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.

Monday, April 09, 2012

SB 163 in Senate Finance Tuesday


SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE  ON TUESDAY APRIL 10 in Senate Committee Hearing Room 356,
Please contact the following Senators and Urge Their Support of SB 163

Senate Bill 12-163 was introduced by state Senators Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) and Pat Steadman (D-Denver) and Representatives Don Beezley (R-Broomfield) and Claire Levy (D-Boulder) in a bipartisan effort to promote a more effective and humane approach to reducing drug addiction and the over-use of imprisonment.  SB-163 passed Senate Judiciary 5-2 on March 28 and is now scheduled for Senate Finance on Tuesday, April 10.

Specifically, SB 163 would:
  • reduce from a class 6 felony to a class 1 misdemeanor the crime of “simple possession” which is possession of less than 4 grams of a schedule I or II controlled substance (like cocaine, crack, heroin) or possession of less than 2 grams of methamphetamine
  • reduce from a class 4 felony to a class 6 felony the crime of possession of over 4 grams of a schedule I or II controlled substance or more than 2 grams of methamphetamine
  • require savings in corrections be reinvested into substance abuse treatment

SB 163 does not make any changes related to drug distribution offenses. If there is evidence that even small quantities of drugs are possessed with the intent to distribute, prosecutors can still file a felony charge of drug distribution at any quantity of drugs.

SB 163 is also co-sponsored by Senators Aguilar (D-Denver), Cadman (R-Colorado Springs), Grantham (R-Canon City), Guzman (D-Denver), Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge), Neville (R-Littleton), Spence (R-Centennial) and Representatives Barker (R-Colorado Springs), DelGrosso (R-Loveland), Ferrandino (D-Denver), Massey (R-Poncha Springs), McCann (D-Denver), Nikkel (R-Loveland), Singer (D-Longmont), and Vigil (D-Fort Garland)

The bill also has the backing of diverse organizations including the Independence Institute, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Foundation, Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, Pendulum Fund, Drug Policy Alliance-Colorado, Youth Transformation Restorative Services, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Harm Reduction Action Center, Coloradans Against the Death Penalty, Colorado CURE, Colorado Providers Association, It Takes A Village, the Colorado Behavioral Health Council, the Colorado Center for Law and Policy, the Colorado Prison Law Project, the Mile-Hi Council Behavioral Services, ACLU - CO, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry.
Chair - Senator Michael Johnston (D-Denver), 303-866-4864  mike.johnston.senate@state.co.us
Angela Giron, Vice-Chair (D-Pueblo) 303-866-4878 angela.giron.senate@state.co.us
Greg Brophy  (R-Cheyenne, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Prowers, Sedgwick, Washington,  Yuma)              303-866-6360 greg@gregbrophy.net
Cheri Jahn    (D-Jefferson)  303-866-4856 (CO-SPONSOR-please thank her) cheri.jahn.senate@state.co.us
Lucia Guzman  (D-Denver) 303-866-4862 (CO-SPONSOR- please thank her) lucia.guzman.senate@state.co.us
Keith King  (R-El Paso) 303-866-4880 keith.king.senate@state.co.us
Mark Scheffel (R-Douglas, El Paso, Lake, Park, Teller) 303-866-4869 mark.scheffel.senate@state.co.us
SB 163 needs our support!

CCJRC is asking its coalition partners and allies throughout the state to support SB 163.  The District Attorney’s Council and Attorney General John Suthers will oppose SB 163 so we need to demonstrate strong community support. This is a common sense and humane approach to addressing addiction through the hope and tools of recovery rather than the threat and fear of incarceration in prison.  The average annual cost of incarceration is $32,000 per person.
If your organization would like to join the list of supporters, please contact pam@ccjrc.org
Click here to read the full text of SB 163 at

In the fall of 2011, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) analyzed data provided by the Division of Criminal Justice on drug cases in Colorado from August 2010 – November 2011. This data demonstrated that, of ALL drug offenders sentenced to prison, 60% (310 people) were convicted of drug possession at an average cost of $32,000 per inmate per year.

In 2009, CCJRC hired national expert Roger Przbylski (RKC Group, Lakewood, Colorado) to review the research available on effective drug policy. The following are key findings from his report entitled, Correctional and Sentencing Reform for Drug Offenders: Research Findings on Selected Key Issues:

  • Research has produced clear and convincing evidence that substance abuse treatment reduces alcohol and drug use and crime.

  • Studies that have examined the monetary costs and benefits of incarcerating drug offenders have produced clear and consistent evidence that imprisonment of drug offenders is not a cost-effective use of public resources and that substance abuse treatment provides a greater return on tax dollars than incarceration.

  • A large body of scientific evidence indicates that the incarceration of drug offenders does not have a significant deterrent effect on drug use.  In fact, our enhanced understanding of the science of addiction helps explain why the threat or experience of incarceration has so little impact on chronic abusers.  The repeated use of addictive drugs eventually changes how the brain functions.  These brain changes affect natural inhibition and reward centers causing the addict to use drugs in spite of the adverse health, social and legal consequences.

THE RAND Corp. study “Controlling Cocaine: Supply Versus Demand Programs” found that each dollar spent on treatment issues reduces the cost of crime and lost productivity by $7.46, while traditional domestic drug enforcement (arrest, seizure and incarceration) returns just 52 cents.  Researchers for the conservative American Enterprise Institute concur stating “treatment of heavy users is a far more cost effective policy at the margin than any kind of enforcement.”

A felony conviction is a lifetime punishment, resulting in significantly reduced ability to obtain housing and employment, the basics of productive life.  Low-level drug possession does not warrant a lifetime of diminished opportunity.

Close to 20 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have some level of schedule I or II controlled substances classified as a misdemeanor offense. The states differ on quantity and structuring of offenses.  Other states are currently considering similar changes.

Christie Donner, Executive Director
Pamela Clifton, Communications Coordinator
Ellen Toomey-Hale, Finance and Development Coordinator
John Riley, Coalition Coordinator

No comments: