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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Obligation for CSPII stretches into next decade - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local News

Obligation for CSPII stretches into next decade - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local News
DENVER — Since 2008, the state of Colorado has spent $82.6 million to build and furnish Colorado State Penitentiary II in Canon City, the state’s newest prison, which the Department of Corrections announced last week will close early next year.
But that’s not half of it.
Between next year and 2021, the state owes $137.8 million for construction of the prison that has been open for a mere year and a half and utilized to about one-third of its capacity, according to the governor’s budget office.
“You can look back and say, ‘Gosh, we shouldn’t have done that,’ all you want, but we did do it,” said Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, who serves on the Joint Budget Committee. “And we’re going to pay for it.”
Budget committee member Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, voted for a $10.8 million appropriation in 2010 to open the prison.
“I think there’s a lot of concern about the future debt on this facility,” he said. “We were heavily lobbied by DOC a couple years ago to open it.”
The prison system estimates that the state will save $4.5 million in fiscal year 2012-13 and $13.6 million the following year by mothballing the prison. But lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee said policy, not thriftiness, is driving the closure.
The Department of Corrections expects to retain all of the more than 250 employees of the prison, so Lambert said the savings are relatively paltry. He said the true value of the closure is that it advances the state’s shifting philosophy about how to manage the administrative-segregation offenders that CSPII housed in solitary confinement.
“What return were we getting for having so many people in ad-seg for so long?” Lambert said. “There has to be some reward. I’ve been very skeptical of this. Just the sheer number of offenders they classified as ad-seg was bipolar.”
An independent review of administrative-segregation within the Colorado penal system last year found that 7 percent of the offender population was in solitary confinement, while the national average was 1-2 percent. The report also revealed that the number of inmates in administrative segregation was climbing while the overall population was declining.
The report also exposed that mentally ill inmates increasingly were being warehoused in administrative segregation. The Department of Corrections corroborated the report’s findings that in 1999 just 10 percent of the inmates in administrative segregation were mentally ill, but by 2010 the mentally ill represented 41 percent of the prisoners in administrative segregation.
In retrospect, Lambert laments the state’s reliance on administrative segregation.
“It’s regrettable that we committed to that policy,” he said.
But the closure of CSPII illustrates the state’s move away from administrative segregation. Tom Clements, executive director of corrections, has adopted an approach that emphasizes therapy and treatment to prepare offenders for the transition from administrative segregation into the general prison population, and ultimately into society — another failing identified in the independent report issued last year.
It uncovered that the average length of stay in administrative segregation for an offender was two years. “However, about 40 percent of the offenders are released from administrative segregation directly into the community,” the report said.
The Joint Budget Committee authorized two bills last week with CSPII in mind. They are expected to be introduced soon. One would formally close the prison. The second would launch a study into prison operations and smart use of resources, given the decline in prison populations that has exceeded the state’s wildest expectations.
“The old problem that we couldn’t build prisons fast enough is no longer with us, at least not at the present and not for the foreseeable future,” said budget committee member Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. “We’ll always need prisons, but hopefully not as many. I like to describe it as the challenge of ‘right-sizing’ our prisons.”
He would not rule out more prison closures in the years immediately ahead.
“I wouldn’t want my town’s economic future hooked to a prison,” Steadman said.
With the sudden, unexpected closure of Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas last year, and this year’s announcement that CSPII is closing, Hodge said a formal process to inform capital decisions around prisons is in order.
‘‘This all happened really fast after Gov. (John) Hickenlooper took office last January,” she said. “The decision to close Fort Lyon was in March. He’d only been in office for a month and a half. There was no real opportunity to step back and look at it. Now we need to.”
Hickenlooper told Colorado Public Radio last week that efforts have begun to identify a new purpose for CSPII, which has a capacity of more than 900, but never held more than 316 offenders. He mentioned the federal prison system and private prisons as two possible tenants.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The DOC was the culprit in lobbying for 10 years, according to Ari Zavaras, to have that worthless prison built at 3 times the original cost. He should be arrested and be the sole occupant of his prison for multiple violations of law as the Police Chief of Denver and DOC director. mpc