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By The Daily Sentinel
Monday, September 27, 2010
It’s rare that prosecutors and defense attorneys agree on a proposed legal change that would affect criminal defendants. It’s equally unusual when police chiefs, county sheriffs, victims-rights groups and organizations that advocate on behalf of prisoners all agree on a proposed piece of policy.
But when it comes to Proposition 102 on Colorado’s election ballot this year, all these groups have reached the same conclusion: The state’s voters should reject the measure.
Proposition 102 would effectively shut down pretrial-services programs in all but a few cases.
Ten counties in Colorado, including Mesa, have pretrial-services programs. These 10 counties serve more than 70 percent of the state’s population.
Pretrial services allow judges to let criminal suspects out of jail while they are awaiting trial and assign them to supervision by pretrial-services programs.
Staff members with these programs monitor defendants for drug and alcohol use, make home visits and ensure defendants attend scheduled court hearings. They also provide judges with information about defendants prior to bond hearings, recommending whether a defendant is a good candidate for monitoring by pretrial services.
Bail bondsmen dislike these arrangements because they reduce the number of defendants who might use the bondsmen’s services. Proposition 102 is being financed by national bail-bonds organizations and supported by some local bail bondsmen.
Proposition 102 would allow only first-time offenders charged with nonviolent misdemeanors to use pretrial services.
But those types of defendants are not likely to face large bail — if any. Pretrial services aren’t needed for most of them.
Pretrial services evaluate people facing felony, as well as misdemeanor charges. And there is no evidence to indicate people monitored by pretrial services are any more likely to miss court hearings or commit crimes than those out on bail.
However, if Proposition 102 is passed, it will cost taxpayers an estimated $2.8 million more a year because it will keep people in jail longer while they are awaiting bail, according to the Colorado Legislative Council’s Blue Book.
When the Colorado District Attorneys Council, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, County Sheriffs of Colorado, Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, victims’ and prisoner advocacy groups all say Proposition 102 is a mistake, Coloradans should listen.
Vote “No” on Proposition 102.
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Durango Herald News, Campaigns on bail bond issue run afoul of finance laws
DENVER - Sponsors of a ballot measure on bail bonds have never filed a campaign-finance report despite a large-scale petition drive to put Proposition 102 on the ballot.
In addition, the secretary of state's office could not confirm that one of the sponsors, Mike Paul Donovan, is a registered Colorado voter, although Donovan's co- sponsor, Matthew Duran, insists they both are Colorado voters.
Opponents of Proposition 102 have not registered an official campaign, either.
The issue exposes the inability of Colorado's election laws to make sure Colorado voters know who is for and against the issues they will see on the November ballot. It is the second time this election that a group has managed to place questions before voters without revealing who paid for the campaign.
"Voters should have the right to weigh the credibility of what's on the ballot based on whose interests are at stake, who's funding it," said Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who has sponsored several campaign-finance bills.
Proposition 102 would ban judges from releasing repeat or violent offenders into pretrial services programs unless they post a monetary bail. Opponents call it a giveaway to bond companies.
"If you are going to come to Colorado and mess with our system, then you should at least have to comply the with the laws of our state," said Stefanie Clarke, a spokeswoman for groups opposed to Proposition 102.
Duran says his opponents are also playing loose with the law.
"It's ironic because our opponents are throwing this out there, and they haven't even set up a campaign committee yet," Duran said.
Indeed, no campaign has registered to oppose Proposition 102. Clarke said the groups that oppose Proposition 102 have not raised or spent money, and she works for the Pretrial Justice Institute. The nonprofit group has a First Amendment right to weigh in on issues, and its lawyer has made sure the group is following the law, she said.
The anti-102 groups have no plans to raise money or advertise, Clarke said.
Duran said he and Donovan paid for the petition campaign, which turned in 170,000 signatures Aug. 2. The official pro-102 campaign, Safe Streets Colorado, did not registered until 24 days later, and it still has not filed a campaign-finance report to disclose its donors to the public.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2010
CONTACT: Mark Silverstein, Colorado ACLU Legal Director, 303-777-5482 x114
DENVER – Officials at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (DWCF) today implemented a new strip search policy that no longer allows correctional officers to engage in degrading body cavity searches during which they previously had forced prisoners to open their labia and, according to some reports, even to pull back the skin of their clitorises.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado last month sent a letter to Ari Zavaras, head of the Colorado Department of Corrections, charging that the searches – which occurred even when guards had no particular reason to suspect concealment of contraband – raised grave concerns under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In its Aug. 25 letter, the ACLU said that while courts have upheld visual inspections of prisoners, forcing women to hold open their labia for inspection on a routine basis is gratuitous and constitutes unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and humiliation.
“Officials at DWCF deserve credit for eliminating these degrading searches,” said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Colorado. “The U.S. Constitution protects prisoners from having to endure pointless and humiliating treatment.”
In addition to its letter, the ACLU issued an online call-to-action for the public to email Mr. Zavaras and ask him to stop the degrading search policy.
Experts on mental health care in prison have estimated that as many as 80 percent of women who are in jail or prison have been the victims of domestic violence and physical abuse prior to their conviction, a reality that compounds the infliction of pain caused by the needless body cavity searches. The ACLU said in its letter that courts have found that the previous sexual abuse suffered by many female prisoners increases the trauma caused by invasive strip searches and heightens the constitutional violation. Indeed, the ACLU received letters from prisoners at DWCF who complained that being forced to comply with the previous search procedures – which in some cases occurred under the threat of being doused with pepper spray – exacerbated prior sexual trauma.
The ACLU also asserted in its letter that DWCF’s previous procedures could jeopardize the safety of communities across the state of Colorado by undermining the rehabilitation of prisoners and compromising the Colorado Department of Corrections’ stated goal of “assist[ing] offenders’ successful re-entry into society” and “reduc[ing] the likelihood of future victims.” The ACLU’s letter charged that prisoners had refused visits from friends and family in order to avoid post-visit searches.
“These searches had a devastating impact on prisoners and threatened to undermine rehabilitation,” said David Shapiro,” staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “We will remain vigilant and in contact with DWCF prisoners to ensure that the new procedures are implemented properly.”
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9NEWS.com | Denver | Colorado's Online News Leader | New 'haven' for babies in Denver
DENVER - On Monday, lots of mothers and babies
came out for the groundbreaking for the new Baby
Haven daycare facility, and when finished, it will be
the first of its kind in Colorado.
The new daycare facility will allow mothers
recovering from drugs and alcohol to stay with their
Baby Haven will be a new addition to Haven House,
an 89-bed therapy center for women, mothers and
Heather Depew has been getting help for her
methamphetamine addiction at Haven House, and
says the Baby Haven will enable more mothers like
her to get treatment.
"This is awesome. The whole building of the new
Baby Haven opens a lot of opportunities that weren't
available before. The fact that our children will be
able to stay with us until they are three is awesome,"
Licensed by the Colorado Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Division (ADAD), Haven House offers long-term,
intensive treatment for clients with addictions.
Officials say, the expansion allows the program to
meet growing needs in areas of parenting education
and child care.
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9NEWS.com | Denver | Colorado's Online News Leader | Inmate transforms white prison walls into works of art
STERLING - For most of the nearly 25 years he's
been in prison, Michael Wentz stared at blank,
seemingly endless white walls that promised to run
as long as his prison sentence. His most recent stint
at the Sterling Correctional Facility has given him
the opportunity to change that.
"I kept thinking, 'Man, it'd be nice to liven something
up,'" said Wentz, who has now created almost 15 l
arge-scale murals on some of the walls covering
the 850,000-square-foot prison. "I'm fascinated
with the way I can create something out of nothing. I
can take a blank wall and put something up there
that can invoke some type of emotion or reaction
from other people."
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The practice of courts assigning defendants to pretrial services, such as the program Mesa County operates, is hurting the bail-bond business, area bondsmen said.
That’s why they’re backing Proposition 102, a measure on this fall’s ballot to curb what kind of defendants are allowed pretrial services, which are designed to make sure defendants attend their scheduled court appearance and monitor them to ensure that they do.
“It’s another good example of government taking over private enterprise,” said Bob Cunningham, who has run a local bail-bonding company in Grand Junction for 17 years. “Bail bonding is a system that’s worked for 200 years.”
Beyond the bond workers, though, prosecutors, defense attorneys and others in the court system are opposing Proposition 102.
The ballot question would limit when courts can assign defendants to pretrial services, rather than requiring them to post bonds. Ten pretrial services operate in the state, with Mesa County’s program the only one outside the Front Range.
Under the amendment, only those defendants facing misdemeanor charges, and then only the first time, could be referred to pretrial services.
Approving it, however, would endanger the public and cost taxpayers more money, Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said.
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DENVER — A Douglas County district judge on Friday denied a request by the confessed killer of a prison guard to remove prosecutors and end pursuit of the death penalty.
Edward Montour Jr., 43, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the Oct. 18, 2002, beating death of Pueblo native Eric Autobee, 23. At the time, Montour was serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for the murder of his infant daughter.
Autobee was a sergeant assigned to the kitchen of Limon Correctional Facility when Montour attacked him with a 9-pound, 4-foot-long metal ladle.
Montour originally was sentenced to death by a district judge, but the Colorado Supreme Court subsequently ruled that only juries could impose the death penalty, so Montour’s sentence was commuted to life without parole.
Prosecutors from Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, encompassing Jefferson and Gilpin counties, again are seeking the death penalty for Montour.
Montour asked District Judge Richard Caschette to dismiss the capital proceeding against him or disqualify 18th Judicial District prosecutors from his case on grounds that he was denied due process because the prosecution stood to gain financially as an office and individually.
The basis for the defense argument was funds provided to the prosecution by the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2003 and 2007 totaling more than $137,000.
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