The 3-year-old boy affectionately known as "Biscuit" was sleeping in the back of a parked old Cadillac when the shooting began.
Fourteen bullets hit the car in the drive-by shooting outside a northeast Denver duplex. Biscuit was shot in the head and died. His brother, Calvin, four days shy of his 7th birthday, and a teenage cousin were unhurt.
Sharletta Evans — mother of Biscuit, or Casson Xavier Evans — came to forgive the gunmen, who were 15 and 16 years old at the time of the Dec. 21, 1995, shooting. But it took years for her to decide she wanted to meet them in prison, hoping for closure.
A new Colorado law encourages the state Department of Corrections to facilitate such reconciliation meetings. Yet it's a process that requires they be safe and don't backfire on victims. And prison officials say there's simply no money to make it happen in the near future.
Lawmakers made many cuts to close a budget shortfall this year of nearly $500 million. Schools, Medicaid and prison vocational programs all lost funding.
As many as 200 people want to meet their offenders in Colorado and are on a DOC list, said corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti.
Colorado's law encourages victim-offender dialogues "when funds become available." It also emphasizes an alternative sentencing option known as restorative justice, which favors restitution instead of imprisonment. It's an alternative that was already available to juveniles in some cases, but the legislation expands the option to adults. The law takes effect Aug. 10.
While several states have restorative justice laws, Colorado, Alabama, California and Vermont are the only ones trying to make possible victim-offender meetings, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures. California adopted guidelines for the meetings and so far officials have conducted two and are working on four more, said Dana Toyama, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Toyama said officials want to expand the program but also face budget challenges.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
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, July 18, 2011