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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spirit and Struggle

Spirit & Struggle
Our Work For Liberation Continues
A Public Conversation Between Celebrated Civil Rights Activists
Dr. Angela Davis and Dr. Vincent Harding
An Event of the Loretto Community's 200th Year Jubilee
Saturday, August 11, 2012
7:00 - 9:00 pm
Colorado Heights University
Colorado Heights Theater
3001 S. Federal Boulevard, Denver
Performances by the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and the SOAR Charter School
Buy your tickets at www.spiritandstruggle.com
For more information contact:  spiritandstruggle@yahoo.com
Spirit and Struggle will be a public conversation between Dr. Vincent Harding and Dr. Angela Davis, both of whom have been deeply involved with the civil rights struggle.  It will attempt to surface some of the connections between spirit and struggle as well as include some of the younger voices of today’s struggle. This public conversation will be one of the many events which will happen throughout the country to celebrate the 200 years of existence of the Sisters of Loretto.  It will reflect the historic faith-based call of the sisters to serve as educators and to stand with those who resist oppression and injustice.
Dr. Vincent Harding and his late wife, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, worked in various capacities as full-time teachers, activists and negotiators in the southern Freedom Movement. Coretta Scott King invited Dr. Harding to help her develop the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta. Dr. Harding served as senior academic advisor to the PBS television series Eyes On The Prize. In 1981 Vincent joined the faculty of the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. There he was a Professor of Religion and Social Transformation until his retirement in 2004.  In 1997, he and his wife founded The Veterans of Hope Project, a center for the study of religion, culture and democracy utilizing filmed autobiographical accounts of women and men who have worked for decades in spirit-based movements for compassionate social change.
Read his extended biography here.
Dr. Angela Davis has taught at a number of colleges and universities, and for the past fifteen years has been at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is currently Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. Dr. Davis has authored eight books and has lectured throughout the U.S. as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America. She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex.
Read her extended biography here.
Christie Donner, Executive Director
Pamela Clifton, Communications Coordinator
Ellen Toomey-Hale, Finance and Development Coordinator
John Riley, Coalition Coordinator

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Many Drugs Remain Legal After Bath Salts Ban

The Denver Post
WASHINGTON—People are inventing so many new, legal ways to get high that lawmakers can't seem to keep up.
Over the past two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants.
The drugs are often sold at small, independent stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items like bath salts, incense and plant food. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country. Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as "bath salts," though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.
President Barack Obama signed a bill into law earlier this month that bans the sale, production and possession of more than two dozen of the most common bath salt drugs. But health professionals say that there are so many different varieties of the drugs that U.S. lawmakers are merely playing catch up.
"The moment you start to regulate one of them, they'll come out with a variant that sometimes is even more potent," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
There are no back alleys or crack houses in America's latest drug epidemic. The problem involves potent substances that amateur chemists make, package and sell in stores under brands like "Ivory Wave," "Vanilla Sky" and "Bliss" for as little as $15. Emergencies related to the drugs have surged: The American Association of Poison Control Centers received more than 6,100 calls about bath salt drugs in 2011—up from just 304 the year before—and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.
The problem for lawmakers is that it's difficult to crack down on the drugs. U.S. laws prohibit the sale or possession of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, but only if federal prosecutors can show that they are intended for human use. People who make bath salts and similar drugs work around this by printing "not for human consumption" on virtually every packet.
Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the intended use for bath salts is clear.
"Everyone knows these are drugs to get high, including the sellers," she said.
Many states have banned some of the most common bath salts, which are typically sold by small businesses like convenience stores, tobacco shops and adult book stores. For instance, West Virginia legislators banned the bath salt drug MDPV last year, making it a misdemeanor to sell, buy or possess the synthetic drug. Conviction means up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Stephanie Mitchell, assistant manager of The Den, a tobacco and paraphernalia shop in Morgantown, W.Va., said the store hasn't sold bath salts in the six months that she's worked there. But strung-out users still come in and ask for them.
"They're pretty ... cracked out, I guess would be a good word," said Mitchell, 21, a student at West Virginia University. "They're just kind of not all there. They're kind of sketchy people."
Mitchell says she wouldn't sell bath salts even if she had them, "because it's horrible, and I could get in trouble for it."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Too Little Mental Health Care for Boomers

The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — Getting older doesn't just mean a risk for physical ailments like heart disease and bum knees: A new report finds as many as 1 in 5 seniors has a mental health or substance abuse problem.
And as the population rapidly ages over the next two decades, millions of baby boomers may have a hard time finding care and services for mental health problems such as depression — because the nation is woefully lacking in doctors, nurses and other health workers trained for their special needs, the Institute of Medicine said Tuesday.
Instead, the country is focused mostly on preparing for the physical health needs of what's been called the silver tsunami.
"The burden of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in older adults in the United States borders on a crisis," wrote Dr. Dan Blazer of Duke University, who chaired the Institute of Medicine panel that investigated the issue. "Yet this crisis is largely hidden from the public and many of those who develop policy and programs to care for older people."
Already, at least 5.6 million to 8 million Americans age 65 and older have a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder, the report found — calling that a conservative estimate that doesn't include a number of disorders. Depressive disorders and psychiatric symptoms related to dementia are the most common.
While the panel couldn't make precise projections, those numbers are sure to grow as the number of seniors nearly doubles by 2030, said report co-author Dr. Peter Rabins, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University. How much substance abuse treatment for seniors will be needed is a particular question, as rates of illegal drug use are higher in boomers currently in their 50s than in previous generations.
Merely getting older doesn't make mental health problems more likely to occur, Rabins said, noting that middle age is the most common time for onset of depression.
But when mental health problems do occur in older adults, the report found that they're too often overlooked and tend to be more complex because physical health problems can mask or distract from mental health needs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Woman Feels the Power of Restorative Justice

The Denver Post

AURORA — As Sharletta Evans prepared for her face-to-face meeting with the man who killed her son, she couldn't escape one uncomfortable but gnawing need — to touch his hands.
"The harm he caused me was through his hands," said Evans, whose 3-year-old son, Casson, was slain in a 1995 drive-by shooting. "The fact that he actually pulled the trigger, it was something about the hands that kept coming to me."
But when the opportunity arose May 23, Evans hesitated, uncertain whether she could follow through with her request of Raymond Johnson, the man serving life without parole for the murder.
There was so much else Evans needed from Johnson, and it had been so long. He was 16 at the time of his

Sharletta Evans' son Casson was 3 when he was shot to death in a car not long after this photo was taken.
crime, but he now stood a month shy of his 33rd birthday. She had spent the years grieving and adapting to the loss of Casson before realizing she had gone as far as she could on her own. When legislation last year cleared the way for a pilot program in restorative justice with the Colorado Department of Corrections, Evans — who had testified on behalf of the measure — embraced the opportunity to go first. She and her older son Calvin Hurd, who was 6 when gunshots peppered the car where he sat sleeping with his brother, began more than six months of preparation for a direct dialogue with Johnson.
Part of that involved revisiting the crime. Evans had driven with her two children to a northeast Denver duplex to pick up her grandniece because there had been a drive-by there the previous night. She left her sons in the car.
While Evans was inside, three teens drove by and sprayed more than a dozen shots at the house and car. One struck Casson in the head. It was later determined that Johnson fired the fatal shot.
Beyond a sheer willingness to participate in restorative justice, the offender has to meet a three-part test for acceptance based on demonstrating accountability, genuine remorse and

willingness to repair harm. Johnson met all the criteria, though on the last count the only reparations he could offer were honest answers to a mother's unanswered questions. Evans had no idea how the process would unfold — only that she needed to do it.
"I felt I'd reached a peak in the healing process from counseling, prayer, the support of my church," Evans said. "This was one final thing to receive my complete closure in the grieving process."
Effects kept quiet
Whatever impact the meeting has had on Johnson, the public won't know for a while, if ever. The DOC has declined requests to interview him pending conclusion of the process, which includes debriefing of all parties and assessment of the outcome — something that may take until the end of the month.
From initiation to completion, every aspect of the sequence remains victim-driven.
"This is not a short process," said DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti. "We don't want this to be a venue for the offenders. This is about the victim, for the victim."
Although the DOC previously had expressed interest in restorative-justice options, funding has always been a stumbling block. Even the recent legislation, pushed by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, came with no money attached — only a provision that all facilitators would be trained volunteers who wouldn't even be reimbursed for travel expenses.
Lee, a former criminal-defense lawyer,
Raymond Johnson, then 16, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder.
had his first experience with restorative justice as a volunteer. He saw how victim-offender conferences worked with juveniles and had an "epiphany" that they could be just as valuable in an adult setting. "Restorative justice is equally effective with severe and profound crimes as it is with minor offenses such as theft of property in a school," he said. "The effectiveness of the process depends on the mind-set of the offender and the willingness of the victim to participate."
The pilot project, in which victims or their relatives initiate the process, has no impact on an offender's sentence or status within the DOC. But Lee, who met with all parties before and after the Evans-Johnson session, noted that such conferences also can transform offenders and make them better candidates for rehabilitation — or, in the case of those serving life sentences, less of a management risk.
The preparation with Lynn Lee, the state representative's wife who served as facilitator, was exhaustive.
"There were so many issues," Evans said. "When it came to every emotion, she'd ask me where was I at. What did I want to say to him? I really had to dissect every emotion so there were no surprises."
Hurd underwent the same drill with his facilitator, Peggy Evans.
"They were trying to make sure I had my head clear about what was going on," said Hurd, who works as a landscaper. "I was ready to see results."
Though his participation was powered mostly out of concern for his mother's emotional needs, Hurd — who has only a few memories of his brother — still harbored his own anger and skepticism about Johnson's remorse.
"If he wasn't seriously remorseful," he said, "then I wouldn't care less what happened to him."
On the morning of May 23, neighbors drove Evans and Hurd to the prison, where they waited two hours while final arrangements fell into place. Then, Evans got to the door of the meeting room where Johnson awaited — and froze.
She felt pain and fear envelop her. She suspects her emotions must have shown on her face. At the table, Johnson rose from his chair.
"He dropped his head and shook it with such sorrow," Evans recalled, "as if to say, 'Look at what I've done to this woman.' That gave me the courage to start moving."
Opening with prayer
Evans requested that they open with a prayer.
Johnson recited an Abrahamic prayer, reflecting his conversion to Islam more than a decade earlier. Evans prayed in Jesus' name, asking that the dialogue go well.
Over the course of an intense morning, they each recounted the crime from their individual points of view. Evans talked about Casson — she had nicknamed him "Biscuit" — and what he meant to the family. She felt her voice tremble as she talked about how she had reared her children, how they shared their days.
Those difficult hours laid the emotional foundation for what would come later, as they worked through all the ways their lives had changed.
"At times," said Evans, "I let him feel my anger. And at times, we discussed the divine. Does God have a plan here? How did our paths meet?"
She told him how, long ago at his trial, she had forgiven him — had seen through him, straight to his heart, and knew he was more than the sum of his ill-fated actions that December night.
"And he asked me, 'Why do you think God showed you who I really am and didn't show my mother or grandmother?' " Evans recounted. "He said it in a very painful way."
They answered questions and exchanged explanations: Evans about how she had found the strength to forgive him; Johnson about everything that happened on the night Casson died, about the better man he had become in prison.
Hurd felt his anger abate and got the confirmation he sought — that Johnson's remorse was authentic and that he was "doing something right with his life." Evans and Johnson resolved to continue their relationship, a process she told him would require time and patience.
Afterward, she retreated to a downtown Denver hotel and unplugged the phone to rest, recover and reflect. The experience strengthened her belief in restorative justice — a message she now relays to the community.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Colorado Must Compensate Prisoners Freed By DNA Evidence

The Denver Post

GRAND JUNCTION — When Robert Dewey walked out of prison a free man after more than 16 years of being imprisoned for a murder he didn't commit, he left empty-handed.
He wasn't given the $100 debit card that parolees receive on release. He wasn't offered shelter in a halfway house, as the guilty who have served their time are. He wasn't directed to any job training or educational resources.
In Colorado, there is no compensation and no help of any sort for those who have been wrongly imprisoned.
"I didn't even get the 'gate money.' All I got was an apology. The prosecutors said, 'We're really sorry. Have a nice life,' " Dewey, 51, said two months after his release from prison, which was prompted after new DNA testing identified a new suspect in the 1994 killing of a young Palisade woman.
Now, prosecutors across the state agree that Colorado needs to do something to compensate those who are exonerated by DNA evidence after being wrongly imprisoned. A national advocacy group is pushing for the Colorado legislature to craft a compensation law. And legislators are evaluating the introduction of such a law in the next session.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Idaho to send inmates to private, out-of-state prison | HeraldNet.com - Northwest

Idaho to send inmates to private, out-of-state prison | HeraldNet.com - Northwest
BOISE, Idaho -- State prison officials plan to house hundreds of inmates at a privately run lockup in Colorado to avoid overcrowding at home.

The Idaho Department of Correction expects to finalize a contract in early July with Corrections Corporation of America to house inmates at the prison company's Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo.

Idaho plans to send 250 males inmates to the out-of-state facility in late July or early August. That number is expected to reach 450 a year from now if Idaho's prison population continues to grow at its current rate.

The state's prisons are at capacity with 8,100 inmates, with some being housed in county jails. Prison officials have previously sent inmates out-of-state, but problems in Texas, as well as slowing inmate numbers in Idaho, prompted their return.