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, June 06, 2011

Prison and jail reforms - Boulder Daily Camera

Prison and jail reforms - Boulder Daily Camera

Solitary confinement in prison can be a harrowing, punishing experience, which can be the point. For almost every hour of the day, seven days a week, often for more than a year, inmates in solitary have no human contact at all.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the state`s inmate population being held in solitary confinement suffers from mental illness. On Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a new law that will hopefully increase the chances that an inmate will get the mental health services he needs, while reducing the costs and overall number of inmates in what is appropriately nicknamed "the hole."

There are about 1,400 people in solitary confinement in Colorado today. They will spend 23 hours a day there, for an average of 16 months, according to the department.

According to the Colorado Department of Corrections, in 1999, 15 percent of inmates in solitary were mentally ill or developmentally disabled. In 2008, it was 37 percent.

The new law requires regular mental health evaluations for inmates in solitary confinement, and allows inmates to receive "earned time" for good behavior after 90 days in solitary. It also restricts the practice of releasing prisoners directly from long-term solitary confinement right into the community, instead of transitioning to the general prison population.

Currently, 41 percent of prisoners released from solitary confinement are really released: Their entire prison time has been served.

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora sponsored the bill, which garnered support from a coalition including state branches of the ACLU, Mental Health America and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

"Solitary confinement of mentally ill inmates isn`t useful or productive for the safety of the inmate or the prison. This legislation will increase prison and prisoner safety," said Rep. Levy.

The most important thing is that the new law is just, and humane. The upshot is that it could potentially save taxpayers` money. A single prisoner in solitary confinement costs a conservatively estimated $15,000 more than a prisoner in the general population.

Speaking of prisoners and money, a conference held this week holds out some promise. A national conference regarding pre-trial release was held in Washington D.C. to review laws set almost 50 years ago regarding non-violent offenders filling up local jails. An estimated 500,000 people, charged with non-violent offenses, are jailed each day in the United States because they can`t afford the bail.

The cost to the public is $9 billion a year. And these aren`t criminals a judge wouldn`t want to risk losing sight of: These are non-violent offenders for whom bail has already been set. They just can`t afford it.

Earlier this year, Boulder County Chief Judge Roxanne Bailin, with support from the district attorney`s office and the sheriff`s department, rolled out a reduced bond schedules for our local suspects to address this very issue. Talking about it at the national level is smart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We also need to restrict the use of parole holds that keep parolees from being released from jail when bond is set. They are still innocent until proven guilty; a parole hold should not be allowed when the Judges themselves have seen fit to set bond!