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, July 12, 2011

Colorado's New Prison Czar

Inside Wire

Is Colorado's New Prison Czar Bringing Reform or Business as Usual?

When Governor John Hickenlooper took charge of the state's executive branch he brought in Tom Clements, the innovative former director of Missouri's 21 adult prisons, to shake up the CDOC.

In Missouri Clements oversaw  an award Winning prison program called "Parallel Universe." In the April 2001 edition of the magazine Corrections Today, Clements and colleague Dora Schriro co-wrote an article detailing how the program works. According to the article, "Parallel Universe is a corrections-based reentry program. Offenders in Missouri make choices and assume responsibility for their decisions that all have real-world ramifications. With this system, inmates learn to identify community expectations and then reconcile them with their own attitudes. They practice making decisions that do not contravene prison security but, instead, will enhance public safety.''

Prison rehabilitation programs have been in and out of vogue for decades, with most experts agreeing that the majority of U.S. prisons are nothing more than gladiator camps producing better criminals. Missouri's program is different and it seems to be showing significant results.

Parallel Universe focuses on helping inmates develop cognitive and decision making skills that will help them be crime free when they leave prison. The program not only teaches these skills but it allows the inmates to practice and live the skills everyday while in prison, making them habitual behaviors likely to be continued when not incarcerated. The goal is to allow inmates to make many of the same decisions they will have to make in the real world.

Teaching inmates how to make better decisions and to be better citizens may seem like a no-brainer but most prison systems, CDOC included, manage the population by strictly controlling inmates' actions and reducing inmate decision making to a minimum - it is the prison warehouse approach.

The Parallel Universe approach is to first bring inmates up to a basic educational level. Prison administrators nationwide are finding up to two-thirds of inmates don't have their GED or high school diploma and over half are functionally illiterate. To help overcome this educational deficit, Parallel Universe motivates the inmates the same way most are motivated in the real world - the better educated and more skilled an inmate is, the better his earning potential.

In Missouri prisons, jobs and earnings are tied to the Department of Labor's occupational titles and wages. The more skills an inmate has the more and higher paying, jobs he is eligible to apply for. The old system paid a flat rate offering inmates no incentive for their hard work or job skills. In the new system inmates must interview for jobs and receive regular job performance reviews by their correctional supervisors. Inmate wages are based on skill set and job performance, just like it will be when they get out.


Anonymous said...

thats a good sign. Does seem like a no brainer positive reenforcement, incentives correction rehabilatation A dog does good you give them a trat a child does well its how things work to create positive outcomes lets hope it catches on with this miserable industry because it is not a justice system great article

Anonymous said...

It's a step-forward.