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, August 23, 2011

Griego: Program moves women from pain, to hope, to heroes - The Denver Post

Griego: Program moves women from pain, to hope, to heroes - The Denver Post

Sharee Wilson got out of prison and moved into a halfway house where a woman named Tina Black said, "You know, you should take this self-esteem program with me."

"Oh, no," Sharee replied, "not another program."

To the same suggestion, some of the other women at the house, scoffed: "Self-esteem? I have plenty of self-esteem, thank you very much."

Bravado isn't self-esteem, but then, the word has lost its meaning. Building self-esteem has been cast as an end, when it is a means. Humility, dignity, love of humanity all come with understanding one's own worth or value or sacredness — choose the word that has meaning for you. It guides the choices we make.

Sharee made a lot of bad choices. We've met her before. She was one of the inmates who urged students at Manny Martinez Middle School to learn from her missteps. Her son, Kevin, a dean of students at Montbello High School, saw her picture in the paper. They'd been estranged. He wrote me and said that for the first time in a long time, he was proud of her.

Sharee accepted Tina Black's offer. When the program ended, 16 weeks later, she invited me to graduation.

It was Sunday. Twenty-seven women graduated. They are residents of either Tooley Hall or Arapahoe County Residential Center halfway houses. Between the singing, the praising Jesus and the dancing, I've never seen anything quite so joyous. Hope took its place in that room among the women and their families, and hope is hard to muster in the wake of so many broken hearts.

The ceremony was held at Word Up Life Changers Ministry. It's the church with the white steeple just north of Alameda on Colorado Boulevard. The church gave office space to evangelist Renee Scott and her Angel's Cove program. Sister Scott, as she is known, is an unflappable, soft-spoken straight-talker, generous in her love and time. The goal, she tells the women, is to "build a new you."

"We talk about blame. We talk about taking responsibility," Sister Scott says. "We don't just come in with flowers. The goal is that their lives change, that they would come to know their purpose.

"When they are getting ready to go back home, they are full of questions. Who am I? How do I fit? Who will rub shoulders with me? Will I be rejected? So, we separate prison from who they are. We tear that veil away. Yes, we'll talk about prison, but right now, 'Who are you?' "

Among the guests are the directors of Tooley Hall and ACRC, Cecilia Turner and Angie Riffel. They attend every graduation. "A lot of these women have been told no one wants to hear their voices," Turner says. "This program helps them find their voices. Sister Scott has made an incredible difference in their lives."

I meet Brenda. She's a beautiful 40-year-old and longtime addict. "This is the first time I have ever graduated from anything," she says, beaming. Her mother has driven in from Laramie. "I think you can do it," mom says to daughter. "Enough is enough." Brenda nods. "I can."

No comments: