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, July 22, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
he U.S. Sentencing Commission voted Friday to slash sentences for 46,000 inmates serving time for drug offenses, the latest move in a concerted effort by state and federal officials to ease decades-old policies that have clogged jails and prisons.
If the move is not blocked by Congress, more than two-thirds of federal prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes will be eligible for sentence reductions averaging more than two years.
Atty. Gen Eric H. Holder Jr. originally asked the commission, a group of judges and other lawyers who establish sentencing policies, to take a much narrower approach that would affect just 20,000 inmates.
But Holder said Friday he supports the new policy. “This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system, ” he said in a statement.
Judge Patti B. Saris, chair of the commission, said, “This amendment received unanimous support from commissioners because it is a measured approach. It reduces prison costs and populations, and responds to statutory and guidelines changes since the drug guidelines were initially developed, while safeguarding public safety.”
No prisoner would be released until a judge reviews their case to determine whether a reduced sentence poses a risk to public safety.
The House and Senate would have to vote by Nov. 1 to block the plan. But there has been bipartisan support in both houses for a broad change in prison policies.
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Thursday, July 10, 2014
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014
National Blueprint for Drug Policy Reform
Can't believe this is on the White House website.
Today, we will unveil the latest update to President Obama’s plan for reducing drug use and its consequences, the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy. This Strategy, which continues to be shaped by the input of people across the country like you, rejects the notion that we can arrest and incarcerate our way out of the nation’s drug problem. Instead, it builds on decades of research demonstrating that while law enforcement should always remain a vital piece to protecting public safety, addiction is a brain disorder—one that can be prevented and treated, and from which people recover.
Watch the release of the Strategy live today, Wednesday, July 9th, at 10 a.m. EST.
Data have shown that in several major U.S. counties, crime and substance use are linked. Most recently, we saw that in five counties, one-third or more of adult male arrestees tested positive for an illicit substance at the time of their arrest. Only one-quarter or fewer of all arrestees had ever participated in any outpatient drug or alcohol treatment and less than 30% had ever participated in any inpatient drug or alcohol treatment. Many of these men will be caught in a painful cycle of arrest, incarceration, substance use disorders, and re-arrest. Our prisons and jails are already overcrowded with people who desperately need compassionate, evidence-based treatment for the disease of addiction--not a jail cell.
The plan we released today calls for reforming our criminal justice system to find alternatives to incarceration – and effective interventions across the entire system to get people the treatment they need.
Here’s the problem: far too often, for people who need it most, the criminal justice system can seem like the only way to get help for a substance use disorder. That’s because until recently, prohibitively high costs and limited access to treatment put it out of reach for millions of people in need.
We know that only about 10 percent of people with a diagnosable substance use disorder actually receives treatment at a specialty facility. While several factors contribute to this abysmal statistic, much of that disparity is owed to a lack of healthcare coverage – and that’s about to change. Through a rule made possible by the Affordable Care Act, we are requiring insurers to treat substance use disorders in the same way they would any other chronic disease. Specifically, this new rule expands coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services to 62 million Americans.
The plan we released today calls on healthcare providers to prevent and treat addictive disorders just like they would treat any other chronic disorder, like diabetes or heart disease. It calls on law enforcement, courts, and doctors to collaborate with each other to treat addiction as a public health issue, not a crime.
We chose to release the 2014 Strategy in Roanoke because, in three important ways, it’s a microcosm of the policies our office has been promoting since 2009:
- Access to treatment, a focus on prevention, and compassion. Roanoke is home to one of the largest behavioral healthcare centers in the region. The center is co-located with a Drug Free Communities coalition, which prevents substance use among at-risk youth, and a program called Project Link, which helps opioid-dependent women and pregnant mothers get treatment and give birth to drug-free babies.
- Alternatives to incarceration. In 2011, the Roanoke Police Department worked with community and faith leaders in the Hurt Park neighborhood to shut down the open-air drug market operating there and drastically reduce violent crime in the area. As part of this intervention, community leaders came together to offer the low-level, non-violent drug offenders involved in the sweep a life-changing alternative: either face prosecution and lengthy sentences, or change your lives with the support of the community. In Roanoke, I met with one of those ex-offenders who is now employed full-time and caring for his family.
- Local solutions for local challenges. In a corner building in downtown Roanoke operates a community action center with roots in President Lyndon Johnson’s landmark anti-poverty legislation. Half a century ago, local leaders established what is now called Total Action for Progress (TAP), which operates 30 programs in the Roanoke Valley region aimed at improving employment opportunities at-risk youth, early childhood development, and re-entry and support services for veterans. I visited TAP to speak with young people and a veteran whose lives have been changed by these programs, and was inspired by their stories of hope.
In response to this opioid epidemic, this Strategy updates the President’s 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan by calling for increased access to naloxone, a lifesaving overdose-reversal medication.
The widespread use of naloxone in the hands of law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical personnel will save lives. It can also serve as a critical intervention point to get people into treatment and on the path to recovery.
Today, there are millions of Americans in recovery from substance use disorders who are healthy, responsible, and engaged members of their communities. The Strategy outlines steps to help lift the stigma associated with substance use disorders. It also works to reform the laws and regulations that impede recovery from substance use disorders, including those that place obstacles in the way of housing, employment, and obtaining a driver’s license or student loan because of a prior conviction for a drug-related offense.
The National Drug Control Strategy released today is rooted in the belief that illicit drug use is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice problem. As the innovative law enforcement and social support programs in Roanoke prove, this philosophy can reduce illicit drug use while building healthier, safer, more vibrant communities.
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Wednesday, July 02, 2014
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Sunday, June 08, 2014
JURIST - Colorado limits solitary confinement for mentally ill
Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado [official website] signed a progressive bill for mentally ill inmates on Friday. Senate Bill 14-064
[text, PDF] changes traditional methods of solitary confinement by
mandating psychiatric evaluations and therapy for inmates diagnosed with
mental illness and qualifying for disciplinary intervention. All
inmates currently in solitary confinement will be evaluated within 90
days, and those diagnosed with serious mental illness will be
transferred to a step-down unit for medically guided treatment.
The effects of solitary confinement have been seriously scrutinized after the March 2013 slaying
[Denver Post Report] of Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom
Clements. The suspect, Evan Ebel, was repeatedly disciplined with
isolation during prior incarceration, which many believe led to the
slaying of Mr. Clements. The legality of solitary confinement [JURIST news archive] has been an ongoing debate in the US, with many calling for comprehensive prison reform [JURIST podcast]. In February, New York reformed the use of such practices on minors. In October 2013 UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez urged [JURIST report] the US to immediately end the solitary confinement imposed in 1972 on Albert Woodfox [AI backgrounder]. In June at least 400 inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison in California initiated a hunger strike
[JURIST report] in protest of solitary confinement. In January 2011 the
Washington Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that holding death row inmates in
solitary confinement indefinitely is not an impermissible increase [JURIST report] in the severity of punishment. In 2009 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
[advocacy website] filed suit against the US government, challenging
the establishment of isolated cells within federal prisons that were
allegedly created in violation of federal law.
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