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.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Colorado public defenders' workload growing even though criminal filings have fallen - The Denver Post

Colorado public defenders' workload growing even though criminal filings have fallen - The Denver Post

Despite steep drops in criminal filings, attorneys for the state's poorest defendants anticipate their highest-ever caseload by the end of the fiscal year.

State Public Defender Doug Wilson expects to break the 100,000 mark in new cases by the end of June, and he attributes the bump in the number of indigent defendants to the downturned economy.

He said growing caseloads have exacerbated other long-standing staffing and pay problems plaguing his office.

At risk is the quality of time Wilson said his staff can give to any individual case.

"Somebody before may have been able to hire private counsel on a misdemeanor. They're no longer able to do that, because they don't have a job," Wilson said. "When caseloads are high, it becomes substantially more difficult to provide that service."

Public defenders provide constitutionally mandated representation to defendants who establish that they can't afford their own lawyers.

Since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, prosecutors have filed about 20 percent fewer felony and misdemeanor cases as the number of crimes committed decreased, but public defenders are being called upon to represent a larger percentage of those defendants.

Tom Raynes, head of the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, said it's not just public defenders but the entire judicial system that's struggling, pointing out that the 21st Judicial District in Mesa County recently laid off all its criminal investigators.

"Nearly every district and almost all the counties are asking for DAs to cut their budgets," Raynes said. "Everybody is getting crunched."

Still, the growth in the number of misdemeanor defendants who can't afford counsel is extraordinary.

Public defenders were appointed in 31,466 new misdemeanor cases in fiscal year 2008. By the end of this year, they expect to open 44,675, a 42 percent leap.

The legislature has authorized the office to hire 37 new lawyers, but it's not just the number of cases that has increased, it's also the number of hours the office's 386 attorneys spend on indigent cases that continues to increase.

Statistics show that defenders spent a little more than eight hours per Class 4 felony case in 2002.

By 2008, the last time information was gathered, increasingly complex cases meant they spent just over 11 hours on the same level of crime.

Read more: Colorado public defenders' workload growing even though criminal filings have fallen - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17210847#ixzz1CEnma3u5
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