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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Colorado prison program teaches inmates about life beyond bars - The Denver Post

Colorado prison program teaches inmates about life beyond bars - The Denver Post

Reconnecting with old crime cohorts is a common way parolees get into trouble again and cycle back into prison.

But a new program created by the Department of Corrections called the Lifetime Offender Program, or LTOP, not only allows certain associations between convicted felons, it requires them.

A dozen long-term prisoners at Sterling Correctional Facility recently sat in a circle in a conference room and talked about why they think LTOP will help them stay out of trouble. They are the first inmates enrolled in the pilot program.

The prisoners, who include murderers and habitual criminals, were selected from 400 applicants from across the Colorado prison system, said Eric Holzwarth, assistant parole director.

Prisoners qualify for LTOP in part because they committed crimes so serious they have been locked up at least 15 years. They must be 45 years old, within six years of their mandatory parole release and be discipline free, he said.

They were all moved to Sterling and have been meeting the past two months in group sessions with counselors.

The LTOP inmates live together in the same cellblock where they get lessons about living in a digital world. They will be released two at a time to a community corrections program at the Denver County Jail and then to the same halfway house. When they move into their own apartment on parole, they will keep in touch with one another for years.

As well as a parole officer, they will get guidance from a convict mentor who also served a lengthy prison sentence and then stayed out of trouble for years.

Last Wednesday evening, the LTOP inmates teleconferenced with five mentors including convicted murderer Red Thorpe, who teaches a paralegal college course in the Denver area while serving his life sentence.

"I spent most of my adult life in (prison). I've been out for eight years," Thorpe said. "It's like learning how to fly a plane. Would you want to learn from someone who only learned by reading books or from someone who learned how to fly by actually flying."

For example, he said, cutting in line in prison is so disrespectful it could trigger a fatal knife fight. Cons can't ignore such slights, or they will become targets. But shortly after Thorpe was released from prison a teenager cut in front of him at a McDonald's. He suppressed an urge to strangle the kid.

Many inmates react instinctively to such relatively benign circumstances. It is one reason more than 60 percent of convicts commit new crimes or violate parole release rules.

In 1981, Herbert Marmant, 59, hired Robert "Tattoo Bob" Landry, a Miami hit man, to kill his ex-wife so he could gain custody of his daughter.

"When I went to prison, cars didn't talk to you," said Marmant, who is in LTOP.

Although Marmant's sentence is a life term, it allows for his parole. Marmant has earned three college degrees in prison and never gets write-ups for bad behavior. Still, he has anxiety about making it on the outside if paroled.

"I've literally seen inmates leave prison and then come back thousands of times," Marmant said.

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