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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Editorial: More support for probation system - The Denver Post

Editorial: More support for probation system - The Denver Post

The recent string of violent acts committed by people on probation in Colorado is disconcerting, particularly since the state is considering money-saving reforms that would send even more offenders to supervised release outside prison walls.

We still think it's an appropriate approach — as long as it is accompanied by more and better tools that probation departments can use to keep the community safe.

Last Sunday, The Post published a story detailing how 10 felons, who were on probation at the time, committed acts during the past nine months that resulted in charges of murder or attempted murder.

Several of them are accused of shooting at police officers, wounding two of them. Another is charged with murdering and mutilating a 16-year-old girl. And one man is accused of killing his mother.

We understand that predicting the behavior of convicts on probation is not easy. It's a task made more difficult by the problems these felons have — emotional, mental health and substance abuse issues are not uncommon.

That's why legislators, as they consider new proposals designed to bring down prison populations, must use some of the savings to beef up these ancillary areas.

The cost difference between probation and prison is substantial.

Keeping an offender in prison for a year costs $35,000. In comparison, the average cost of supervising an adult offender on probation is only $1,600. Some who require more intensive supervision — sex offenders, for instance — may be significantly more expensive — somewhere in the range of $4,000.

Nevertheless, it's clear the cost of probation is far less than imprisonment. Yet those savings cannot be considered in isolation.

If Colorado chooses to change sentencing laws, as has been proposed in the past, the cost of expanding community mental health and substance abuse services has to be part of the calculation.

And probation staff has to be beefed up. Currently, the state probation division is only 90 percent staffed. Ensuring there are enough probation officers so they have manageable caseloads must be part of the equation as well.

Tom Quinn, director of the state's Division of Probation Services, said his office is testing advanced screening tools. The goal is to better pinpoint problems and traits that might push probationers to wrongdoing and then address those issues.

The Post story addresses the idea of arming probation officers so they can protect themselves in dangerous situations they might encounter during home visits. Quinn told us he would oppose that. He says introducing a gun into the situation means probation officers would have the responsibility to ensure the gun doesn't get into the wrong hands.

Read more: Editorial: More support for probation system - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17728092#ixzz1I5qcej5E
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