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.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday limited the use of life
terms in prison for murderers under 18, ruling that judges must consider
the defendant’s youth and the nature of the crime before putting him
behind bars with no hope for parole.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court struck down as cruel and unusual punishment the laws in about 28 states that mandated a life term for murderers, including those under age 18.
The justices ruled in the cases of two 14-year-olds who were given life terms for their role in a homicide, but their decision goes further. It applies to all those under 18. It does not automatically free any prisoner, and it does not forbid life terms for young murderers.
Nonetheless, it is an important victory for those who have objected to imposing very long prison terms on very young offenders.
Justice Elena Kagan referred to state laws that “mandated each juvenile (convicted of murder) die in prison even if the judge or jury would have thought that his youth and…the nature of his crime made a lesser sentence (for example, life with the possibility of parole) more appropriate.”
“We therefore hold that mandatory life without parole for those under age of 18 at the time of their crime violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments,” she said. Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor agreed.
The court’s opinion does not say whether its ruling applies only to future sentences, or whether it could give a new hearing to the more than 2,000 prisoners who are serving life terms for earlier murders.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. dissented. “Put simply, if a 17-year old is convicted of deliberately murdering an innocent victim, it is not unusual for the murderer to receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole.” Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined in dissent.
The majority, however, argues that states had not necessarily intended to impose life terms on juvenile offenders. Instead, they passed laws that allowed juveniles to be sentenced as adults for serious crimes. And they also passed laws that set life in prison without parole as the required punishment for murder.
In one case that came before the court, Kuntrell Jackson was 14 when he and two other teenagers went to a video store in Arkansas planning to rob it. He stayed outside, and one of the youths pulled a gun and killed the store clerk. Jackson was charged as an adult and given a life term with no parole.
In the second case, Evan Miller, a 14-year-old from Alabama, was convicted of murder after he and another boy set fire to a trailer where they had bought drugs from a neighbor. He too was give a life term with no parole.
Today’s decision in Miller vs. Alabama is the third in a decade that puts new constitutional limits on crimes involving juveniles.
In 2005, the court abolished the death sentence for those under 18 who are convicted of murder. In 2010, the justices went further and said life terms with no parole are unconstitutional for juveniles who commit crimes short of murder.
Today’s decision does not end life terms for young murderers, but it says judges or juries must consider the defendant’s youth before imposing a life term with no parole.
Bryan Stevenson, the Alabama attorney who argued the case, called the ruling “an important win for children. The court took a significant step forward by recognizing the fundamental unfairness of mandatory death-in-prison sentences that do not allow sentencers to consider the unique status of children.”
at 5:21 PM
Saturday, June 23, 2012
at 7:21 AM
After serving more than a year behind bars in New Jersey for assaulting a former girlfriend, David Goodell was transferred in 2010 to a sprawling halfway house in Newark. One night, Mr. Goodell escaped, but no one in authority paid much notice. He headed straight for the suburbs, for another young woman who had spurned him, and he killed her, the police said.
at 7:19 AM
The New York Times
NEWARK — Derek West Harris wore tailored pants, soft sweaters and shiny shoes. People called him D-Nice. His easygoing manner drew customers to his barber’s chair at Million Dollar Kutz in Newark, a shop where he was known as much for his conversation as for his trims. He chatted about religion, relationships and cars, which he loved.
at 7:18 AM
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
at 1:11 PM
Monday, June 18, 2012
The New York Times
TRENTON — Most of the attacks happened inside the supply closet. Away from workers or security cameras. A dark space that Vanessa Falcone tried desperately to avoid.
at 6:04 AM
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Contrary to scenes in numerous books and movies, getting locked up doesn't always lead to painful bouts of reflection and self-examination. Criminals are a stubborn bunch, and it's easy behind bars to embrace a convict code and a victim mentality that merely reinforces addictive, self-destructive and antisocial behavior -- which is why so many convicted felons end up back in prison within a few years of release.
It's a mind game that Hassan A. Latif knows too well.
"I spent a lot of time and energy refusing to deal with what put me there," says Latif, who went into the Colorado Department of Corrections at the age of 33 and emerged shortly after turning fifty. "For fifteen years, I wasn't about hearing any of it. I wasn't looking in the mirror at my part in this."
Latif came to Colorado from New York in the 1980s with an attitude and an addiction to cocaine -- his "drug of no choice," as he puts it. In 1988, he was convicted of armed robbery in Arapahoe County. He emerged from prison early in 2006 determined to pursue a different path. He now works as an addiction counselor, serves as executive director of the newly launched Second Chance Center -- and has just published Never Going Back: 7 Steps to Staying Out of Prison, a survival guide for parolees coming out of the corrections system and families trying to keep them out.
The turning point in his own incarceration, Latif says, came when he decided to seek out a "therapeutic community" at DOC for prisoners with a history of substance abuse, followed by a residential program operated by Peer I and University of Colorado Denver upon release. The in-prison program had few slots available and was disparaged by other prisoners, but Latif refused to be discouraged.
At the same time, the narrative shares few specifics of Latif's own troubled history -- largely because he didn't want to glorify his crimes or prison life, he says.
"I was getting a lot of pushback from publishers to include war stories, to include more HBO's Oz kind of stuff," he explains. "But I didn't want it to be my story. I didn't want it to seem like you had to go through my particular experiences to be successful."
What makes a hardened criminal abruptly decide to change his or her life? Latif says that varies with each individual. "Some people go in, and after six months in prison they're ready for something new," he says. "For others, it can take years and years. My hope was that loved ones would be purchasing this for themselves as well as for the people who are coming out."
More information about Latif's book -- and some early, enthusiastic responses -- can be found at the Never Going Back Facebook page. Latif will be signing copies of Never Going Back at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Street, on Monday, June 18, at 4:30 pm.
Other articles about parole and recidivism issues are collected in Westword's Crime and Punishment archive.
More from our Prison Life archive: "Krystal Voss's advice for female prisoners: Obsessively hoard water."
at 7:24 PM
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Will have a booth at the Pridefest Celebration in Civic Center Park
Our booth is located on the South side of 14th Ave in front of the library and art museum on the just south of the Greek Theater.
Saturday, June 16 from 11 a.m - 7 p.m
Fight for your right to PRIDE!
Denver PrideFest 2012 will be held June 16th and 17th at Civic Center Park, headlined on Saturday by Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli and dance sensation Kristine W on Sunday. Our parade Grand Marshals this year are the four out elected officials of the Colorado State Legislature, Senators Pat Steadman and Lucia Guzman, and Representatives Mark Ferrandino and Sue Schafer.
Saturday, 11am - 7pm
Sunday, 10am - 6pm
The CoorsLight PrideFest parade steps off from Cheesman park at 9.30am and proceeds down Colfax into Civic Center Park.
Click here to check out our 2012 flipbook!
Click on links to the left to check out our stages and entertainment:
- The Center Stage with headliners Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli and Kristine W.
- Orgullo Latino with headliner Rigo Gutierrez as Pitbull
- Smirnoff Dance World, with headlning DJs Micro and Irene
- OutWest Country stage with professional exhibitions and open dance all weekend
Produced by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of Colorado (The Center), Denver PrideFest is now the third largest pride festival, and seventh largest pride parade in the United States.
Denver PrideFest takes place annually in June in downtown Civic Center Park. PrideFest features the CoorsLight PrideFest Parade, a Dance Stage with DJs, a Country Stage with line-dancing lessons, a Latin Stage with cultural programming, and the Main Stage with live entertainment, and plenty of celebrating both days.
The festival also features more than 250 vendor booths with arts, crafts, food and more. We provide a VIP area with food and drinks for sponsors and contributors to enjoy, and there's also a family area, youth alley, and a transgender resource area.
PrideFest also provides a $25 million dollar economic impact to the City of Denver annually, as reported in a 2009 survey conducted by Birchill Enterprises.
The mission of Denver PrideFest is to create a fun, safe and empowering space to celebrate and promote the heritage and culture of the LGBT and allied community in Colorado.
at 6:37 AM
Monday, June 11, 2012
61% in Colorado Favor Legalizing, Regulating Marijuana - Rasmussen Reports™
Coloradoans will be voting whether to legalize marijuana this November, a ballot initiative that some say could impact the presidential race there. Most Colorado voters are in favor of legalizing the drug under certain conditions.
Sixty-one percent (61%) of Likely Voters in Colorado favor legalizing marijuana if it is regulated the way alcohol and cigarettes are. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the Centennial State shows that 27% of voters oppose legalization even with government regulation, while 12% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
The survey of 500 Likely Voters in Colorado was conducted on June 6, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Fieldwork for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
at 10:20 AM
Saturday, June 09, 2012
DREAMers in Denver protest deportations, private prisons for immigrants » peoplesworld
DENVER - Undocumented youths from CAD, the Campaign for the American Dream, arrived here just a few days ago, and are already changing things.
Almost three months previously these DREAM Walkers began their 3,000 mile journey across the United States, from the Golden Gate Bridge in California on their way to the White House, to demand the Obama administration stop massive deportations and issue an executive order to bar deportations of DREAM Act-eligible youth.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act, sponsored by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, would provide a path to legalization and citizenship for young people, brought here as children without any legal documents, if they have "demonstrated good moral character" and are either working toward completing a college degree or are serving in the armed forces.
Immediately after setting foot in Colorado in the last few days of May, these six courageous young people kept on walking-in the 3,000-person march on Wells Fargo bank's Colorado headquarters, led by the Service Employees International Union during its quadrennial international convention here.
They joined the many other undocumented marchers in the union's action to bring public attention to Wells Fargo's involvement in payday lending, fraudulent foreclosure, and ridiculously low tax payments, as well as the bank's private-prison profits from the incarceration of undocumented people.
On June 4, the DREAM team joined over 100 Coloradans in the spirited monthly march and rally against Immigration and Customs Enforcement's immigrant detention center in Aurora, just east of Denver.
Though technically under the control of ICE, a part of Homeland Security, the notorious facility is actually run by the GEO Group, an international private-prison corporation. Friends and family members of undocumented people trapped inside recount the reports of humiliation, extortion, physical and sexual abuse within the prison walls at the protest each month.
The next day, the DREAM Walkers visited the Obama for America Denver campaign office-and stayed. Two of the group entered the office and soon began a sit-in and hunger strike. They repeated their call to President Barack Obama to put portions of the American DREAM Act into force by executive order.
Noting that the current administration has deported over one million people, more than any previous administration, they called on Obama to end massive deportations at once and to take action on the DREAM Act without further delay.
The two carrying out the current hunger strike are Veronica Gómez, 24, of California, and Javier Hernández, 23, of Denver. Gómez was brought to the U.S. when she was a little girl of three, Hernández when he was a six-month-old baby. Neither has ever visited Mexico since.
"With deportations on the rise and "Secure Communities" recently imposed throughout the state of Colorado, we cannot just sit back and wait!" said Gómez.
In the final week of May, "Secure Communities" was suddenly imposed on all 64 Colorado counties, and local law enforcement officials are now obligated to assist ICE in rounding up and detaining undocumented people.
Some of the six walkers are fighting their own deportation. At the next day's rally and press conference in front of the now-closed OFA office where Gómez and Hernández were still sitting in, others in the CAD team officially "came out" as undocumented.
Spontaneously, many Coloradans in the crowd immediately followed suit. A number of young participants took advantage of the liberating spirit of the event: Many who had not previously acknowledged their status as undocumented-even to close friends and fellow students-announced their status, putting them at risk. Yet, chants like, "undocumented, unafraid, unashamed," arose as the rally gathered steam.
The two young people inside the building, at that time just 24 hours into their sit-in and hunger strike, smiled broadly and waved as they watched the enthusiasm of their colleagues and supporters just a few feet away outside the office's large windows.
Local progressive, labor, and faith-based groups in Colorado are voicing support for the hunger strikers and the other DREAM Walkers, and offering donations of supplies for the continuing march to Washington, D.C. Yet the campaign is being led by the Walkers and in Colorado assisted by local organizations of undocumented people.
at 6:43 AM
Friday, June 08, 2012
New York Times
For petty offenders and violent criminals alike, the length of a prison stay increased by more than a third over the past two decades, a period of time in which the prison population doubled, according to a report by the Pew Center on the States. Inmates released from prison in 2009 spent an average of 2.9 years — or 36 percent — longer behind bars than offenders released in 1990, the report found. The additional time cost taxpayers more than $10 billion. In Florida, the average time served rose by 166 percent; in New York, 2 percent. Eight states showed decreases in the length of prison terms, according to the report, which analyzed data from the federal government’s National Corrections Reporting Program. Adam Gelb, director of the center’s Public Safety Performance Project, noted that the variation among states followed no evident regional pattern, reinforcing the idea that “state policy choices, often driven by particular crimes or circumstances in that state, drive the size and cost of the prison population, rather than data and research about what’s most effective in reducing crime.”
at 2:05 PM
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
On May 20, inmates took control of the Adams County Correctional Facility in Mississippi for over eight hours. One inmate managed to access a cell phone during the uprising and called WLBT TV in Jackson, proving his presence in the prison by sending pictures. He gave the station the following statement: “They beat us; we’re just [paying] them back. We just need better treatment and services. We need medical attention. We just want some respect. They call us wetbacks” — referring to a racist slur used against undocumented immigrants.
The prison is privately owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which manages over 60 facilities and touts a capacity of 90,000 beds. The prison in Adams County is populated by immigrants from over 70 countries awaiting deportation and is part of a larger war on undocumented immigrants in the United States. 2011 was a record year for deportations: 396,000 people were removed from the country, and more than half of those people were convicted of crimes and held at private immigration detention facilities like the one in Adams County.
During the uprising, one guard was killed, and several guards and inmates were injured. Over two dozen guards were reportedly held hostage. The prisoners were subdued by SWAT teams, which dropped pepper spray grenades and tear gas bombs into the facility. Before it was quashed, more than 600 of about 2,500 total inmates were reportedly involved in the takeover.
The mainstream media, much like the prison officials themselves, have sought to silence the grievances that motivated the uprising. Nearly every headline has emphasized images of violence, tumult, disorder. Many news outlets claimed that a gang fight started the revolt, yet they fail to explain how a clash between rival gangs could result in an apparently unified uprising with clear demands.
The nature of the uprising and the death of a prison guard in the midst of it have given the media a pretext to ignore the massive violence and brutality that prisoners suffer across the country every single day. The incident is also symptomatic of the fact that the privatization of prisons like the one in Adams County means a lack of oversight and responsibility, which results in inhumane conditions for inmates. The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance has received numerous complaints about the conditions of this CCA facilitity and many others, with reports of beatings, overcrowding, substandard food and lack of proper medical care, among other grievances. These are precisely the kinds of problems that were cited by those who took matters into their own hands in Mississippi by mounting an occupation.
Meanwhile, 45 prisoners at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Virginia were plotting another kind of resistance: a hunger strike, which they launched on May 22. With the help of a network of prisoner-support activists in the area, the hunger strikers released 10 demands and a press advisory. Among these demands were such basics as fully-cooked food and access to fresh fruit and vegetables, access to complaint and grievance forms, an end to torture in the form of indefinite segregation, and adequate medical care. Five hundred of the 1,700 inmates at Red Onion — Virginia’s only “supermax” prison — spend 23 hours a day in isolation. Inmates at Red Onion have also reported being beaten by guards and bitten by dogs.
Prisoner hunger strikes like this have been growing in frequency. Just in the past year, hunger strikes have happened at the Ohio State Penitentiary, the Corcoran State Prison, Pelican Bay State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison and more. Prisoners around the world are also choosing to resist by hunger striking, most notably the 2,500-strong Palestinian prisoner hunger strike that went on for weeks and was ultimately hailed as a victory. As we write, there are prisoners fasting in resistance in Dubai, Morocco, Egypt and, earlier this week, a 110-day hunger strike ended in Bahrain.
On Tuesday, a flurry of articles, including one in The Washington Post, ran with headlines claiming that the hunger strike at Red Onion prison had ended. In order for the state to officially recognize a hunger strike, inmates must reject their meals for nine consecutive days, which Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke said they had not. In response to the news, activists with the group Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers issued a response challenging the validity of the DOC’s statements:
at 1:36 PM
Monday, June 04, 2012
The Denver Post
On paper, murderer and white supremacist Daniel Scott Dias appears to be the type of prisoner Colorado officials should lock up in a maximum- security prison cell and throw away the key.
And for years, that basically was how the Colorado Department of Corrections dealt with many violent felony offenders.
But in the past year, Dias and hundreds of other prisoners have been transferred to lower-security lockups as part of a new systemwide strategy that is less costly and gives inmates more educational opportunities.
The strategy is partly based on some sobering statistics.
"Ninety-seven percent of those who are locked up will get released," DOC executive director Tom Clements said.
Of those prisoners in administrative segregation, 47 percent are released directly to the community, he said.
The mass transfer of inmates from segregated single cells to general-population cell blocks is one of the main reasons Colorado will close Centennial Correctional Facility in Cañon City — its second maximum-security prison to shutter — by 2013 and before a newly built prison will be completely filled.
Colorado closed its first prison, Fort Lyon Correctional Facility, on March 1.
Prison populations are declining in Colorado and nationwide after decades of steady growth. For the first time since 1977, the total U.S. prison population slightly decreased in 2010.
Between 2005 and 2010, the U.S. crime rate dropped by 12 percent. In Colorado, the crime rate dropped by 32 percent over the same period, Clements said. Violent crimes are going down, he said.
"I think it's a very good thing," Clements said. "When the crime rate drops, people can feel a little safer."
When it became apparent Colorado needed to close another prison because of the state's rapidly decreasing prison population, DOC officials targeted the most modern.
Centennial cost $184 million to build and is the most costly to run because inmates are kept in single cells and more staff are needed to guard them, Clements said.
At the time Centennial was built, "it made all the sense in the world," he said.
The number of high-risk inmates was on the rise, many with mental illnesses. Others started riots, ran gangs or killed each other, Clements said. The administrative-segregation numbers swelled, as total prison numbers grew every year.
But last year, a study by national prison experts found that Colorado was keeping prisoners in segregation much longer than necessary.
DOC officials — including Clements — set up a system in which officials regularly review the behavior of inmates in administrative segregation.
Dias, who fatally stabbed his girlfriend Rebecca Ochs, 24, in Aurora in 1995, and was also accused of a white-supremacy murder plot, lived alone in a tiny cell at Centennial for two years.
Dias, 42, now lives in a cellblock at Sterling Correctional Facility where he often encourages black and Jewish cellmates to attend religious-worship meetings with him. He is a model prisoner.
Dias is serving a 45-year sentence on a conviction for second-degree murder. He said he decided on his own to change his life.
"I turned my life over to the Lord," he said. "I try to abide by every rule."
at 6:24 AM
Friday, June 01, 2012
The Denver Post
Former Colorado legislator Douglas Bruce on Thursday groused about the food, the deplorable living conditions and the ridiculous rules — just as the average convict often does.
Bruce was sentenced to 180 days in the clink for using his charity to avoid income taxes — but was released early for good behavior.
On Thursday, he emerged from the Denver city jail slim and scrappy, saying his spirit had not been broken behind bars.
"I'm stronger than when I went in because I rose above the insanity of the whole process," he said.
He vowed to sue the lockup after he wins his appeal of his tax-evasion conviction.
Bruce's list of complaints is long.
"They served refrigerated rolls at least twice View more images of Doug Bruce getting out of jail.
But jail spokesman Capt. Frank Gale said Bruce was initially placed in an administrative segregation cell at his own request, and for his own safety he was returned to segregation after his life was threatened.
Bruce said that inmates were overcharged for use of phones and that the commissary food was five times market prices.
The jail food was inedible, he said, adding that he survived on low-fat milk and oranges. Not even the guards ate the food, he said.
at 6:13 AM