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.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Colorado DOC Requests Funds for New Inmate Tracking System | Correctional News

Colorado DOC Requests Funds for New Inmate Tracking System | Correctional News

DENVER — Nearly $20 million is needed the complete a long
overdue replacement of Colorado’s prison tracking system, according to
Colorado correctional officials. The state’s current system, which has
been in use for more than two decades, lacks the capability to maintain
electronic inmate medical records.

According to Executive Director
of the Colorado Department of Corrections Rick Raemisch, the proposed
upgrade would substantially improve the department’s ability to track
inmates and maintain up-to-date records.

"We have a very
antiquated system that is beyond upgrading," Raemisch told lawmakers.
"Those who can repair it are beyond the retirement age. They tell us
that when it goes down — and it will — that our whole system will be
down. And it will create tremendous problems for us."

Raemisch and
correctional colleagues shared their concerns with the Joint Budget
Committee in mid January, and requested a capital construction budget
amendment of $5.8 million for FY 2014-2015. These funds would allow the
department to begin development of the new tracking system. However,
this would only serve as the first of three installments over three
years, as officials estimate roughly $19.8 million is needed for the
full system revamp.

During the Joint Budget Committee meeting Raesmisch also
assured lawmakers that rapidly increasing overtime pay would be curbed.
According to Raemisch the nearly $3 million unanticipated payroll
expense was the result of a misinterpretation of Senate Bill 210, which
was approved in 2013. Before this legislation passed, correctional
officer overtime pay was estimated using a 28-day work period. However,
Senate Bill 210 cut that period in half. It also mandated overtime rates
be paid any time an employee exceeded 85 hours within that period, as
well as when employees worked 12 hours or more within a 24-hour period.

an analysis by Joint Budget Committee staffer Steve Allen, Allen wrote,
"Since both of these provisions refer to payment for the overtime, the
department concludes that the provisions eliminate the department's
previous discretionary ability to pay cash for overtime or award
compensatory time.” Allen also suggested legislative corrections to
eliminate some unintended overtime consequences of the bill. He added
that the DOC drastically underestimated the impact these new provisions
would have on overtime costs.

Senate Bill 210 was initially
projected to increase monthly correctional officer overtime pay across
the state by roughly $400,000. However, as a result of the
misinterpretation, costs rose to just under $1 million per month.
According to Raemisch, the department will search for ways to absorb the
nearly $3 million that has already been paid out to workers largely
through hiring and purchasing practices. "Since it's our mistake, it's
our responsibility,” Raemisch said.

Lawsuit: Denver sheriff's deputy ignored inmate's screams in attack

The Denver post

Denver sheriff's deputy ignored an inmate's blood-curdling screams and looked on with indifference as a group of fellow inmates brutally attacked him and scalded his genitals with hot water, the man's attorneys wrote in federal court filings filed this week.
Jamal Hunter says in the civil rights lawsuit that the deputy not only failed to protect him from the July 2011 attack but also facilitated and encouraged it. Video surveillance filed as part of the lawsuit shows the deputy, Gaynel Rumer, walking around the cell block in the Downtown Denver Detention Center without looking directly inside the cell where Hunter was being beaten.Court documents filed in federal court Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 claim a Denver sheriff's deputy knew about and facilitated the brutal beating and scalding of an inmate. (Video released via federal civil rights lawsuit)
The filings include testimony from several inmates who were in the cellblock at the time who said they are still haunted by the sounds of Hunter's prolonged screams.
Hunter said he was attacked after his cellmates accused him of snitching and insulting them behind their backs. He said they punched him, broke his nose, tied his legs and later burned his genitals with boiling water they got from a spigot to which inmates apparently had unfettered access.
The lawsuit says Rumer, who is still on the job after a 40-day suspension, knew Hunter would be assaulted because of his relationship with the attackers "and because he had previously allowed rampant fighting to occur so that inmates could address their conflicts."
Maj. Frank Gale, a department spokesman, said he could not comment on pending litigation.
"We've got to wait for our day in court," he said.
The latest details were contained in documents filed this week in connection with the lawsuit, which has been pending since 2012.
It was among the high-profile misconduct issues that shook the Denver sheriff's department in recent months. Among those who were deposed as part of the lawsuit was former Division Chief Michael Than, who abruptly resigned last month while facing his own misconduct allegations.
"Denver has to take responsibility for the grotesque and permanent injuries suffered by Jamal Hunter," Hunter's attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai said. "No one should have to go through the torture that Jamal experienced as a result of Denver's inability to ensure inmate safety. The pattern of abuse, injury, and death in the Denver jail must stop."

Friday, January 24, 2014

America's Invisible and Costly Human Rights Crisis

When the news broke years ago that U.S. forces were using torture on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, many politicians and the public expressed appropriate horror. There was shock and disappointment that our country would resort to such inhumane, abusive actions against our fellow human beings, most of whom then were innocent victims of bounty hunters in Afghanistan.
With this frame of reverence in mind, it is unfortunate that many Americans do not contemplate -- or are simply unaware of -- blatant torture occurring in prisons every day right here in the United States. This form of physical and psychological violence is called many things: "isolation", "administrative segregation", "control units", "secure housing" and by its most well-known designation, solitary confinement. This practice of imprisonment is widely used across our nation with disturbingly little oversight and restriction. The full extent of the use of solitary confinement is truly alarming -- it is most certainly a human rights abuse and a blight on our national character.
Imagine yourself being locked in a small windowless room for days, weeks, or years... perhaps even for the majority of your life. You receive food and water through a small slot and have little-to-no human contact -- you might go days or weeks without speaking to another person. You are allowed out for perhaps an hour a day for some exercise. This is the living reality for tens of thousands of Americans in our prison system. Self-mutilation and suicide attempts among those in solitary confinement are far too common. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that the majority of prison suicides are inmates who were being held in solitary.
Many more studies have shown that solitary confinement has a severe psychologically damaging effect on human beings. For prisoners already suffering from mental illness, it exacerbates their problems. Senator John McCain wrote of his experience in solitary confinement as a P.O.W. in Vietnam: "It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment."
Many might dismiss and even justify punishment by solitary confinement by convincing themselves that those subjected to it are "bad people." But this is a gross misunderstanding of its common use in our prisons. Many prisoners held in solitary are mentally ill, mentally handicapped, or illiterate. Some are placed in solitary purportedly for their "safety" to protect them from themselves or from other prisoners.
Some put in solitary are children as young as 14 or 15. What type of prison infraction would result in a 15 year old being locked up in solitary? -- "15 days for not making the bed; 15 days for not keeping the cell door open; 20 or 25 days for being in someone else's cell" are some, according to a report on the issue by Human Rights Watch.