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.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crack Sentencing Retroactive



 

 

I have great news!  The U.S. Sentencing Commission just voted to make retroactive last year's changes to the crack sentencing guidelines!

As a result of today's vote, an estimated 12,040 will be eligible to ask the court for reduced sentences. Average sentence reductions are expected to be 37 months.

I wish you all could have been there with the dozens of FAMM members and me when the Commission tallied its vote this afternoon. The feeling of justice being done was palpable.

My heart is filled with gratitude today for everyone who helped us win this great victory, which would have seemed unthinkable just five years ago.  I am so thankful to the tens of thousands of you who wrote to the Commission, shared your personal stories, and encouraged FAMM over the years.

I am grateful to the members of the Sentencing Commission who responded to facts, not fear.

And I am proud of our spirited team at FAMM that works hard every day to restore fairness and common sense to our nation's sentencing laws.

On a personal note, I want to tell you this: Last year, when Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, I had very mixed feelings. As I wrote to you then, I was thrilled to get rid of the 100:1 disparity, but I thought it was cruel not to provide relief to those already serving excessive sentences.  But I knew we had to take what we could get and then

keep fighting... and keep fighting... and keep fighting!

Now we have won the first half of crack sentencing retroactivity:  The crack sentencing guideline has been made retroactive. We will now turn our attention to Congress to try to persuade it to make crack cocaine mandatory minimum sentences retroactive, too.  

But for today, I am absolutely thrilled that 12,040 individuals -- including many, many FAMM members -- will benefit from the Commission's action.

What a great day!

My best,

Julie

Julie Stewart
FAMM President and Founder

New Parole Board

Governor Hickenlooper
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 -- Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced appointments to the State Board of Parole.

The State Board of Parole holds hearings and considers applications for parole, and conducts all proceedings involving revocation of parole. These appointments are dependent upon Senate confirmation. The members appointed are:

  • Dr. Anthony Young of Colorado Springs, to serve as a citizen representative, with a term to expire July 1, 2014. Young received a B.A. from Milliken University and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Denver. Dr. Young’s extensive experience in criminal justice and mental health spans over 34 years in Colorado. He is a former member of the Colorado State Board of Parole (1991-1995) and served as Clinical Team Leader for the Community Reintegration Unit of the Institute for Forensic Psychiatry-Colorado Mental Health Institute-Pueblo.
     
  • Patricia Ann Waak of Erie, to serve as a citizen representative, with a term to expire July 1, 2013. Waak received a B.S. from St. Joseph’s College and a M.A. in psychology from Regis University. Waak is a psychotherapist with extensive experience in strategic planning, restructuring and rebuilding organizations, as well as training and management. She has served as a consultant for worldwide organizations, published extensively and is a registered nurse. Waak has served as the Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, the executive director of the High Plains Environmental Center, held positions at the National Audubon Society, Columbia University and at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
     
  • Edward P. Thomas of Denver, to serve as a citizen representative with a term to expire July 1, 2014. Thomas has extensive experience and a strong background in public safety, community outreach and economic development. Currently, Thomas is a private consultant to municipalities and businesses on safety and security issues, the editor in chief of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle and vice president of business development for the Avrio Group. Previously, he was a Denver City Council Representative (1994-2003) and a Denver Police Officer. Thomas attended Metropolitan State College.
     
  • Denise K. Balazic of Aurora, to serve as a parole or probation representative, with a term to expire July 1, 2014. Balazic has extensive experience in developing and implementing competency-based criminal justice training for Probation & Parole. Since 2007, Balazic has been a correctional program specialist with the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, in Aurora. Previously, she was with the Missouri Department of Corrections and was a Probation & Parole Officer. Balazic received a B.S. from Southern Illinois University.
Effective July 1, 2011 for a term expiring at the pleasure of the Governor:
  • Dr. Anthony Young of Colorado Springs to serve as Chairperson of the State Board of Parole.
     
  • Patricia Ann Waak of Erie to serve as Vice Chairperson of the State Board of Parole.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Newsletter

Will be mailed next week! This issues includes the 2011 Legislative Vote Count and Summary.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

AP Enterprise: Pharmacy robberies sweeping US - The Denver Post

AP Enterprise: Pharmacy robberies sweeping US - The Denver Post
NEW YORK—A wave of pharmacy robberies is sweeping the United States as desperate addicts and ruthless dealers turn to violence to feed the nation's growing hunger for narcotic painkillers.

From Redmond, Wash., to St. Augustine, Fla., criminals are holding pharmacists at gunpoint and escaping with thousands of powerfully addictive pills that can sell for as much as $80 apiece on the street.

In one of the most shocking crimes yet, a robber walked into a neighborhood drugstore Sunday on New York's Long Island and gunned down the pharmacist, a teenage store clerk and two customers before leaving with a backpack full of pills containing hydrocodone.

"It's an epidemic," said Michael Fox, a pharmacist on New York's Staten Island who has been stuck up twice in the last year. "These people are depraved. They'll kill you."

Armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says. The number of pills stolen went from 706,000 to 1.3 million. Thieves are overwhelmingly taking oxycodone painkillers like OxyContin or Roxicodone, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin and Norco. Both narcotics are highly addictive.

In New York state, the number of armed robberies rose from 2 in 2006 to 28 in 2010. In Florida, they increased nearly six-fold, from 11 to 65. California saw 61 robberies in 2010, Indiana had 45 and Tennessee had 38.

Most robbers don't hurt anyone, but authorities are worried the risk of bloodshed is increasing as assaults multiply. In September, a clerk was fatally shot in the chest and a pregnant woman wounded in the foot when a shootout broke out between a robber and an armed employee at a pharmacy in a suburb of Sacramento, Calif. In April, a gunman killed a pharmacist in Trenton, N.J., before stealing $10,000 in pills.

The robberies mirror a national rise in the abuse of narcotic painkillers, DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said.

"Drug addicts are always seeking ways to get their drugs," Carreno said. "Whenever there's an increase in a problem, you'll see it manifested in ways like this."

Prescription painkillers are now the second most-abused drugs after marijuana, with 7 million Americans using them illegally in the past month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says. The number of patients treated in emergency rooms for prescription drug overdoses more than doubled between 2004 and 2008, from 144,644 to 305,885.

Drug dealers may be turning to violence as authorities

Wheat Ridge doctor faces drug charges for alleged "pill mill" - The Denver Post

Wheat Ridge doctor faces drug charges for alleged "pill mill" - The Denver Post

Ryan Lujan, 23, an award-winning athlete, died on the bathroom floor.

Derek Mefford, 28, a father of two boys, was found by his 10-year-old son.

Daryl Mattox, 41, was slumped over his couch.

The men had three things in common: All were addicts. All were patients of Dr. Kevin Clemmer, a Jefferson County osteopath. And all of them died after overdosing on prescription drugs.

Clemmer, who has neither been charged nor implicated by authorities in any of the deaths, is facing more than 50 federal criminal counts of distributing oxycodone — a synthetic opiate similar to heroin — "outside the scope of professional practice."

He has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial at the end of July. Authorities say in court papers that they investigated his connection to the three deaths and perhaps others.

Clemmer's case puts faces on what drug-addiction specialists say is an alarming trend in the illicit-narcotics trade in Colorado.

In the metro area, emergency-room visits for oxycodone abuse rose from 234 in 2004 to 1,256 in 2009, according to statistics from the Drug Abuse Warning Network that uses data from local hospitals.

Statewide, the numbers of treatment admissions for opioids not prescribed by a doctor has risen from 824 in 2006 to 1,715 in 2010, according to the Colorado Division of Behavioral Health.

Oxycodone scripts soar

A three-year analysis of Colorado's Prescription Drug Monitoring Database shows an average of 41,203 hydrocodone prescriptions and 34,516 oxycodone prescriptions are filled just for Denver residents every three months.

From 2007 to 2010, the number of prescriptions written in Denver alone for oxycodone rose by 41 percent, according to the Denver Office of Drug Strategy.

In 2009, 70 percent of drug-

related deaths in Denver involved the abuse of prescription drugs, according to statistics from Peer Assistance Services, a group dedicated to battling substance abuse.

In 1995, the FDA approved OxyContin for moderate to severe pain, and since then, an increasing number of people have sought drug treatment for abusing it.

"It was almost instantly sort of an issue," said Art Schut, deputy director of the drug-addiction clinic Arapahoe House. "People were being prescribed 300 tabs of it, which was supposed to be used over a long period of time. But immediately, people find a way to defeat the time-release portion of it."

Abusers can inject, crush and manipulate the tablets to consume the drug all at once to achieve a high rather than taking the pill and waiting for the drug to slowly act as a pain reliever.

In recent years, the drug has come into even greater use because it carries a hint of respectability not found in street heroin. Studies have shows that some abusers believe the drugs are safer to use because they are typically prescribed by a doctor and not necessarily purchased by a drug dealer on the street, Schut said.

Masters exonerated in 1987 Fort Collins murder, gets apology from DA - The Denver Post

Masters exonerated in 1987 Fort Collins murder, gets apology from DA - The Denver Post

The statewide grand jury investigating the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick has concluded that Timothy Masters was not responsible for her death, prompting an apology from the Larimer district attorney to the man who spent a decade behind bars for the crime.

"Pursuant to the mandate from the Governor's Office, our team undertook a comprehensive review of the entire Hettrick homicide," said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. "Our team conducted more than 170 interviews and conducted further DNA analysis. Throughout the past year, the Statewide Grand Jury heard evidence and testimony from numerous witnesses. Based on the testimony, the forensic analysis and the crime scene analysis, the overwhelming conclusion is that Timothy Masters was not involved in the murder of Peggy Hettrick."

Masters was released from prison in 2008, and informally cleared of any suspicion in the case. But while he received a $10 million payment from Fort Collins and Larimer County, he didn't get a formal declaration of exoneration or an apology - until today.

"I believe it is appropriate as the current district attorney and on behalf of the criminal justice system in Larimer County to express our apologies to Timothy Masters, his family and friends for the conviction and sentence he endured 12 years ago," said Larimer District Attorney Larry R. Abrahamson.

While the apology and exoneration may represent a last measure of redemption for Masters, the failure of the statewide grand jury to find a new suspect after a year of investigation casts fresh doubt on whether authorities will ever solve Hettrick's killing.

Her stabbed and mutilated body was found on the morning of Feb. 11, 1987, in a field near Masters home. She had been at a local bar the night before, but left alone. She was 37.

Authorities had no physical evidence linking Masters, then 15, to the crime, but used his fantastic drawings and knives found in his home to persuade a jury to convict him on purely circumstantial evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Ministry only hope for the forgotten in solitary confinement

http://www.mnnonline.org/article/15890

Friday, June 24, 2011

House bill would grant states right to regulate marijuana, opening door to medical, recreational use - The Denver Post

House bill would grant states right to regulate marijuana, opening door to medical, recreational use - The Denver Post

The federal ban on marijuana would end and states would earn the right to regulate the drug under a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 would allow states to decide how to regulate marijuana, opening the doors for medicinal and recreational use.

The bill is believed to be the first of its kind, and it could close a gap in state and federal laws that finds some medical-marijuana users in Colorado facing federal courts.

"We live in this situation now in Colorado where marijuana is sort of legal and it's sort of illegal," said Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver.

Under the bill, introduced by Reps. Barney Frank , D-Mass., and Ron Paul , R-Texas, and co-sponsored by, among others, Boulder Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, states and counties would decide when and where to allow the possession and sale of marijuana, regulating it like they can control alcohol.

Federal agents would not be allowed to arrest people for possessing or distributing marijuana unless they were violating local laws. They could, however, arrest people who were trafficking the drug between states where it was legal and states where it was illegal.

Supporters don't expect it to pass. They introduced it in hopes that the public will warm to the idea and a similar law will pass in the future.

"This is an educational process that's going on," Frank said in a teleconference.

Fourteen states have decriminalized marijuana, and 16 states have laws protecting people who use it medicinally.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Denver council to consider repealing 2008 car-impound initiative aimed at illegal immigrants - The Denver Post

Denver council to consider repealing 2008 car-impound initiative aimed at illegal immigrants - The Denver Post

Denver City Council members next month will consider repealing a 2008 initiative passed by voters that was intended to impound vehicles driven by "illegal aliens."

Denver has never enforced the immigration portion of Initiative 100 because of potential civil rights lawsuits. But unlicensed drivers who have their cars towed under the law must pay about $2,600 in bonds and fees in addition to the towing and impound costs to retrieve their vehicles.

That is patently unfair, said Councilman Paul Lopez, who is pushing to repeal the initiative.

"The collateral damage that this law created is huge," Lopez said. "There is no process for someone to prove their innocence. . . . And it's ridiculous to think that getting your car out of the impound is equal to one month's pay."

On Monday, the council approved the first stage of the repeal, setting a July 11 date for the final vote after a public hearing.

Lopez in April 2010 pushed for a repeal but backed off, agreeing with then-Mayor John Hickenlooper that the decision should be made by voters.

Lopez has changed his stance, saying the council has the authority to change the law and that asking taxpayers to pay for an election is unnecessary.

The initiative's backer, Dan Hayes of Jefferson County, said the council should honor the voters' intent.

"The voters passed it," he said. "It's an abuse of power. This is just unheard of. They didn't have the guts to do it before the election. Now they are all elected, and now they are going to repeal it. They are cowards."

Denver's charter makes it possible for the City Council to repeal laws, even those approved by voters, with support from a supermajority, or two-thirds of the 13-member council.

Two council members have voiced opposition to repealing the measure — Charlie Brown and Jeanne Faatz.

"The people of Denver voted for it," Faatz said. "I am not convinced that it is broken."

Initiative 100 passed in August 2008 by a 4,163-vote margin, but critics say that the text of the actual law was confusing and misleading.

The city attorney's office said Denver law enforcement officials couldn't enforce the immigration portion on the threat of certain litigation.

Drug War Creates Distrust Between Cops And Communities

Huffington Post
The 40-year-old "war on drugs" and the criminalization of addiction have placed communities at odds with law enforcement, prosecutors and courts -- to the detriment of justice and respect for the rule of law. The violence driven by the astronomical profits of the illicit drug market and the life-long collateral consequences for those snared by drug laws will continue to exile generations from the mainstream.
It might be surprising to hear this from a cop like me, but the solution to our current human rights crisis will ultimately require the legalization and regulation of current illicit drugs.
I retired from a rewarding career with the Maryland State Police in 2007, and since then have had the honor of working as a lawyer and educator in Baltimore, largely in communities composed of people of color. One of the most heartbreaking things to witness - as both a law enforcement officer and a legal educator -- is a "contempt of cop" culture held by many people living in poor and blighted communities. As a police officer I understood that some people dislike the police. As a lawyer I have witnessed a generational feedback loop within communities of color that perpetuates fear, distrust and hatred for the police officers charged with protecting their communities and maintaining order.
This contempt is grounded in the failure of criminal justice system leaders to effectively screen and manage cases to ensure the fair enforcement of laws and distribution of police services in all neighborhoods -- regardless of the socioeconomic and racial demographics. It is also informed by our nation's long history of racial tension and violence between police and minority communities.

Convicted killer who lived as fugitive for decades faces long prison sentence - The Denver Post

Convicted killer who lived as fugitive for decades faces long prison sentence - The Denver Post

STERLING — For 32 years, Colorado officials took few steps to capture convicted killer Robert Charles Johnson, who escaped the Cañon City prison in 1975.

They filed, but didn't pursue, an escape charge against him. He traveled across the country and spent decades working as a river-rafting guide. Even a 1990 California arrest wasn't enough to get Colorado prison officials or prosecutors interested in chasing him down.

That changed in 2005 after the Department of Corrections created a cold-case fugitive unit. Within two years, Johnson was back behind bars.

Now Johnson, 60, faces more time in prison for his escape than he ever would have served for the original murder charge — and he still has as many as 10 years or so left to serve for that.

In an interview from Sterling Correctional Facility, he said he fears his golden years will be consumed behind bars even though he says he has lived a model life for decades.

Fremont County District Attorney Thom LeDoux said there has to be a penalty for escape regardless of how well someone behaves after fleeing — or there would be no deterrent.

"If you get a light sentence on a homicide case, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a light sentence on an escape charge," LeDoux said.

Johnson said his troubles began in the fall of 1972 when he took a trip out of town to coincide with the arrival of his mother-in-law from Italy. He hitchhiked from California to visit a high school friend who lived in Manitou Springs.

In Colorado Springs, he got a ride from Mi chael A. Lucas, 23. While they were driving into the mountains, he said, Lucas pulled off on a side road and grabbed his crotch. Johnson said he grabbed the steering wheel and swerved the car into a ditch while Lucas slammed on the brakes.

Johnson said Lucas pulled out a handgun, and Johnson wrestled it away. He began firing the .38-caliber weapon.

"I just kept shooting the gun until it went click, click, click," he said.

Lucas was struck twice in the head and once in the chest. "I panicked," Johnson said. "It happened so fast, it was kind of like a blur."

A year later, he was caught while living in New Mexico. Johnson said he believed it was self-defense but that his public defenders talked him into pleading guilty to second-degree murder in a deal in which he got the minimum sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison. He could have gotten out in eight years with sentence reductions for good time.

The warden at the Fremont prison in Cañon City told him Lucas' family had put a $5,000 bounty on his head, he said.

Johnson said a guard, of all people, was the first to suggest he escape. The guard, who believed Johnson had been railroaded into prison, told him that unless he ran, he would likely be murdered because of the contract, he said.

In 1975, two years after Johnson's conviction, the guard drove him past the prison fence to the banks of the Arkansas River and let him go.

"Every day, I thank him for saving my life," Johnson said of the guard.

DOC officials say personnel records from that era have been purged, so they have no records of the guard Johnson named. The Denver Post was unable to locate him.

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.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hoodwinked and bamboozled on the war on drugs - The Denver Post

Hoodwinked and bamboozled on the war on drugs - The Denver Post

Malcolm X once shouted from a soapbox that the public was being "hoodwinked and bamboozled." When it comes to U.S. drug policy, the American public has been hoodwinked and bamboozled ever since President Nixon declared a global war on drugs on June 17, 1971. For 40 years, the war on drugs has treated citizens as serious criminals, destroyed lives and wasted immense resources.

Millions of Americans have been incarcerated for low-level drug law violations, leading to an explosion in our prison population that is costing our country more than $50 billion per year.

The number of people behind bars for drug law violations has risen from 50,000 in 1980 to more than half a million today.

Despite this costly effort, drug overdose, addiction and misuse are more prevalent than ever. The war is an utter failure. We have been bamboozled into believing that incarceration or the threat of incarceration is the best way to deal with drug use and addiction. We have been completely hoodwinked into thinking it is par for the course to increase our incarceration rates tenfold due to the war on drugs when our overall population hasn't even doubled.

Colorado is not immune where drug war policies and practices are concerned. According to the state Department of Corrections, nearly one in five male prisoners and close to one in three women in 2010 were in prison due to a drug conviction in Colorado. In fact, women are the new victims of the drug war and mass incarceration. Eighty-two percent of women sent to prison last year in Colorado were convicted of non-violent offenses.

Sixty percent of all people who were incarcerated last year in Colorado were there for a drug charge or a technical violation of parole. And a good majority of those technical violations are directly or indirectly due to drugs. There is no doubt that the drug war drives mass incarceration in Colorado as it does throughout the country.

Since 1980, the Colorado state population grew by 59 percent while our prison population grew over 500 percent. Our Department of Corrections' budget grew exponentially, nearly tenfold.

This is not sustainable; the budget crisis here and all over the country should drive home — to those on both sides of the political spectrum — the ill wisdom behind the war on drugs.

Colorado is aggressively attempting to get back on track after years of drug war and mass incarceration policies. The work of those at the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, along with governmental efforts such as the Colorado Commission on Crime and Juvenile Justice, are leading us out of the drug war darkness.

The political cover and tactics used in the drug war have eroded trust between some communities and law enforcement. The drug war has fostered the overuse of SWAT teams and no-knock search warrants, violating basic civil liberties and destroying innocent people's lives. Perhaps the most egregious example is the killing of Ismael Mena, a 45-year-old father of nine.. On Sept. 29, 1999, based on information from an informant, Denver SWAT agents raided Mena's home, shooting him eight times. No evidence of drugs or drug dealing was ever found in Mena's home, and an autopsy showed no sign of drugs in his system.

It was later discovered police had the wrong address.

It is the intent of the Drug Policy Alliance and our partners internationally to harness the frustration over these catastrophic policies and motivate our leaders to begin implementing an exit strategy from the longest war this country has seen. What is needed is the sort of reckoning and paradigm shift that understands that the problem is not just drug addiction, but prohibition as well. We need to reduce the role of the criminal justice system in drug control to the maximum extent possible while enhancing public safety and health. In other words, we need to take the wool from over our eyes and let our decision-makers know we can see clearly now.

Art Way is the Colorado manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting alternatives to the drug war.

For more information on the Drug Policy Alliance, go to www.drugpolicy.org.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

40th Anniversary Skyline Park

Call off the Global Drug War

By Jimmy Carter
NY TIMES
IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.
The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.
These recommendations are compatible with United States drug policy from three decades ago. In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”
These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.

Sterling prisoner trains dog to help boy with autism

The Denver Post

Nine-year-old Zack Tucker gave Clyde a perplexed stare in the visitors hall at Sterling Correctional Facility.
"His teeth feel like they're made for bone- crushing," said Zack, after getting nipped while putting food in the chocolate Labrador's mouth.
Colorado prisoners have trained hundreds of dogs rescued from shelters as part of a work program that began in 2002. But Clyde is one of the first dogs trained to meet the needs of a child with autism such as Zack.
The credit goes to convicted killer Christopher Vogt, whose dedication to animals and whose skill with people have earned him such trust in prison that he is allowed to interact directly with Zack as the two work together with the boy's new dog.
Vogt

gets so engrossed in his work that he assumes the roles of the people who will receive the service dogs he trains. Such role-playing helps him teach each animal how to respond to its future master. In 2002, Vogt spent months in a wheelchair while training a dog to help him dress and retrieve things. He has pretended to be many other people, including a boy with cerebral palsy and a victim of rape. Now he acts as though he has autism.
Since Zack easily gets confused and then breaks down in tears of frustration, Vogt, in training Clyde, would regularly put his hands to his face and cry just as he was told Zack does. He has taught Clyde that when Zack does it, Clyde is to interrupt him by nudging him in the face with his nose.
So how did Vogt learn to cry on command?
"I think of the things that make me sad" — like what happened Feb. 9, 1995.
On that day, according to records, David Doremus used a rolling pin in beating to death 39-year-old Clifton resident Gregg Lane Staley in his sleep. Afterward, Doremus persuaded Vogt to stab Staley. Vogt has argued that Staley was already dead at the time.
Vogt and Doremus were caught three years later. Vogt was sentenced in 1999 to 48 years in
Post)
prison for second-degree murder. Doremus is serving the same sentence. In his cell this week, Vogt sat under a barred window and demonstrated another of Zack's habits: Vogt opened a book, began reading and then suddenly stared blankly. Clyde nudged Vogt's cheek with his snout. Vogt said such a maneuver will keep Zack focused.
Vogt said his girlfriend, an elementary school teacher, first got him interested in helping kids with autism. She sent him magazine articles about how dogs have helped them.
Vogt, eligible for parole in 2018, is now a certified master dog trainer. He has taught scores of inmates how to train dogs and has written two picture books for kids, including "Your Four-Footed Friend."

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Drug War Turns 40

Boulder Weekly
By Paul Danish

By Paul Danish

I was just kicking back with my second piece of Alice B. Toklas fudge when there was a knock on the door. It was Richard Nixon.

“I thought you were in Purgatory,” I said. “Bill Safire used to say you were there for sticking the country with wage and price controls in 1971.”

“I’m out on a pass,” he said.

“Tomorrow [ June 17] is the 39th anniversary of the Watergate burglary, and we’re having a reunion.”

“Far out,” I said. “Tomorrow is also the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs, which you declared on June 17, 1971. Why aren’t you having a war on drugs reunion instead of a Watergate reunion?” “The war on drugs is still going on,” he said. 

“Having a war on drugs reunion would be like having a high school reunion before you graduated. Besides, I prefer to celebrate success, not failure.”

“Watergate wasn’t exactly one of your bigger successes,” I said.

“Compared to the war on drugs it was a howling, screaming, foot-stomping success,” he said. “At least the Watergate break-in had a real chance of success. It was just happenstance and bad luck that we got caught. The drug war was a loser from day one. I knew it was going to fail.”

“You knew it was going to fail?’ I asked incredulously.

“Of course I knew it was going to fail,” he said impatiently. “I grew up doing the prohibition, and I knew how that ended. It didn’t take a genius to see the parallels. I may be an (expletive deleted), but I am not a fool.”

“Well, if you knew the drug war was going to fail, why did you start it in the first place?” I asked.

“To stick it to the people who were attacking my administration — specifically the young, the poor and blacks,” he said.

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear — that’s not new news,” he continued. “A few years before he died, John Ehrlichman was interviewed by a former Wall Street Journal reporter named Dan Baum, who was writing a book on the drug war. John told him, and I quote: ‘Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue for the Nixon White House we couldn’t resist it.’

“And we didn’t,” he concluded triumphantly.

“Wow,” I said. “Criminalizing people’s pleasures as a way to get at them politically — you guys really were a bunch of flaming (expletives deleted).”

“Politics ain’t bean-ball, bubby,” he retorted. “You should know that much from your own modest career.”

“OK, you have a point there,” I conceded. “Still, do you have any regrets?” “Well, I regret the $1 trillion — probably $2 trillion if inflation is taken  into account — that federal, state and local governments poured down the drug war rat-hole with nothing to show for it. The money could have gone for a lot of things, including a tax cut.

“And I regret the mess the drug war made internationally. It’s not just the drug cartels that are turning Mexico into a failed state, although that’s bad enough. By making drugs illegal, we unintentionally created an endless, readily available, independent funding source for every revolutionary movement on the planet that chooses to use it. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Shining Path in Peru, the FARC in Colombia, the Contras in Nicaragua, and now al Qaida all did.

“But most of all, I regret what the drug war did to trust in America. I know you think old Tricky Dick is the last person on earth or under it who should be lecturing you on trust, but, as Reagan said, facts are stubborn things. Urine testing in the workplace, sniffer dogs in the schools, kids turning in their parents — the drug war has been poisoning human relationships in America for a generation. I didn’t anticipate that, but I should have.

“But I don’t regret frog marching a couple million Democratic voters into jail,” he added. “I hated them as much as they hated me. Screw them. But it’s surprising the Democratic Party has never raised a stink about it. Go figure.”

“So what should Obama do about the drug war?” I asked.

“If I were Obama, I’d go to China — metaphorically, that is.” he said.

“I would break with the past and proclaim the drug war a failure and a luxury we can no longer afford. Then I would cut its funding and introduce legislation ending federal drug prohibition and leaving drug control to the states — in effect giving them permission to legalize and regulate drugs as they see fit. At least I would do that with marijuana, which represents 80 percent of drug use and isn’t any more harmful than beer. That’s how we got out of prohibition.”

“Wouldn’t that be political suicide for Obama?” I asked.

“Not at all,” he said. “The country is currently split down the middle on legalizing pot, and most of the people who are strongly against it would never vote for Obama anyway. He wouldn’t lose many votes that he hasn’t already lost. Chances are he would energize his base. If he made legalization an issue, it’s the Republicans who would be on the spot; it could easily split off their libertarian wing.”

War on Drugs 40th Anniversary: Protestors at Skyline Park

Westword
Forty years ago today, President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs -- and according to protesters who gathered at Skyline Park earlier today, that's forty years too many for a failed policy that's done more damage than good not only to America, but to countries around the world.
The cost? Trillions of dollars, not to mention millions of people incarcerated for possessing small amounts of drugs when treatment would be an infinitely better option.

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​ Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC), which took part in the demonstration, believes the date isn't something to celebrate. Rather, it should serve as a wake-up call to the rest of the country about how the policy needs to end.
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​ Donner and nearly forty other activists at the Skyline event raised their voices in concert with people at rallies in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and other locations today, with the goal of bringing awareness to the No More Drug War campaign. Their argument is simple: drug problems are perpetuated by the current system of incarceration and the manufacture of criminals from victimless crimes. Keeping drugs illegal fuels illegal drug cartels and drug violence. What is needed is a shift towards decriminalization and compassion. The protests were sponsored by CCJRC and the Drug Policy Alliance, joined by Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, the Harm Reduction Action Center, SAFER and a number of other activists groups.
According to Ruth Kanatser, senior health educator with the Harm Reduction Action Center, an injection-drug use clinic in Denver, she sees first hand how detrimental the criminalization of drug addiction coupled with the lack of funded treatment options has been.

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​ In recent weeks, high profile world and business leaders have come out against the current policy. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of nineteen current and former world leaders and intellectuals, released a report urging for reform. "The Global War on Drugs has failed," the report concluded. Former President Jimmy Carter made similar comments to the New York Times this week. He said it is time America adopts "models of legal regulation of drugs... that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens."
"The current policies will never work," Donner says. "It's not a matter of, 'Oh, we have to be smarter about it,' or 'Oh, we've got to throw more money at it.' No. This policy will never work this way. Forty years has just proven that... so how much longer is that going to take before we get serious about real drug policy? We are missing the opportunity to do the right thing by continuing to do the wrong thing."

No More Drug War --Denver


Letters to the Editor

Failure of drug war

Having worked in the jails and prisons for years as a volunteer, I have firsthand knowledge of people sentenced for drug and alcohol use. Imprisoning addicts is not only terribly expensive, it does little or nothing to solve the problem.
Setting up mandatory treatment programs for convicted addicts would be far less expensive. Plus, it would allow addicts to continue to work, support their families, and maintain some level of self-respect. After serving their prison terms, these people find it difficult to impossible to re-establish their lives.
We should also look at the large proportion of addicts who are numbing the effects of sexual abuse in their childhoods. Addressing such root causes would make treatment far more effective and would reduce the self-hatred that all too many of these victims feel.
Being “tough on crime” may sound good, but in the real world, it is often counterproductive and expensive.
Vivienne E. Perkins, Franktown
This letter was published in the June 8 edition. For information on how to send a letter to the editor, click here.

Ending War on Drugs

Boulder Weekly

June 17 will mark 40 years since President Richard Nixon, citing drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1,” officially declared a “war on drugs.” Activists say that a trillion dollars and millions of ruined lives later, the war on drugs shows no signs of ending — or of succeeding.
Drug policy reform advocates across the country will mark the date with a day of action to raise awareness about the failure of drug prohibition and call for an exit strategy to what they call a failed war.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary, drug policy reform organizations will hold a national day of action. Colorado joins 15 other states in holding events in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans. The day of action will be highlighted with a large-scale event with elected officials in Washington, D.C.
In Denver, a rally will be hosted by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and Drug Policy Alliance. A bipartisan group of speakers and concerned citizens, including Mike Krause of the Independence Institute, Mason Tvert from SAFER and Dr. Vincent Harding from the Iliff School of Theology, will discuss the impact of 40 years of drug prohibition.
“Since the declaration of this war, millions of people have been incarcerated for low-level drug violations, and trillions of dollars have been spent, but addiction, overdose and incarceration are more prevalent than ever,” says Pam Clifton, communications coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. “Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in the United States due to drug overdose, Hepatitis C and AIDS because life-saving interventions were not readily available.”
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the federal government spent more than $15 billion in 2010 on the war on drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second. Individual states spent an estimated additional $25 billion. In 2009, 1,663,582 people were arrested across the country on drug charges. Since Dec. 31, 1995, the U.S. prison population has grown an average of 43,266 inmates per year, and about 25 percent of new inmates are sentenced for drug law violations. The U.S. incarcerates more people for drug offenses than the nations of the European Union lock up for all offenses combined. About 501 million people live in the E.U, and the U.S. population is about 309 million.
“Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration, others a time for reflection, still others a time for action,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Forty years after President Nixon declared his war on drugs, we’re seizing upon this anniversary to prompt both reflection and action. And we’re asking everyone who harbors reservations about the war on drugs to join us in this enterprise.”
In Colorado, 90 percent of incarcerated women were found to be in need of substance abuse treatment, and 69 per cent of people in Colorado prisons for drug offenses are people of color.
“The War on Drugs has created an environment in which police abuse civilians before asking questions,” says Art Way, Colorado manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The militarization and subsequent dehumanizing of law enforcement is a direct result of the political cover, equipment and resources provided by the war on drugs.”
For more information, see www.ccjrc.org.
Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quillen: Time to surrender - The Denver Post

Quillen: Time to surrender - The Denver Post

A fortnight ago, a respectable 19-member international commission announced that the "war on drugs," which the United States has been fighting for at least 40 years, is a catastrophic failure.

This announcement is about as surprising as "Sun rises in east," "Dogs tip over trash cans," or "Mayor-elect denies allegations." If you've paid any attention to this topic, you don't need the former president of Switzerland, or more recently some retired police chiefs, to tell you that in this war on drugs, drugs have won.

What we should do is arrange a televised surrender ceremony. Somebody dressed up as a giant pill or vial accepts the signature (on hemp paper, of course) of the American president and the Senate hastens to ratify the document.

But instead of taking the sensible approach, America persists in spending billions of dollars each year in a lost cause. And you have to wonder why.

The answers aren't that hard to find. As the classical expression goes, "Cui bono" (Who benefits?). Or, to go with a classic expression, "Follow the money."

The federal government spent about $15 billion last year on the war on drugs, and state and local government spent at least another $25 billion. One beneficiary is the pharmaceutical industry. If you could legally grow and roll your own analgesic, you wouldn't need to spend so much supporting an industry that spent $242 million on lobbying last year. Our representatives and senators doubtless appreciate the attention.

Beyond the drug-industry lobbying, the drug war offers an excellent employment program for federal, state and local enforcement agents, undercover agents, customs agent, snitches, snoops, prosecutors, investigators, lab technicians, prison guards, parole supervisors and the like. They all eat at the public trough, directly or indirectly, and naturally want to keep their jobs. So you can count on them to support the war on drugs with a passion and, during slow times, to create new threats ("We've got to outlaw bath salts before they corrupt a generation") to justify increasing their budgets.

That's a big group of supporters of the war on drugs, and we should remember that there's bound to be some bribery to increase the incomes of some enforcers — whose job can be to determine which criminals stay in business. Recall that J. Edgar Hoover certainly had his faults, but he refused to have his FBI agents enforce drug laws on account of the possibility for corruption.

And, of course, there are the criminals enriched by our drug laws. Making certain substances illegal drives the price up, thereby making for big profits for those cartels we read so much of these days. Obviously, they benefit from the war on drugs.

Given all this, it's easy to see why the war on drugs continues, even though it's a waste of time and money. Society at large suffers, but the cops and crooks who do benefit will do whatever it takes to preserve the status quo.

There are two presidential candidates this year who take their party's rhetoric seriously, in that they oppose the war on drugs: big government, intrusive government, government interference in medicine, waste of tax dollars, etc.

But neither Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, nor Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, appears to have any chance of getting the Republican nomination. Which is a pity. As a way to save money and shrink government, eliminating the war on drugs makes a lot more sense than messing with Medicare.

Want to Send a "Bill" to Congress

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Sexting penalties for teens too severe, some states say - The Denver Post

Sexting penalties for teens too severe, some states say - The Denver Post

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A congressman who sends an X-rated photo of himself jeopardizes his reputation and his job. But in many states, teens caught doing the same thing can risk felony charges, jail time and being branded sexual offenders.

That's because minors who transmit sexually explicit photos of themselves, according to many state laws, are manufacturing and distributing child pornography. Lawmakers across the country say the problem of teen sexting didn't exist when they enacted harsh punishments for child porn, and many are considering changes that would ensure that minors don't face jail time for youthful mistakes.

"These are kids we're talking about. I don't think minors should face these severe punishments just for being stupid," said Rhode Island state Rep. Peter Martin, a Democrat from Newport who is sponsoring a bill to downgrade teen sexting from a felony to a juvenile offense.

Legislatures in 21 states have considered bills this year to adjust penalties for teen sexting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Lawmakers in New York, where Rep. Anthony Weiner is embroiled in a sexting scandal, are looking at legislation that would allow judges to send teens who send explicit photos to counseling instead of jail if prosecutors agree they meant no harm.

"It's an extraordinarily common behavior among kids, like it or not," said Amy Adler, a law professor at New York University who has studied how child-pornography laws have been applied to sexting. "I hope lawmakers and prosecutors figure out quickly how to address it because it's not going away."

Studies show that one in five teens has electronically transmitted explicit photos of themselves, and one-third say they have received such photos.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Controversial rules for medical-marijuana caregivers approved - The Denver Post

Controversial rules for medical-marijuana caregivers approved - The Denver Post

The state Board of Health today adopted major new rules for Colorado's small-scale medical-marijuana providers, over the objections of cannabis advocates who said the rules are too harsh.

The rules will require that caregivers — medical-marijuana providers serving five or fewer patients who cannot grow for themselves — do more than just give cannabis to patients. Instead, they must also do something extra, like help patients with shopping, cooking or getting to doctors' appointments.

Medical-marijuana advocates fear the added responsibilities will severely trim the number of caregivers, which state officials said today stands at 16,000. The advocates say caregivers provide a link to medical-marijuana for patients who are poor or who live in areas where there is no convenient access to dispensaries.

But Health Board members said they do not think the regulations present the doomsday scenario that advocates worry they do.

Anniversary of the War on Drugs

40th Anniversary of the War on Drugs
RALLY FOR CHANGE
Friday, June 17, 2011
Skyline Park, Between 16th and 17th Ave on Arapahoe St., Denver
11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
 
 
 
Liberty on the Rocks Debate
Friday, June 17, 2011
700 Kalamath St., Denver
Cocktail Reception/Free Appetizers
5:30 - 9:00
 
June 17, 2011 marks the 40th Anniversary of the War on Drugs which has had a devastating effect on people, families and communities, particularly minority and poor communities.  Drug policy reform advocates all across the county will mark the auspicious date with a day of action to raise awareness about the failure of drug prohibition and call for an exit strategy on the failed war on drugs.
 
CCJRC is helping to coordinate a rally in Denver which is part of a national day of action being organized in 15 states.  Speakers include:  Pam Clifton (CCJRC), Art Way (Drug Policy Alliance--Colorado), Mike Krause (Independence Institute), Dr. Vincent Harding (Iliff School of Theology), Jessie Ulibarri (ACLU-Colorado) Mason Tvert (SAFER) and others.
 
Liberty on the Rocks will also be hosting an evening educational forum which will be moderated by Mike Krause.   Panelists include:  Jessica Peck Corry (Attorney), District Attorney Carol Chambers (18th Judicial District) and David Williams (Gadsen Society).
 
"Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration, others a time for reflection, still others a time for action.  Forty years after president Nixon declared his war on drugs, we're seizing upon this anniversary to prompt both reflection and action.  And we're asking everyone who harbors reservations about the war on drugs--to join us in this enterprise."  Ethan Nadelmann, executive director Drug Policy Alliance
 
Colorado has made progress recently in passing relatively significant drug sentencing reform legislation, increasing funding for treatment, and passing needle exchange legislation.  However, Colorado still has along way to go before we achieve truly effective drug policy that is based in a health-oriented framework that protects civil liberties and fully utilized effective prevention and harm strategies.
 
Since the declaration of this War millions of people have been incarcerated for low-level drug violations and trillions of dollars have been spent, but addiction, overdose and incarceration are more prevalent than ever.  Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in the United States due to drug overdose, Hepatitis C and AIDS because life-saving interventions were not readily available.
 
Please get involved and be part of this historic occasion as we continue to move forward for a safer and saner Colorado.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
CCJRC Staff (Pam, John, Ellen and Christie)
 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Denver police force settlements now top $1 million for year - The Denver Post

Denver police force settlements now top $1 million for year - The Denver Post

The Denver City Council voted unanimously last night to pay $80,000 to settle two excessive force lawsuits, saying they hope "a new day" for the police department is coming.

"We've had a downpour of police settlements lately, and I'm hoping there's a drought soon," Councilman Doug Linkhart said.

The settlements bring the total paid by the city for excessive force complaints to more than $1 million so far this year.

Jared Lunn, a volunteer Brighton firefighter, will receive $45,000 to settle a federal civil rights case.

Lunn said he was beaten after he approached an officer who was off-duty, but in uniform, at a LoDo bar in December 2009.

The officer, Eric Sellers, accused Lunn of being drunk and making a sarcastic comment. According to a report filed by Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal, Sellers put Lunn in a chokehold, wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed and berated him.

Sellers was originally given a 45-day suspension, which was reduced to 40 days after he appealed to the Civil Service Commission.

The council also voted to pay $35,000 to Mark Ashford, who said he was beaten by two officers and had to be taken to the hospital following a March 2010 incident that occurred while he was walking his dogs near 20th and Little Raven streets.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Judge warns prisons: Don't retaliate - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local

Judge warns prisons: Don't retaliate - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local: "DENVER — A judge has taken the unusual step of
ordering the entire Federal Bureau of Prisons not to retaliate
against a Florence prison employ…"

Daily Kos: Endless War On Drugs

"It is hard for me to see how anyone who knows anything about history, about pharmacology, and about the fundamental human struggle for self-disclipline and the seemingly equally intense human need to reject it and replace it with submission to a coercively paternalistic authority—how any such person could escape the conclusion that the war on drugs is simply another chapter in the natural history of human stupidity."
     —Dr. Thomas S. Szasz in A Plea for the Cessation of the Longest War in the Twentieth Century: The War on Drugs
That book was written in 1988. The official "war on drugs," begun in a special message to Congress by Richard Nixon in June 1971, was only 17 years old then. This month, it turned 40. The anniversary coincided with yet another report in a long series of reports compiling evidence that the drug war has failed miserably. This latest report came from the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Among its recommendations: Legalize marijuana.
The commission's efforts generated the predictable firestorm of controversy and got a predictable response from the current U.S. drug "czar," Gil Kerlikowske. And, predictably, we can expect a gutless response from most politicians, incumbents and candidates alike. All but a few will not confront the awful impacts of this disastrous so-called war, a war on some drugs.
The war didn't really begin in 1971, but decades earlier. It picked up steam under Nixon, was heightened under the first President Bush, and continues not only to consume vast resources, but also to cause profound and lasting harm without achieving what would be taken as the most elementary measure of success: reducing the use of drugs. In fact, the World Health Organization's 2008 survey of 17 countries found that United States has the highest illegal drug use in the world.
So what has it done besides gobbling up trillions of public dollars better spent on, well, just about anything else? It's curbed personal liberty, given felony records to millions of people not otherwise disposed to crime, broken up families by creating "drug orphans" who wind up in foster care, penalized hundreds of thousands by taking away their right to vote and their access to government-backed college loans, spurred real drug wars with inevitable bystander casualties in cities across the nation and in other nations as dealers try to seize and maintain market share, developed a forfeiture system that feeds arrests, diverted police from more important work and filled our prisons with non-violent convicts, sparking a prison-building industry and putting tremendous pressure on state budgets.
Take a look at just one aspect of what the drug war has accomplished. According to the most recent edition of an annual report from the Bureau of Justice, Prisoners in 2009, about half of federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses and about a fifth of state prisoners are. An earlier report put the drug inmate figure for local jails at about one-fourth. All in all, more than half a million of the 2.3 million convicts in the United States are in the slam for drug offenses.
The overall prison figures are revealing for what they say about America. A year ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted how vastly out of whack the U.S. incarceration rate is with the rest of the world. Between 1880 and 1970, the rate ran from a low of 100 to a high of 200 prisoners per 100,000 people. Since 1980, however, the rate has soared. Twenty years ago, it had risen to 458. By 2008, it was 753. America is No. 1. In France, the rate is 96; in Canada, it's 116; in England and Wales, it's 153; in Mexico, it's 209; and even in Russia, the next highest, it's 629.  At the state level, this is costing the nation about $52 billion annually, one out of every 14 tax dollars collected by the states.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC)

If you haven't checked out the website lately.....click here

The Durango Herald 06/11/2011 | Statistics: Prison runs in families

The Durango Herald 06/11/2011 | Statistics: Prison runs in families

More than 2 million American children will go to bed tonight with one of their parents locked up behind bars. And 60 percent of those little ones will one day end up there themselves.

It’s a sobering statistic that the Violence Prevention Coalition of Southwest Colorado is on a quest to change.

The effort started this week with a community discussion with former inmates and family members of people who are, or have been, incarcerated.

“I’ve seen my kid thrown to the ground and handcuffed,” one single mother, who declined to provide her name, said with tears welling in her eyes.

The mother said she doesn’t entirely understand the circumstances around her son’s latest arrest, which came while he was on parole after serving time for an “alcohol-related” conviction. But she does know what help he lacked after his last release and she often wonders if things might be different now if more support was available to him.

“Without the right help, I feel like there’s no chance for him to break this cycle,” the mother said.

She’s not alone in seeing gaps in aid and services for those trying to start anew after a run-in with the law.

It’s why more than a dozen local families attended a daylong event Thursday at the La Plata County Fairgrounds called “Breaking the Chains.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Supermax prison guard accused of stealing stun grenades - The Denver Post

Supermax prison guard accused of stealing stun grenades - The Denver Post

A member of an elite unit of guards at the Supermax federal prison has been indicted on allegations that he stole specialty items from the prison armory and sold them on the black market.

Chris Turner — a member of Supermax's Special Operations Response Team (SORT) — could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the most serious of the four charges in the indictment. A friend of Turner's, William Warren, also is charged in the indictment.

The stolen items are known as "flash-bang" grenades. They are used by law enforcement officers in SWAT-style raids to distract suspects because, when detonated, they produce a disorienting burst of light and a loud noise. Supermax SORT members use them in dealing with violent inmate disruptions.

The indictment alleges that Turner, 29, took numerous flash-bangs out of the prison armory between August 2009 and December 2010. It also alleges that Turner and Warren, 35, then sold the explosives, valued at more than $1,000 combined, in June or July 2010.

"A trusted member of the Bureau of Prison's elite Special Operations Response Team has violated the public trust by stealing these destructive devices," U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh said in a statement. "These devices help keep correctional officers and the prison population safe, and their theft potentially weakened that mission."

Supermax, officially known in the Bureau of Prisons as the Administrative Maximum facility, is in the town of Florence, west of Pueblo, and is home to many of the federal government's most notorious prisoners, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and several other convicted terrorists.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

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Get Smart Not Just Tough Regarding School Discipline

Windsor Beacon
How we treat our kids and educate them says volumes about our values and who we are as a society.
A little over a decade ago, zero-tolerance policies toward school disciplinary issues were enacted and many schools in Colorado acquired a School Resource Officer. Thus began the new era of full-time police presence in most of our schools.
Every year, about 10,000 students from around Colorado are sent to law enforcement by their schools. In the last ten years, nearly 100,000 students from every corner of the state - in rural, suburban and metro areas alike - have been handed over to the police for issues that mostly used to be resolved in the principal's office.
As a result, we are sending more and more of our youth out into the world, not with a high school diploma, but with a criminal record - and that is a recipe for disaster.

Now, particularly in Colorado, the most "policed" group in the country - outside of prison and jail inmates - is public school students. This school-to-prison-pipeline can destroy families, it costs the state money once students are filed into the corrections system and it creates a culture of recidivism. At the same time, there is a wealth of evidence that intervention and education are better than citations and probations. We know there is a better way.
That is why this year we introduced bipartisan legislation with Senate Bill 133 to create a short-term discipline task force which will assess the current strategies of juvenile justice in the education system and identify best practices many districts already employ. The task force will recommend evidence-based solutions to keep students in school and reduce the criminalization of school-based behaviors. We will then bring those recommendations forward to the Legislature next year.
The task force will include members of the Senate and the House as well as citizens and experts with knowledge and experience in the areas of school discipline, such as teachers and administrators. We have heard from youth around the state that these policies are damaging their schools and their educations and that they want the legislature to act.

Drug War: An unhappy 40th birthday

Westword
​On June 17, 1971, President Richard Milhous Nixon announced that the United States of America would commits its vast resources to armed conflict against a hostile enemy known as "drugs." Yes, that's right. Next week, the War on Drugs officially turns forty years old, and it's showing every bit of its age, like a pot-bellied, balding Kmart clerk hooked on Big Macs.

Drug reform activists plan to hold rallies in fifteen states to mark the anniversary, including this one scheduled for Skyline Park (16th and Arapahoe) between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. That will be followed by a "Liberty on the Rocks" debate featuring folks from the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, the ACLU, the Independence Institute, the Drug Policy Alliance and others.
Four decades of bad policy can't be undone in a moment, of course. But it's also an occasion to reflect on some incremental reforms in drug sentencing laws over the past few years, locally and federally, even as the "war" itself continues to rage, and claim lives -- at home, in cartel-ravaged Mexico, and across the world. It's easy to forget that Nixon's original plan for ridding the nation of the scourge of drugs (heroin habits brought home by Vietnam vets were the focus in those days) put more emphasis on treatment than law enforcement, a sensible approach that hasn't been tried by any other president since Dick resigned.
What did we get instead? Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign and moral hysteria from the media over the crack "epidemic" and the death of college basketball star Len Bias; massive violence and corruption in Latin America -- and to some extent, in our own law enforcement community -- over the profits to be made supplying an eager public with its vices; more than 22 million Americans with some reported substance abuse problem; a justice system scrambling to feed its own $50-billion-a-year habit, which is roughly what's spent every year locking up folks for (primarily nonviolent) drug offenses; and a template for any other cause (the war on terror, the war for energy independence, etc.) that appears to have no clear goal other than the proliferation of government agencies and misery.
That's the condensed version. As the anniversary approaches, we'll no doubt hear plenty about the other legacies of this deadly war. For me, one moment stands out. Early in his presidency, George H. Bush tried to whip up interest in a further expansion of the drug war by holding up a baggie of crack in the Oval Office and explaining to the country that it was purchased in a park right across the street from the White House. In other words, the scourge had spread from the ghettos to nice parts of town and was hovering right on the president's doorstep.
It later turned out that drug cops had lured the dealer to the park to make the buy. It wasn't easy. When told where to make the delivery, the young man --an eighteen-year-old high school senior with no prior arrest record -- asked, "Where the fuck is the White House?"
Where indeed.