsors include Representatives Gagliardi (D), Kagan (D), Kefalas (D), Summers (R) and Senators Boyd (D), Sandoval (D), Scheffel (R), and White (R)
Status: HB 1023 passed unanimously out of the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Ritter on March 25, 2010. 
Description: HB 1023 was based on a recommendation from the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force, an interim legislative task force that CCJRC actively participated in. This law limits the admissibility of evidence of an employee’s criminal history in a civil action against an employer where: (1) the criminal history did not have a direct relationship to the underlying cause of action in the civil case, (2) the criminal record was sealed prior to the acts underlying the cause of action, (3) the criminal history consists of an arrest that did not lead to a criminal conviction, (4) the conviction received a pardon, or (5) the defendant successfully completed a deferred judgment. 
HB 1112: Concerning the “Correctional Education Program Act of 1990”
Sponsors: Representative Miklosi (D) and Senator Newell (D)
Status: This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on a 50-13 vote and passed by the Senate on a 31-4 vote. It was signed into law by Governor Ritter on March 31, 2010.
Description:  Representative Miklosi was inspired to sponsor this legislation after reading a report issued by CCJRC in August 2009 that revealed a number of deficiencies in vocational programming offered in DOC. This law sets performance objectives for vocational programs in the Department of Corrections to include that vocational programming be more market-relevant, that participation in programs be considered prior to an inmate’s transfer to another facility, and that DOC include information about vocational programs in its annual report to include vocational programs offered, program enrollment, and completion rates.  
HB 1352: Drug Sentencing Reform 
Sponsors: Representative Waller (R) and Senators Steadman (D) and Mitchell (R)
Co-sponsors: Representatives Pace (D), Court (D), Gardner, B. (R), Gerou (R), Kagan (D), King S. (R), Levy (D), Looper (R), Massey (R), May (R), McCann (D), Miklosi (D), Nikkel (R), Roberts (R), Ryden (D) and Stephens (R) and Senators Carroll, M.(D), Hudak (D), Morse (D), Newell (D), Penry (R), and White (R)
Status: Passed the House (58-5) and the Senate (30-5) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter. 
Description: This bill is based on recommendations approved by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. CCJRC participate in the Commission’s drug policy task force that developed these recommendations. It reduces penalties for the crime of drug use or possession and redirects cost savings in corrections to substance abuse and mental health treatment. The bill also creates enhanced penalties for adults convicted of selling drugs to a minor. The bill also makes two changes to the special drug offender statute (which has an increased sentence range) to exclude “simple possession” from the crime of drug importation and requires a closer nexus to prove that a weapon was used during a drug offense. The bill appropriated the anticipated first year cost savings in averted incarceration costs (approximately $1.5 million) to expand funding for substance abuse treatment for people in the criminal justice system.
HB 1360: Reducing Revocations for Technical Violations
Sponsors: Representative Pace (D) and Senator Steadman (D)
Status: Passed the House (54-9) and Senate (24-11) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description:  CCJRC worked in close collaboration with the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the state Public Defender, and the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council on this bill. The bill requires the parole board to consider the treatment needs (substance abuse and/or mental health) prior to revoking parole for a technical violation. If the parolee is amenable to treatment and if it is consistent with public safety, the parole board may modify the conditions of parole (in lieu of revocation) and require participation in a residential or outpatient treatment program.  The bill reduces the maximum time a revoked parolee can be re-incarcerated in prison for a technical parole violation to 90 days (from the current statutory cap of 180 days) if the parolee was assessed as lower than high risk using a research-based risk assessment instrument and the parolee’s underlying conviction was not for a crime of violence, menacing, or stalking. The current 180-day statutory limit on the period of re-incarceration will be retained when the parolee is assessed as high risk or is revoked to a community return to custody facility or community corrections facility. The bill also expands eligibility for placement in a community return to custody facility for a parolee revoked for a technical violation if the underlying conviction was for a class 4 felony, excluding crimes of violence and stalking. First year cost savings from this bill in averted incarceration costs (approximately $4.5 million) was allocated for re-entry support and treatment services for parolees as part of the 2010-11 state budget.
HB 1374: Changes to Parole
Sponsors: Representative Ferrandino (D) and Senator Penry (R)
Status: Passed the House (63-0) and Senate (35-0) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: This bill is based on recommendations from the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice that: (1) changes the statutory parole guidelines and requires the parole board to use structured decision-making in both release and revocation hearings; (2) requires the parole board to make an annual presentation before the House and Senate judiciary committees; (4) clarifies eligibility for the enhanced earned time that was created last year in HB 09-1351; and (5) repeals some archaic language in statute that mandates the arrest of a parolee under certain circumstances (e.g., if the parolee is in a county where there is a correctional facility without permission of the parole officer). 
SB 06: Concerning Reductions in Barriers to Obtaining Identity-Related Documents
Sponsors: Senator Boyd (D) and Representative Summers (R); co-sponsors include Senators Hudak (D), Sandoval (D), White (R) and Representatives Gagliardi (D), Kefalas (D), and Waller (R)
Status: Passed the House (48-16) and Senate (22-12) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: SB 06 was based on a recommendation from the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force, an interim legislative task force that CCJRC actively participated in. Among other things, SB 6 waives the payment of the fee to obtain an identification card for those referred by a county department of social services or those referred by a county jail, the Department of Corrections, or the Division of Youth Corrections. The bill also restores the authority of a district court to allow a person with a criminal record to legally change their name if such name change is necessary to obtain an identification card. Prior to ordering the name change, the petitioner must meet multiple requirements and interested parties must be notified. 
SB 159: Concerning Defendant Statements at a Community Corrections Hearing
Sponsors: Senator Foster (D) and Representative Miklosi (D)
Status: Passed the House (65-0) and Senate (33-0) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: SB 159 makes it mandatory that a community corrections board accept a written statement from an inmate if it is timely submitted by the inmate to the DOC case manager so that it can be included in the initial electronic referral made by DOC to a community corrections board. Community corrections boards will have the discretion whether to accept a written or oral statement by a third party on behalf of an inmate. Community corrections boards will be required to develop written policies that are publicly accessible regarding written statements or oral presentations by victims or inmate representatives regarding an inmate’s transitional referral to community corrections.
SB 179: Changes in voting requirements
Sponsors: Senator Steadman (D) and Representative Weissmann (D)
Status: This bill passed the Senate (20-15) but failed on second reading in the House after the Governor informed the House sponsor that he would veto the bill.  CCJRC was very frustrated with this outcome and will continue to advocate for the enfranchisement of people on parole. 
Description: This bill would have restored voting eligibility for people on parole, would have clarified that people in community corrections as diversion clients are eligible to vote, and would have required criminal justice supervision agencies (jails, DYC, community corrections, probation, and parole) to have information available to clients regarding voter eligibility, voter registration, and voting.  
Bills CCJRC Supported
The following is a list of bills that CCJRC support but that were shepherded and championed through the legislative session by other organizations. We applaud and appreciate their leadership, effort and success!!
HB 1090: Concerning the Punishment for a Person Who Is Convicted of Driving a Motor Vehicle with Knowledge That His or Her Driver’s License Is Under Restraint
Sponsors: Representative Waller (R) and Senator Morse (D)
Status: This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on a 57-6 vote and passed in the Senate on a 35-0 vote. It was signed into law by Governor Ritter on March 29, 2010.  
Description: This bill was spearheaded by the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the state Public Defender. This bill eliminates the mandatory 5-day jail sentence for a person who is convicted of driving a motor vehicle or off-highway vehicle upon any highway of the state with knowledge that his license or privilege to drive is under restraint for any reason other than conviction of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while ability impaired (DWAI), or underage drinking and driving.  
HB 1201: Concerning Duties Related to Peace Officer Contacts
Sponsors: Representative Middleton (D), T. Carroll (D), Ferrandino (D), McFadyen (D), Miklosi (D), Pace (D), Vigil (D), and Weissman (D) and Senator Steadman (D)
Status: The bill passed the House (37-28) and Senate (35-0) and was signed into law by Governor Ritter on April 29, 2010.  
Description: HB 1201 was developed by the Colorado Progressive Coalition which also organized a broad coalition that supported the bill through a complicated legislative process. This new law requires that, prior to conducting a consensual search of a person, personal effects, or vehicle, a peace officer shall first advise the person that they are being asked to voluntarily give consent to search and may refuse the request. After such advisement, a peace office may only conduct the search if the person subject to the search gives either oral or written consent. This new law does not apply to a valid search incident to a lawful arrest or to a search for which there is a legal basis which includes, but is not limited to, searches in correctional facilities, jails, community corrections facilities, mental health facilities or searches of a person on probation or parole by a probation or parole officer when such searches are a condition of supervision.
HB 1338: Concerning the Eligibility for Probation of a Person Who Has Two or More Prior Convictions
Sponsors: Representative McCann (D) and Senator Steadman (D)
Status: Passed the House (54-7) and Senate (24-11) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: This legislation is based on a recommendation approved by the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. It changes the two-prior felony statute that makes a defendant with two prior felonies ineligible for probation without the district attorney’s consent. This bill requires district attorney consent only if the current charge or one (or more) of the prior convictions was for a specific offense including: first or second degree murder, manslaughter, first or second degree assault, first or second degree kidnapping, sexual offense, first degree arson, first or second degree burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or a felony offense against a child. 
HB 1373: Sentencing Changes For Escape Crime
Sponsors: Representative T. Carroll (D) and Senator Hudak (D)
Status: Passed the House (58-7) and Senate (19-16) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: This bill is based on a recommendation approved by the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. Under current law, a broad range of scenarios can be considered escape which requires the court to impose a mandatory consecutive sentence. HB 1373 excludes diversion clients in community corrections and parolees on intensive supervision from the mandatory consecutive sentencing requirement if convicted of escape, although judges retain the authority to impose a consecutive sentence in any given case. People on “inmate status” will still face the mandatory consecutive sentence, which includes people in secured correctional facilities, work release, and transition clients in community corrections.
HB 1413: Concerning Juveniles Who Are Tried as Adults, and Making an Appropriation in Connection Therewith.
Sponsors: Representatives Levy (D) and May (R) and Senators Newell (D) and Lundberg (R)
Status: Passed the House (55-8) and Senate (27-8) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: This bill was spearheaded by the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, the Pendulum Foundation, the state Public Defender, and other organizations. For purposes of direct file, the bill increases the minimum age of the defendant from 14 to 16 years, except in those cases where the defendant is charged with first degree murder, second degree murder or a sex offense. At least 14 days prior to filing the charges in district court, the district attorney must file the charges in juvenile court with a notice of decision on direct file. The bill lists the criteria that the district attorney must consider in determining whether to file charges in adult court against a juvenile. The district attorney must submit a written statement listing the criteria relied upon in deciding to direct file. The bill also permits a juvenile convicted in district court of a class 2 felony (non sex offense) to be eligible for sentencing to the youthful offender system.
SB 189: Concerning Authorization for Government Agencies to Approve Clean Syringe Exchange Programs to Reduce the Spread of Blood-Borne Disease
Sponsors: Senator Steadman (D) and Representative Weissmann (D)
Status: Passed the House (57-6) and Senate (24-10) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: This bill was an amazing effort by a broad coalition of advocates, health workers, doctors, and law enforcement. The Harm Reduction Project played a major coordinating role along with the IDU Community Collaborative, Denver Drug Strategy Commission, and the Public Health Directors of Colorado. The bill gives authority to a county board of health or district board of heath to approve a clean syringe program proposed by county or district public health agency provided that certain procedures are followed and community stakeholders are consulted. One or more counties represented on a district board of health may at any time opt out of a proposed or approved program. An employee or volunteer of such program will be exempt from drug paraphernalia laws.
SB 193: Concerning the Safe Treatment of Pregnant Persons in Custody
Sponsors: Senator Hudak (D) and Representative Levy (D)
Status: Passed the House (62-1) and Senate (34-0) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: This bill was initiated by the insistence and determination of Pamela White, the current editor of the Boulder Weekly and supported by a broad coalition including COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights), Colorado Association of Midwifes, The Haven, the ACLU, and the Colorado Bar Association-civil rights task force. The bill limits the use of restraints on pregnant women in custody or confined in prisons, city/county jails, juvenile detention, or department of human services facilities. Corrections staff will not be permitted to use restraints of any kind on a pregnant woman during labor and delivery unless exceptional circumstances exist. Correctional staff is required to use the least restrictive measures of restraint during postpartum recovery and transport to/from the medical facility.
Other criminal justice reform bills
HB 1065: Concerning a Prohibition Against Counting Any Time a Juvenile Spends on Escape Status Toward Completion of the Juvenile’s Commitment
Sponsors: Representative McCann (D) and Senator Tochtrop (D)
Status: Passed by the House on a vote of 63-0 and passed the Senate on a vote of 33-0. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ritter on March 18, 2010.
Description: If a juvenile committed to the Department of Human Services escapes from a facility, the time the juvenile is on escape status will not be counted toward service of the term of the commitment.
HB 1081: Concerning Money Laundering
Sponsors: Representative Priola (R) and Senator Steadman (D)
Status: Passsed the House (62-1) and Senate (34-0) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: HB 1081 is based on a recommendation approved by the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. Under current law, the crime of money laundering is limited to the Controlled Substances Act. The bill relocates the money laundering statute from the Controlled Substance Act to the fraud statute and includes money laundering in the definition of racketeering activity for purposes of prosecution under the Colorado Organized Crime Act.
HB 1089: Concerning Placement After a Parole Revocation of a Parolee Who Is A Sexually Violent Predator
Sponsors: Representative Waller (R) and Senator Newell (D)
Status: HB 1089 was passed by the House of Representatives on a 64-0 vote and passed by the Senate on a vote of 34-0. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ritter on March 31, 2010. 
Description: Under current law, a parolee who is revoked from parole for a technical violation and who is under sentence for a conviction of a nonviolent class 5 or class 6 felony must be placed in a community return to custody facility (CRCF), which are DOC contract beds in community corrections facilities. This law authorizes the parole board to send an otherwise CRCF eligible parole violator to prison for a technical parole violation if s/he was designated a sexually violent predator.
HB 1104: Veterans’ Treatment Court
Sponsors: Representative Looper (R) and Senator Williams (D)
Status: HB 1104 was approved by the House on a vote of 64-0 and approved by the Senate on a vote of 34-0. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ritter on April 16, 2010.
Description: The bill authorizes the state court administrator to apply for federal grant funds on behalf of the state for the establishment, maintenance or expansion of veterans’ treatment courts. The bill also authorizes the chief judge in the judicial district to establish a program for the treatment of veterans and members of the military.
HB 1109: Concerning the Availability of Workers’ Compensation to Jail Inmates Who Are Working For a Program That Has Been Certified By the Federal Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program
Sponsors: Representative McCann (D) and Senator Mitchell (R)
Status: HB 1109 was approved by the House on a vote of 46-18 and approved by the Senate on a vote of 35-0. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ritter on May 3, 2010.
Description: Federal law requires that in order to participate in the federal prison industry enhancement certification program (PIECP), inmates in the program must have workers’ compensation benefits available to them. HB 1109 complies with this federal law by requiring PIECP to carry workers’ compensation insurance and defining a jail or department of corrections inmate participating in a PIECP as an employee of that program for purposes of workers’ compensation eligibility. Public entities are permitted to select more than one method of workers’ compensation insurance.
HB 1215: Concerning the Use of Cash Bond Deposits After the Discharge of the Bond To Satisfy Outstanding Court-Ordered Debts
Sponsors: Representative Waller (R) and Senator Scheffel (R)
Status: HB 1215 was approved by the House on a vote of 63-1 and approved by the Senate on a vote of 34-0. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ritter on April 15, 2010.
Description: When a defendant deposits funds with the court for purposes of making bond, HB 1215 allows a court to apply these funds toward the payment of fines, fees, costs, and surcharges assessed against the defendant. If the depositor is someone other than the defendant, the law would allow the court to apply the funds toward payment of court-ordered debt with written consent of the depositor. If the amount of the deposit is greater than the amount owed, any balance will be returned to the depositor.
HB 1277: Concerning An Extension of the Prohibition Against Sexual Conduct in Correctional Institutions
Sponsors: Representative DelGrosso (R) and Senator Steadman (D)
Status: Passed the House (63-0) and Senate (34-0) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description:  Current law prohibits and makes it a crime for an employee or volunteer of a correctional facility to have sexual activity with an inmate. HB 1277 extends that prohibition to any detention facility, commitment facility, or community corrections program housing juveniles.
HB 1347: Concerning Misdemeanor Penalties for Persons Who Are Convicted of Multiple Traffic Offenses Involving Alcohol or Drugs
Sponsors: Representative Levy (D) and Senator Morse (D)
Status: Passed the House (64-0) and Senate (33-1) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.  
Description: HB 1347 is based on recommendations approved by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. It adjusts the penalties for a second offense of DUI, DWAI, and driving as a habitual user of a controlled substance and creates a new set of penalties for a third or subsequent offense. On a second offense, the minimum jail term is set at 10 consecutive days (up to 1 year). If the second offense is within five years of the first offense, the defendant is not eligible for home detention in service of the 10-day mandatory jail term but is eligible for work release or treatment release if he or she was already employed or engaged in treatment prior to incarceration and if the jail allows work/treatment release. For a third or subsequent conviction (in lifetime), the minimum jail term is set at 60 consecutive days (up to 1 year). Home detention is not a sentencing option. All repeat DUI offenders must complete at least two years of probation and as a condition the court must impose a suspended one-year jail sentence, all or part of which may be imposed if the offender violates a condition of probation. Increases the persistent drunk driver surcharge from $50 to $100- half of the revenues will be deposited into the persistent drunk driver fund and the other half into the newly created court-ordered alcohol treatment fund. A first-time DUI offender with a blood-alcohol level of .20 or higher will also be subject to the mandatory 10-day sentence.
SB 54: Concerning the Provision of Educational Services For Juveniles Against Whom Charges Have Been Filed in District Court
Sponsors: Senator Hudak (D) and Representative Levy (D)
Status: Passed the House (52-13) and Senate (18-15) and is awaiting action by Governor Ritter.
Description: The bill requires a school district to provide educational services during the school year to a juvenile being held, pending charges as an adult, in a jail within the school district. The school district is also required to comply with the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” if the juvenile has a disability. There are a number of exceptions to this requirement. 
So, THANK YOU!  Whatever the reason you support CCJRC, we thank you. Your involvement gives CCJRC the ability to fight for change and enables us to bring a message of hope to the tens of thousands of people affected by Colorado’s current criminal justice policies and practices.  Your participation increases our ability to achieve real change by bringing the voice of practicality, reason and compassion to local policy makers and state legislators. Your support helps us to do the work that is necessary to accomplish our goals.  Whether you give to us monthly, annually or just a one-time gift, everything makes a difference so thank you.
If you would like to make a membership donation please go to our website, CCJRC.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For State Prisons Cuts Present New Problems

A few years ago, Kansas lawmakers decided to shake up the state’s corrections budget. They poured millions of dollars into community programs intended to rehabilitate offenders, help them find jobs and keep them out of prison. The changes, passed in 2007, reaped almost immediate awards. Overall recidivism rates in the state declined. The number of parolees who violated the terms of their release plummeted. Kansas was able to postpone construction of new prisons and, last year, lawmakers actually closed four prison facilities. With a push from U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, Congress soon funded a new national grant program patterned after what the state had accomplished.
The recession, however, has hit Kansas’ corrections budget hard. Now, budget cuts are threatening to undo the progress that generated national acclaim for the state just a few short years ago. Kansas lawmakers have slashed funding for substance-abuse treatment slots at the heart of the state’s community corrections program. Group living facilities for offenders have closed. And, this year, the corrections budget included a noticeable new line item: One of the prisons shuttered last year will re-open, driven in part by an uptick in the number of people who break the conditions of their release, such as missing an appointment with a probation officer or testing positive for drugs.
The recession, and the drain it’s put on state budgets, has produced similar quandaries in many of the 28 legislatures that have wrapped up their sessions for 2010. The trend in corrections this year is much the same as it was in 2009 — the first year in a long time that state spending on prisons actually went down. Lawmakers are still searching for savings anywhere they can find them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Tide Turns on Toking Up

Face the State

By John Schroyer, Face The State
In 2006, Colorado voters shut down a statewide ballot initiative that would have legalized possession of marijuana with a resounding 61 percent to 38 percent. But, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, things have changed.
Now, according to Rasmussen, a full 49 percent of Coloradans support legalizing and taxing marijuana, and only 39 percent think it should remain illegal. With the remaining 13 percent undecided, these new numbers might give a likely new legalization ballot measure this year some real ammunition.
The poll "demonstrates that a growing number of people around Colorado are recognizing the failures of marijuana prohibition," said Mason Tvert, head of the pro-marijuana group SAFER.
"(Marijuana legalization) is far from the fringe," he added. "It's actually a lot more popular than many statewide candidates."

Carlos Rosado Earns Bachelors and Plants Garden While Doing Time

There isn't much about Carlos Rosado that wouldn't surprise you.

Up until five days before he was scheduled to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree Saturday from the prestigious Bard College, Rosado was known primarily as inmate No. 98B0620 at New York's Woodbourne Correctional Facility. He was released Monday after serving more than 12 years for armed robbery.
"I'm excited, I'm ready," Rosado said a few days before his release.
To those who know the 35-year-old husband and father of four, from the guards at the medium security prison to his fellow inmates, Rosado isn't your typical prisoner. Indeed, he might better be described as an inmate with one of the greenest thumbs in the history of the New York State Department of Correctional Services.
Rosado is credited with developing a garden in one of the few green spaces inside the otherwise cement-heavy prison. In the two years since the garden's inception, it has provided some of the only access the prison's 800 inmates have to fresh vegetables and fruit.

The Clarion - Law students sue Colorado prison

The Clarion - Law students sue Colorado prison

Two students in the Sturm College of Law’s Civil Rights Clinic (CRC) are suing a Colorado state prison for violating an inmate’s constitutional rights.

Ashley Wheeland, a third-year law student, and Patrick Curnalia, a second-year, say that prison officials at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City are depriving an inmate, Troy Anderson, of his due process rights under the 14th Amendment, and are subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment, violating his Eighth Amendment rights.
Wheeland and Curnalia also argue that the prison is discriminating against Anderson, who has a mental illness, violating his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

The students filed the claim against the prison in federal district court on May 3.
They are working with Brittany Glidden, a clinical fellow in the CRC, and with co-counsel Amy Robertson, a civil rights attorney at the firm Fox and Robertson, on the law suit.
Anderson, 40, has been in prison in the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDC) since May 2000.

He has been convicted of aggravated armed robbery, assault and attempted murder while trying to escape police custody, among other crimes, according to the complaint filed by Curnalia and Wheeler.

Anderson has mental health problems that impair his learning and interaction with others and cause him to have mood fluctuations, bouts of depression and to act impulsively.

The goals of the lawsuit are to compel the prison officials to properly diagnose and treat Anderson, to supply him with the medications that will treat his symptoms, to end the inconsistent behavior review system and to allow him to earn privileges, including seeing fresh air and sunshine.

“For us, the overall goal is to make Troy’s life better,” said Wheeland. “And that’s his goal too.”

The CRC was started in 2004. It is a year-long program in which teams of student lawyers represent clients in civil rights cases. The program has about 10 students a year, who are supervised by Professor Laura Rovner and Fellow Brittany Glidden. The clinic is currently working on four cases, including Anderson’s.

“It’s been a great opportunity to get some real-life experience,” said Curnalia. “I’m glad I got to see another side of law,” he said.

The students’ co-counsel, Amy Robertson, has been working in the civil rights law field since 1996.

She said she has been very impressed with the doggedness and creativity of Curnalia and Wheeland throughout the program.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Justices Bar Life Terms For Juveniles Who Haven't Killed

NY Times
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that juveniles who commit crimes in which no one is killed may not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The ruling expanded a principle the court has never endorsed outside the death penalty — that an entire class of offenders may be immune from a given form of punishment.
Five justices, in an opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, agreed that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment forbids sentences of life without parole as a categorical matter for juvenile offenders who do not participate in homicides.
“A state need not guarantee the offender eventual release,” Justice Kennedy wrote, “but if it imposes the sentence of life, it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. endorsed only a case-by-case approach, but he voted with the majority in saying that the particular inmate in question had received a sentence so harsh that it violated the Constitution.
The case involved Terrance Graham, who in 2003, at age 16, helped rob a Jacksonville restaurant, during which an accomplice beat the manager with a steel bar. Mr. Graham was sentenced to a year in jail and three years’ probation for that crime.
The next year, at 17, Mr. Graham and two 20-year-old accomplices committed a home invasion robbery. In 2005, a judge sentenced Mr. Graham to life for violating his probation.
In the context of capital punishment, the Supreme Court has carved out categories of offenders and crimes that are not subject to the death penalty, including juvenile offenders and those who do not take a life. Monday’s decision applied those two decisions in Venn diagram fashion to life-without-parole sentences.
Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said both national and international consensuses supported the court’s ruling.
Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said the majority was wrong about the facts in both cases and wrong as a matter of principle to take account of the international opinion.
Thirty-seven states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have laws allowing life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of nonhomicide offenses. That represents, Justice Thomas said, a super-majority of states in favor of the punishment.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Senate Rejects Cuts To Prison

The Canon City Record
In the last hours of this year’s legislative session Wednesday, the Colorado Senate allowed a bill to cut prison funding to die. House Bill 1421, with an amendment from Sen. Ken Kester, would have mandated that the Department of Corrections reduce overall prison bed capacity by 300 or create comparable savings. The reduction could have been accomplished by either: closing a state run prison; reducing public and private prison beds; or through other means identified by the department.
The House rejected Kester’s amendment, leaving the original bill that would have required the department to decommission a prison of at least 500 beds.
After the House’s rejection of the amendment, the Senate did not take the bill up again, effectively killing it as the session closed for the year.
“We were neutral,” DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said. “We were going to do what they told us to do.”

U.S. war on drugs appears to be a losing battle - The Denver Post

U.S. war on drugs appears to be a losing battle - The Denver Post

MEXICO CITY — After 40 years, the United States' war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.

Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn't worked.

"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified."

This week, President Barack Obama promised to "reduce drug use and the great damage it causes" with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public-health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.

Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms