the Denver Post
It just got easier for prisoners to keep in touch with their families by phone, a factor that improves an inmate's chances for turning his life around, authorities say.
The Colorado Department of Corrections negotiated a two-year deal with Global Tel Link that will drop some rates by 74 percent, DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said.
"People with good family support are more successful," said Dianne Tramutola-Lawson, chairwoman of Colorado CURE, a prisoners rights group. "That's one of our biggest issues."
The high cost of phone charges has been a point of contention for years, Tamutola-Lawson said. It has become a huge expense for families that can't afford it, she said. Some families have had their phone service shut off because they couldn't keep up with bills, she said.
The new rates will drop charges beginning Thursday for standard collect, advanced pay collect and debit calls, Sanguinetti said.
Colorado inmates make more than 162,000 calls each month. Three out of four of the calls are debit calls, Sanguinetti said. Debit call rates will drop by 16 percent for local calls and 24 percent for out-of-state calls. A 15-minute in-state debit call will now cost $2.75, which includes a $1.25 connection fee.
Advance pay collect plans allow families to budget phone calling with an inmate at a lower rate than typical collect calls. These calls will drop 39 percent for in-state calls and 74 percent of out-of-state calls. A 15-minute in-state advance collect call will now cost $3.20.
Standard collect calls will drop by 22 percent for in-state calls and 72 percent for out-of-state calls. That 15-minute in-state call will cost $5.
Sanguinetti cited a 2004 study by the Urban Institute that said offenders with family connections are much more likely to be successful when they are released.
She said 97 percent of inmates will be released sooner or later.
"Maintaining pro-social communication and support with family and friends during an offender's period of incarceration can help to promote stable behavior in prison and successful, safe transition, back into society," said Tom Clements, DOC executive director.
He urged family members to stay in contact with incarcerated relatives by visiting, writing letters and making phone calls.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
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.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
the Denver Post
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 29, 2012
For more information contact:
Katherine Sanguinetti at 719-439-5514
Colorado Department of Corrections Reduces Phone Rates for Families of the Incarcerated
(Colorado Springs, CO) â€“ The Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) has negotiated a reduction in the cost of phone calls for offenders in state prisons in a two year contract extension with Global Tel Link (GTL). The rate reductions impact all three types of calls offenders can make: standard collect; advanced pay collect; and debit. The new rates go into effect on March 1, 2012.
The DOC requested a proposal from GTL to lower calling costs for offenders and offender family and friends. Offenders in Colorado make an average of over 162,000 calls per month. Calling trends show that currently 75% of the calls made are debit calls. Debit call rates will be reduced by 16% for local calls and 24% for out of state calls. The second highest call volume (approximately 15%) is generated by advance pay collect calls. With these calls offenderâ€™s family and friends pay the phone vendor directly and can manage the amount of money they budget for keeping in contact with the offender and enjoy a lower rate. Advance pay call rates will be reduced by 39% for in-state calls and 74% for out of state calls. Additionally standard collect call rates will drop by 22% for in-state calls and 72% for out of state calls.
A study done by the Urban Institute, published in 2004 reported that offenders with family connections are much more likely to be successful when they return to the community. â€œNinety seven percent of all incarcerated offenders will be released into the community sooner or later. Maintaining pro-social communication and support with family and friends during an offenderâ€™s period of incarceration can help to promote stable behavior in prison and successful, safe transition, back into society,â€ said Tom Clements, Executive Director of the DOC. While offenders and their loved ones have several avenues to maintain their connection: visiting; writing letters; and phone calls; contact via telephone is very cost effective and timely.
at 2:49 PM
Friday, February 24, 2012
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Advisory
National observations indicate that the number of American children who have a
parent in prison exceeds 1.7 million.3 Many more probably have a parent in jail. In 1997
an estimated 2.8 percent of all children under the age of 18 had at least one parent in a
state or federal prison or in a local jail; about 1 in 40 children had an incarcerated father,
and about 1 in 359 children had an incarcerated mother.4 Certain ethnic groups are
affected more than others. According to the data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics,
African-American children are seven and a half times more likely than white children to
have a parent in prison, and for Latino children the rate is two and a half times higher
than for whites.5 Most of the children with a parent in prison (58 percent) are less than
ten years old.6 Children of the incarcerated have been described as “invisible victims” or
“collateral damage” in a much broader social phenomenon - that of mass incarceration.
This term – ‘mass incarceration’ – has been often used lately to describe the exponential
growth of prison population in the U.S. today.7 According to a study commissioned by
the Pew Charitable Trusts, in 2008 the United States had more people behind bars than
any other country in the world.8 By that year, nearly one in 100 adults in the U.S. was
incarcerated.9 As a result of a fundamental change in criminal justice policies, prison
population grew at a historically unprecedented rate, and its composition changed
significantly: more people are sent to prison for non-violent (mostly drug) crimes. Many
of these non-violent drug offenders are women. Women under supervision by various
justice system agencies were mothers of an estimated 1.3 million minor children; an
estimated 72 percent of women on probation, 70 percent of women held in local jails, 65
percent of those in state prisons, and 59 percent of those in federal prisons have mino
at 9:13 AM
For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.
at 6:34 AM
Thursday, February 23, 2012
They know how to make an entrance, these bad boys. They strut into the King Soopers on Smoky Hill Road on a Friday evening in May like it's fight night in Vegas and they've got ringside seats, their every move radiating heat and menace.
- Video: Tara Perry on boyfriend Randy Miller's rampage and suicideFebruary 22, 2012
They have an Explorer outside that they jacked in Cherry Creek, the driver now a duct-taped hostage in the cargo area. They have enough ammo to take out the dairy section and enough adrenaline to jump-start a whale. Before anybody can think about being a hero, they light the place up, firing shots in the air and shouting, "Get down!"
Some do as they're told. Others run, frightened by the gunfire and the masks. And that's when the shoppers notice the fifth member of the crew, rushing to her assigned station at the store entrance. She's a mere wisp of a girl, sixteen years old and five-two, maybe a hundred pounds, awkwardly clutching a .22 semi-auto with a 72-round clip, the muzzle pointed straight in the air.
Tara Perry is late to the robbery. While the others piled out of the Explorer, she was left in the back, fumbling with the door lock; she finally had to climb over the front seat to get out. She stands just inside the store, tugging at the nylon stocking over her head, which is sticking to her long eyelashes and making it hard to see.
The air is thick with gunsmoke. Squinting, Tara can catch a glimpse of Randy Miller, her boyfriend, shooting at the locked door of an office where the cash is kept. Ateba Bailey cradles a mini-14 and stands very still. The other two men — kids, really, not much older than her — are bouncing around. One clubs a sacker with his pistol. She doesn't even know their names, these two; Ateba brought them, and she just met them a few minutes ago. They're rushing around to no purpose, and time seems to have stopped.
at 6:13 AM
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Budget Idea: Divert Money From Prisons to Schools
With a quarter of the world’s prisoners in American lockups, an unlikely coalition ranging from the NAACP to Americans for Tax Reform wonders if we might be smarter to divert some of that prison money to schools.By Emily Badger
But an unlikely coalition of organizations, including the NAACP, ACLU and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform,* is rallying around a common target: Why, they ask, are we spending so much money on prisons?
Over the last 40 years, America’s inmate population has quadrupled, from 500,000 to 2.3 million, giving the U.S. 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. The country now spends $70 billion a year — $50 billion of it at the state level — locking up all of these people, many of whom are nonviolent offenders snagged in the war on drugs.
The budget crisis represents a kind of perverse opportunity for prison reform, and those rallying together behind the idea now include both fiscal conservatives and social justice advocates. The NAACP last week released a report calling for states to divert money from incarceration to education. Norquist stood alongside the group supporting the idea, and potential conservative president candidate Newt Gingrich is on board as well.
at 11:52 AM
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The Denver Post
In our ongoing conversation about ex-cons being shut out of the workforce because of their criminal records, I bring you to the state Capitol, where Monday night, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill addressing just that.
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat. It's his second run at the issue in two years. "I think we've been 'tough on crime' long enough," he tells me. "It's time to be 'smart on crime.' "
As you might expect, the hearing was full of emotion, with testimony from people who served their time only to come out and walk into a wall. No one will hire them. They can't find a place to live. They can't get a driver's license.
"When a man or woman has reached his or her level of disappointment, can't find another 'good face' to put on at one more interview, when the weight of their heads is too heavy to hold upright for the next receptionist taking their application and they contemplate going back to prison," it is not simply a sign of personal weakness but of what is in place, said Hassan Latif, a member of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
Steadman's bill takes a cautious approach, weighing public safety and victims' and employers' rights. I'll just hit the highlights.
The most straightforward provision allows those who committed petty or municipal offenses to request the sealing of their records. The petition can be filed three years after the case has been closed or the defendant is no longer under supervision.
The second says the first time a defendant appears in court, he or she would receive a written advisement, basically saying: Listen, if you plead guilty or are convicted, you're not just facing jail time, fines, probation, parole. You later may find difficulty getting work, finding a place to live or getting a student loan. Your occupational license probably will be revoked, and forget about adopting children.
This is like one of those, "Oh, by the way, your legs might fall off" warnings that accompany prescription-drug commercials.
Mark Evans, deputy state public defender, compiled a list of these "collateral consequences" on his department's website.
In the zeal to appear tough on crime, Steadman told the committee, no one has bothered to take a step back and ask: Does this particular prohibition on felons really make the public safer?
Which brings us to the last provisions. The court could grant an order allowing someone being sentenced to community corrections or probation to keep a job or stay in public housing. For example, regulations prohibit adoption agencies from employing felons. But what if an agency wants — key word "wants" — to keep its receptionist, who committed a felony? A judge could issue an order allowing that.
And, finally, after at least three years of good behavior, some felons would be able to ask a court for a certificate of rehabilitation. That certificate would show up every time that felon's criminal record is pulled. It can be revoked.
Michael Dougherty, state deputy attorney general overseeing the criminal-justice section, was the lone voice opposing the bill Monday. He said he supports the bill's intent but has concerns, the largest being whether the courts would be usurping the authority of regulatory agencies.
Steadman said the bill addresses those concerns. "This bill is about removing barriers," he told the committee. "It's not about guaranteeing outcomes."
No one is guaranteed a job. No one is guaranteed housing. What the bill is is a start. It offers the convicted something they're not getting now: a shot.
"The concept of redemption or reformation of character is not reserved just for those people who didn't get caught," Michael Sweig, founder of the Institute for People with Criminal Records, told the committee.
Why again should I care, you may be asking. Because last year, 23,820 Coloradans were convicted of a felony, and 46,915 were convicted of a misdemeanor. Because we shoot ourselves in the foot by denying people a chance to re-enter and contribute to society when they leave prison. Because it's the smart economic thing to do. Because it's the right thing to do.
Speaking of right, this is not a right-left political issue. The committee consists of four Democrats and three Republicans. All voted in favor. The bill heads today to the Finance Committee.
at 12:09 PM
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
In November, Art Way, manager of the Drug Policy Alliance's Colorado branch, previewed a Good Samaritan bill intended to prevent those who call 911 when a friend is overdosing from being arrested for doing so. Despite law-enforcement opposition, the bill passed the Senate yesterday -- but big obstacles lie ahead.
Simply getting the bill, known as SB-20, out of the Senate judiciary committee earlier this month was touch and go, Way concedes. Advocating on behalf of the measure were the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a number of other organizations, as well as "a few people who had personal stories to tell," he says. "We had family members, sons as well as friends who overdosed -- some who survived, and some who didn't. It was a very emotional yet on-point discussion of the recent epidemic of overdoses primarily caused by opiates, and it really brought home how widespread the issue is."
The use of the term "distribution" in this context is misleading, Way believes, because "in Colorado, sharing drugs is considered distribution. And law enforcement said, 'We still want to charge people with a felony-three case of distribution for sharing even in the event of an overdose.'"
Nonetheless, the bill passed out of the judiciary committee on a strict party-line vote: four Democrats in favor, three Republicans opposed. And the margin of victory when it reached the full Senate yesterday was even wider: 25-10, which, as Way points out, means some Republicans voted in favor of the measure.
Still, Way knows the Republican-controlled state House may present more challenges, and he plans to discuss with sponsoring senators Irene Aguilar and Pat Steadman (featured in our post about the failed medical marijuana credit union bill), as well as House sponsor Ken Summers, the question of whether amendments might be necessary to facilitate passage. At this point, no firm date for House action has been set, but Way wants to be ready.
"There's a lot of lip service about reducing the human cost and the financial cost of criminalizing non-violent drug users," he says, "and we have a proposal that speaks to that -- that's primarily a public-health proposal, and that saves lives."
Here's the current version of the bill.
Colorado Senate Bill 12-020
at 9:13 PM
- Unless a statute prohibits a person convicted of a specific crime from serving in that position, indicate that a person with a criminal record may not apply; and
- Inquire or determine the applicant's criminal history until he agency makes a conditional offer of employment.
- The nature of the conviction;
- The relationship between the conviction and the specific position for hire and the bearing, if any, the conviction will have on his or her fitness or ability to perform the duties and responsibilities;
- Any information produced by the applicant or produced on his or her behalf regarding his or her rehabilitation and good conduct; and
- The time that has elapsed since the applicant's conviction.
at 6:16 PM
As state governments wrestle with massive budget shortfalls, a Wall Street giant is offering a solution: cash in exchange for state property. Prisons, to be exact.
Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for "challenging corrections budgets." In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.
The move reflects a significant shift in strategy for the private prison industry, which until now has expanded by building prisons of its own or managing state-controlled prisons. It also represents an unprecedented bid for more control of state prison systems.
Corrections Corporation has been a swiftly growing business, with revenues expanding more than fivefold since the mid-1990s. The company capitalized on the expansion of state prison systems in the '80s and '90s at the height of the so-called 'war on drugs,' contracting with state governments to build or manage new prisons to house an influx of drug offenders. During the past 10 years, it has found new opportunity in the business of locking up undocumented immigrants, as the federal government has contracted with private companies in an aggressive immigrant-detention campaign.
And Corrections Corporation's offer of $250 million toward purchasing existing state prisons is yet another avenue for potential growth. The company has billed the "corrections investment initiative" as a convenient option for states in need of fresh revenue streams: The state benefits from a one-time infusion of cash, while the prison corporation wins a new long-term contract. In addition, supporters of prison privatization have argued that states can achieve cost savings through outsourcing, as prison corporations give fewer benefits to employees.
at 5:50 AM
Florida’s Senate blocked a plan to create the largest private-prison system in the U.S., handing a setback to a Geo Group Inc. (GEO) unit that will instead seek to expand outside the Sunshine State, according to its president.
“There are still a lot of opportunities,” Jorge Dominicis, president of the Boca Raton, Florida-based company’s Geo Care unit, said after the vote yesterday in Tallahassee, the capital. “There are other states looking at doing similar things and you’re seeing things happening abroad.”
Dominicis declined to comment on whether Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, should use executive authority to privatize the prisons following the vote. Scott skirted the same question, saying he wanted lawmakers to pass the proposal.
Scott, 59, couldn’t muster enough support in the Senate, which rejected the measure, 21-19. The plan was projected to save $16.5 million a year, helping to curb a sixth consecutive annual deficit. As states cope with the aftermath of the longest recession since the Great Depression, asset sales and shifting traditional roles to companies has increased.
at 5:48 AM
Monday, February 13, 2012
Click on the link to listen to the Collateral Consequences Bill (SB 105) in Senate Judiciary today.
It passed unanimously.
There were two bills on the calendar. The first was SB 03 and that testimony lasted for four hours. To listen to SB 105, fast forward to 4 hours and start listening there.
at 9:02 PM
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
the Denver Post
Defendants on probation in Colorado may not use medical marijuana even if they have a medical marijuana identification card authorizing them to do so, the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled.
The court overturned 18th Judicial District Judge Carlos Samour's decision to allow Leonard Charles Watkins, who was sentenced to six years probation for felony sexual exploitation of a child, to use medical marijuana.
Senior Deputy District Attorney David C. Jones of the 18th Judicial District appealed Samour's decision.
"We conclude that the trial court erred in approving such use by defendant," wrote appeals court Judge Robert Kapelke.
The appeals court found that Colorado's Medical Use of Marijuana Amendment does not permit a court to exempt a probationer from complying with federal law, which outlaws possession and use of marijuana.
"Does the statutorily mandated condition of probation requiring a probationer not to 'commit another offense' while on probation include commission of offenses under federal law?" the court's opinion reads. "We conclude that it does."
The case will be sent back to Samour's court to revise Watkins' terms of probation.
at 3:35 PM
Sunday, February 05, 2012
The Denver Post
Ron Sena still hasn't found a job. He's the ex-con who worked for more than a decade, but was laid off and so learned no matter how long he'd been out, his felony record still hangs over his head.
The column triggered an avalanche of calls and letters from ex-cons in similar situations. One reader, still behind bars, writes to answer Sena's question. "When is the debt to society repaid?
It also brings a call from Steven Saiz, projects coordinator for The Empowerment Program's prisoner re-entry program. The nonprofit also has been the agency that distributes federal grant money to other local prisoner re-entry programs.
Come to our meeting, Saiz says, and so, last week I ended up in a room full of people who work with those freshly out of prison. They saw the storm building long ago.
It looks like this: Every month, Colorado's prisons release about 900 inmates on parole. From month to month, another 2,800 inmates are living in halfway houses where they must pay rent and find work to pay that rent.
These two groups jump into the job pool to compete with the thousands of unemployed people who don't have a rap sheet. You know who gets hired. Federal Department of Labor money that helped ex-offenders with job training and work support is disappearing. So, too, is Department of Corrections money for vocational ed and GED classes — the classes that help an inmate find work once released.
"Our education department took a $33 million cut last year," says Katherine Sanguinetti, Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman. "Right now, we're trying to recruit volunteers to teach."
Put that all together and there's your storm.
Sympathy is not required. The economic argument wins here. A working ex-con is an ex-con less likely to commit another crime is an ex-con paying taxes instead of costing us ours.
"In the past six years, we served close to 900 people, and 86 percent found work," Saiz tells me. "Only about 10 percent ended up going back to jail. It costs about $33,000 a year to incarcerate someone, so what's that save?"
At least $25 million.
You might think last week's meeting would be heavy on despair. It was not. Nor did it consist of wishful thinking for government funding. It was a full-bore brainstorming session among people who understand, as Garrett Coulter, co-chair of Denver's Road Home Employment subcommittee, put it: "We have to think completely out of the box. It's either do that or die." (If you're wondering why someone representing the homeless is at the table, it's because ex-offenders are or are in danger of becoming homeless.)
The people at the meeting also see what the public does not: They have been the bunker in the storm. "Without us keeping (ex-cons) from being reincarcerated, the community would go to hell in a handbasket," said William Cash , career development coordinator for the Community Reentry Project.
The discussion centered on better education of and outreach to employers about advantages, such as tax credits, in hiring ex-cons. But much was said about greater collaboration and entrepreneurship and enterprises that might look something like Bud's Warehouse.
The home-improvement thrift store sits adjacent to Interstate 70 just east of Colorado Boulevard. I'd never been before, but I'll be going back because unbelievable deals are to be had on new sinks, doors, windows, lighting, cabinetry, appliances. All of the inventory is donated and most of it is new. Most of the staff live in halfway houses. They work at the warehouse, run by the nonprofit Belay Enterprises, for six months, earning $8 to $10 an hour. More than 80 percent of those who stay for six months find other work. Bud's has spun off several viable businesses, including Good Neighbor's Garage and Baby Bud's/Freedom Cleaning Company
But it can't offer near enough jobs to meet demand.
"It's heartbreaking, really," says Jim Reiner, executive director of Belay Enterprises. "The No. 1 factor that determines whether ex-offenders will go back to jail is whether they have a job. Many employers aren't willing to be a felon's first employer, but they are willing to be the second. So, we're the first."
I'll leave you with Patrick Stewart, an ex-con working at New Beginnings, Bud's custom woodworking shop. Stewart is 33 and has been out nine years. He'd never built anything before, he tells me. Now he's making beautiful cabinets and wine racks. He's gone from prison to welfare to work. "At one point in my life, I was just empty flesh walking around," he tells me. "Now, I have confidence. Now, I actually have hope."
Creative thinking is required. The money is drying up. Saiz's prisoner re-entry program is being shuttered. His last day of work is Feb. 29.
at 3:35 PM
Friday, February 03, 2012
The Denver Post
Inmate Terrell Griswold's inability to urinate was never treated and ultimately led to his death, a medical investigator says.
"I feel very strongly that if they treated this he'd still be alive today," said Shawn Parcells, a medical investigator and forensic pathologist assistant from Kansas City who was hired by Griswold's mother to review circumstances leading to his death.
Griswold, 26, was serving a three-year sentence for theft at Bent County Correctional Facility. He was found slumped over a toilet 12 hours after a nurse said he looked fine on Oct. 28, 2010, said Griswold's mother Lagalia Afola, of Kansas City.
"This is so rare," Afola said. "For a young man to die of a urinary blockage is unheard of. My son should not be dead."
The prison is run by a private company Corrections Corporation of America.
"We take the medical care of inmates in our custody seriously," CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in a written response. He could not comment about Griswold's case because of confidentiality issues, he said. "But we do refer you to the cause of death in the public record."
The El Paso County coroner's office determined that the cause of death was cardiac hypertrophy, hypertension, obstructive uropathy and hereditary cardiac hypertrophy.
The coroner, Dr. Robert C. Bux, characterized Griswold's urinary condition as a secondary cause of death to hypertension and an enlarged heart. However, he added that the blockage could have caused hypertension and contributed to an enlarged heart.
Parcells said he believes Griswold's cause of death should have been listed as "complications of obstructive uropathy."
A nodule on Griswold's prostatic urethra accounted for his urine retention and severe kidney problems, Parcells wrote. It also caused high blood pressure. He had been seen repeatedly by medical staff at the prison for recurring bladder-related symptoms including abdominal pain and an inability to urinate. He received medicines that didn't address his condition and never got a thorough examination by a urologist, he said.
"In the end, his body was not able to adjust to the increasing amounts of waste products in his system and the heart had increasing loads of 'fluid retention' it had to deal with," he wrote. "Terrell was in metabolic disarray and an imbalance of electrolytes. This would explain the sudden death..."
Afola said her son played basketball nearly every day. She said on the last week of his life he was sleeping a lot and complaining of intense abdominal pain.
DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said Griswold came to the prison with a long history of neurological and urological issues. She said the state will conduct a mortality review of the case.
at 11:08 PM