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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Will Sheriff Alderden Pitch a Tent Also?

The Larimer County Jail has been bursting for awhile. Once again, what do you do when the money runs out? Bond reform and sentencing alternatives are on the table, but money isn't.

FORT COLLINS — The group argued as only lawyers, public defenders and judges could.

In the end, the competing interests found little common ground on Tuesday. The Criminal Justice Advisory Board backed Sheriff Jim Alderden’s decision to set a jail cap, but not his campaign to ask commissioners for more money.

Conditions at the county jail are deteriorating, said Alderden.

Within the past week and a half, three deputies have been placed on light-duty assignments after fights with inmates. Alderden said sometimes inmates will resist an order and deputies will try to make them comply, which sometimes results in injury.

Inmates fight each other daily.

Committee members also talked about lowering or removing bonds for pretrial inmates and possibly shortening jail sentences.

Public defender Kathryn Hay said the punishment of a longer sentence would make less sense than a shorter sentence in some cases.

“It’s like putting a 3-year-old in a timeout. Five minutes is good, where 10 or 15 minutes, the lesson is lost,” she said.

The Criminal Justice Advisory Board voted 3 to 3, with one member abstaining, on the sheriff’s bid to commissioners for more detention center deputies at a price tag of $575,000 the first year and $1.1 million every year thereafter.

Reporter-Herald Article here.

HB 1313 Second Reading Calendared

House Bill 1313 has been calendared for Second Reading on Friday March 2nd.
Call or email your representatives and ask them to support HB 1313.
(Who's your rep? go to www.votesmart.org )
SB 83 Parolee Voting Bill has been re-calendared for tomorrow March 1st.

On Tuesday March 6
Upon adjournment
Room 0112 Judiciary
--Presentation on Private Prisons

Corrections Corporation of America
Community Education Centers
Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition

Please feel free to attend this presentation

Sheriff Maketa Pitches a Tent

This is what happens when the money runs out and there just isn't anywhere to put people. Colorado Springs Independent story on the new tent jail in Colorado Springs.

It looks like a wedding tent, or perhaps a circus tent without the stripes.

To Sheriff Terry Maketa, the big white tent looks like an almost-immediate way to avoid jail crowding.

"I'm kind of running out of options," Maketa told El Paso County commissioners late last week, showing them a photo of a tent whose multiple peaks also call to mind Denver International Airport.

His idea, which could be implemented within six weeks, comes at a time when the county's 1,599-bed Criminal Justice Center hovers near capacity, particularly on weekends. If he could put minimum-security prisoners in a tent, Maketa says, they'd be less likely to be released early or turned away.

The tent, which Maketa says would cost about $100,000 to purchase, would stand in a parking lot near the 2739 E. Las Vegas St. justice center, surrounded by a chain-link fence, until the downtown Metro jail is reopened. Closed because of safety problems in 2005, Metro "hopefully" will be ready to house about 375 work/release inmates in six to nine months, Maketa says.

Yet he can't say exactly when Metro will open, noting that contractors have yet to be secured.

Inside the tent, deputies would guard 150 to 180 minimum-security prisoners, such as part-time inmates who serve their sentences on weekends, Maketa says. They'd have open-area bunks and common toilets. The tent would have a floor and heating.

A Captive Audience...Medical Research on Prisoners

Thanks to Grits for Breakfast for pointing us to this posting at Backgate.

Research involving human subjects has become big business. Currently, more than 10,000 programs and an estimated 45,000 researchers conduct medical research on humans in the United States. With some 2 million Americans now behind bars, prisoners are increasingly being viewed in utilitarian terms by researchers eager to test experimental procedures on an array of chronic medical problems, ranging from asthma to cancer. Prisoners represent a particularly compelling and convenient test group for anti-viral medicines and vaccines: At least 17 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States have spent time in correctional facilities, and the HIV rate in prisons is believed to be six times greater than in the outside population. In addition, prison populations have the highest concentrations of Hepatitis C in the country; from state to state, between 20 to 60 percent of inmates are believed to harbor the virus.

Black Market Tobacco

Cigarettes that cost $125 a pack? That is the going rate for cigarettes in prison these days. Smoking in prison is illegal in many states, Colorado being one of them. Has that changed the amount of smoking that goes on? To a certain extent, but as with any other illegal drug, it has just driven the price up, it doesn't make it go away.
Read the Article here.

Sentencing Commission Needed

Don Quick wrote this article about why we need a sentencing commission in Colorado. His points are not only valid but on the mark. My concern is the make up of the commission itself. I believe that a commission must be set up that evaluates current practices, but the people at the table need to understand the population that they are dealing with. Community must be involved if a truly holistic approach is going to work.

Those who set policy and procedure need to understand what works in different communities. A one-size-fits-all policy isn't practical when you are dealing with the diversity and richness of culture that is Colorado. The bridge between system and community has often been non-existent and only recently has begun a fragile attempt at working together to solve the problems that we must address. That bridge must be strengthened in order for a sentencing commission to be successful and that strength will only be attained if everyone involved is allowed a voice in the process. A commission is more than it's mission, it's about who is at the table that maks it real, effective, and ultimately successful.

The other aspect that isn't addressed is the fact that the sentencing commission will address things in the longer term, but we what are we going to do right now? Today, we have 500 people who are out-of-state in private prisons and thousands who are past their parole eligibility date sitting inside. Private prisons companies are hovering over Colorado like vultures waiting to take advantage of the overcrowding crisis that is happening right now. Something needs to come down the pike to make significant change in current policy or statute.

Colorado's prison population has grown at a significant rate over the last two decades. Although violent crime decreased as the prison population increased, the prison population has reached crisis levels. Our prisons are filled to capacity and we do not have the resources to build endless new prisons. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem. Something needs to be done.

If you examine who is actually in our state prisons, you will see that inmates are the violent or repeat offenders. Prisons serve a critical public safety need by protecting our communities from such offenders. But incarceration alone cannot be our only solution. In order to address prison overcrowding, we must intervene with future defendants before prison is their only option. An increased focus on prevention programs, intervention programs and re-entry programs, as well as reviewing our sentencing practices, are the best ways to address this growing crisis.

Let's begin with sentencing. Some have proposed the creation of a sentencing commission to make recommendations for cutting sentences and releasing prisoners. I agree that such a commission should be created, but its mandate should be broad. Such a commission must undertake a comprehensive review of Colorado's sentencing practices.

the Denver Post editorial

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Who's Gonna Work the Farms?

After the crackdown on immigration this year, there have been complaints from farmers that they aren't going to have any help out in the fields. The Department of Corrections has tentatively decided to jump in. The farmers are willing to pay pretty well, although we know that the people doing the work aren't going to make $9.60 an hour.... but they should make more than $2.00 a day.

It's basically "plantation revisited" and the fact that people want to exploit a prisoner's desire to work. This wouldn't be a job training program. It's a work program. Call a spade a spade. There aren't going to be jobs waiting for people once they get done on the farm and picking beans isn't going to be a great resume builder once they get back to town.

"Department of Corrections executive director Ari Zavaras said the work program would operate under the department's Correctional Industries Program, which helps inmates obtain work while in prison and learn a skill at the same time.

"We have a lot of details to work out, but this probably will start as a pilot program in Pueblo County. Depending on how well it works, we'll see where it will go," Zavaras said Monday.

Colorado prison inmates may soon help the state's farmers plant onions and pick melons under a program being developed by corrections officials and lawmakers.

The project is aimed at helping strapped farmers deal with a shortage of farm laborers caused by a crackdown on illegal immigration.

"When you have a crop sitting in the field and you have no one to harvest it, you'll try anything," said Pueblo County farmer Phil Prutch. "I'm willing to try it."

Prutch, who grows tomatoes, peppers, corn and squash, said tougher immigration laws passed by the legislature last year chased away most of his reliable help from Mexico and other countries.

Zavaras said the program fits in with his and Gov. Bill Ritter's new emphasis on reducing recidivism in state prisons....

The two Pueblo vegetable farmers said they need from five to 20 workers and are willing to pay up to $9.60 an hour, more than they've paid migrant workers in the past, but they can't find anyone to do the work.

Zavaras said he is hopeful something will be done before the farmers need them in May and June, when the local growing season begins." Denver Post

City Attorney Resigns Over Stolen Computer

Manzanares was sworn in as Denver's City Attorney on January 4, 2007. Deputy City Attorney Arlene Dykstra will serve as Acting City Attorney until a new City Attorney is appointed by the mayor.

In a prepared statement, Manzanares said, "Current events which have been highlighted by the media have created an untenable distraction for the Mayor's office and the position of Denver City Attorney. The position of City Attorney should be uncompromised by such distractions, and it would be unfair to the City and to the many fine attorneys in the City Attorney's Office to allow such a situation to continue. Therefore, I believe it is in the best interests of the City and the City Attorney's Office that I resign my position as City Attorney. I have had very many well-wishers and supporters encourage me to ride out the storm, and while I am grateful for their support, I believe the continued effectiveness of the City Attorney's Office must come first." Denver Post Article Here

We Cleared the First Hurdle

YOU DID IT!!! HB 1313 The Identity Bill
Passed Through the House Energy and Transportation Committee!!

Update on HB 1313 -- Please call your Representative today!!!
HB 1313 The Identity Bill, passed through the House Energy and
Transportation Committee with a vote of 11 Yes votes-0 No's-1-Absentee!!

HB 1313 was introduced by Rep. Rosemary Marshall and testimony in favor
was provided by lawyers, people who couldn't get state IDs, CCJRC, the Colorado
Coalition for the Homeless, and the St. Francis Center.

There were a couple of amendments approved, most notably,
one that was suggested by CCJRC. In the original bill, a DOC ID would only
be accepted by the DMV if the person also had a social security card. CCJRC suggested
that a birth certificate should also be accepted along with the DOC ID as an approved
document when applying for a state driver's license or ID.

The Bill will heads to the full House for second reading.
We will keep you updated as to when that will happen.

Find your representative's contact info by going to http://www.leg.state.co.us and
click on the legislative directory for the House.

Or go to www.votesmart.org and enter in your nine-digit zipcode (if you don't
know what that is you can get it from their website as well.)

Great work by Deb DeBoutez of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
and Linda Olsen from Colorado Legal Services for working so hard for several years
to address this problem. Many thanks to Representative Marshall for taking
the leadership in making the change happen.

Will the Death of Ken Gorman Lead to Changes?

"(CBS4) DENVER Police are still searching for a suspect in the murder of marijuana advocate Ken Gorman. He was shot to death at his Denver home Feb. 17 in what police think was a robbery.

Gorman grew pot in his home for himself and others. Just days before his murder, he spoke to CBS4 of the dangers.

"I've had a gun stuck to my head," Gorman said. "I've had people stabbed here, in my house, from people trying to get my marijuana."

Gorman called Colorado's amendment legalizing medical marijuana "a great, great law." The law allows patients and caregivers to grow pot, but makes no provision for secure marijuana dispensaries, like they have in some other states. It leaves it up to the user to find their own.

Medical marijuana patient Dana May said finding it can be dangerous.

"You try your luck down on Colfax and get shot," May said. "Or, get your car hijacked for a $20 bag.""

Monday, February 26, 2007

Westwords Fourth Installment--Casey's Still Okay

Casey Holden and his parole officer seem to be getting along just fine so far. She approves of his decision to go to school, to try to make something of himself after spending most of the last decade behind bars. He appreciates that she treats him like a human being, even though the law doesn’t require her to do that.......

Holden has a lot to figure out if he’s going to complete his parole, a journey Westword is following in the blog series “I Shall Be Released” (see previous entries here ). But one of the most critical challenges is to live within the terms of his parole conditions — to do what The Man says. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. The 26-year-old has spent half his life in cells of one kind or another because the rules and Casey Holden don’t always get along. His story is one of long periods of neglect and minimal supervision, followed by disastrous confrontations, during which someone tried to shove a bunch of authority down his throat all at once.

At CSP Holden took classes that are supposed to prepare him to deal with the world again, this time as a citizen. But going straight from CSP to the street has been wildly disorienting. “There is no class that will prepare you for being around people again,” he says.

In moments of great stress and frustration, it’s easy to yearn for his old criminal life again — weed, riding around, short hours — even though a trip in that direction would probably end up back in the oblivion of prison life, surrounded by the kind of people he’s no longer allowed to write.

“They break you down in that place,” he says, “but they don’t build you back up.” — Alan Prendergast READ THE FOURTH INSTALLMENT HERE

Community Corrections in Colorado

One of the best researchers in America is Kim English at the Colorado Department of Justice. She and Nicole Hetz-Burrell published this paper on community corrections to try and discover some of the intricacies of the perfomance of the programs here in Colorado. What works, what doesn't, and why. Here is the report they have provided us, including the analysis and policy recommendations that they distilled from the data that they collected. If you want to read more of the wonderful research that Kim has done over the years go the the DOJ website here.

Community Corrections in Colorado: A Study of Program Outcomes and Recidivism, FY00-FY04

Research Findings
Financial Outcomes
• Offenders in halfway houses across the state paid more than $2.6 million
in state taxes and approximately $6.7 million in federal taxes between
FY00 and FY04. They earned more than $115 million and paid over $36
million in room and board during that period.
Program Outcomes
• Successful completion rates ranged from 39.6 percent to 72.8 percent
across 30 halfway houses.
• Between FY00 and FY03, approximately 62-63 percent of offenders
successfully completed their stay in community corrections. However, in
FY04, the successful completion rate dropped from 63.1 percent to 56.1
• Success rates for diversion clients dropped from 58.8 percent during
FY00-03 to 52.2 percent in FY04 while success rates for transition clients
dropped from 67.2 percent to 60.1 percent in FY00-03 and FY04,
o Success rates for community corrections clients increased
consistently between 1989 and 2003, a period during which
programs managed increasingly more serious offenders, as
measured by the criminal history score.
Read the Entire Report

Is Bad Treatment Worse Than No Treatment?

As Colorado launches itself towards a paradigm shift in how we think about subsance abuse treatment, corrections, and sentencing, it would be good business to watch what happens when there is no oversight, or proper evaluation on how we spend our money. Just because we write the almighty check to providers, doesn't mean we won't get snake oil. We need to be extremely thoughtful about who we decide will provide GOOD treatment as opposed to just any treatment that's available.

What can a billion dollars buy?

It could buy health coverage for all California children for a year.

It could increase per-pupil spending by $169, enough to nudge California above Louisiana in the national rankings.

It could pay the cost of double-tracking light rail all the way to Folsom and add hundreds of new buses -- and still have money left over.

Instead of spending money on any of those worthy projects, the state has wasted $1 billion since 1989 in ineffective prison drug abuse programs. How ineffective are these programs? In a scathing report, Inspector General Matthew Cate found that the recidivism rates for prisoners enrolled in two of the largest in-prison substance abuse programs were actually higher than those of a control group that did not receive treatment.

The failures Cate documents are stunning in their magnitude. In some cases program contractors were paid for beds that went unfilled, so the cost of treatment zoomed from $3,832 per inmate to $5,079. Even when drug and alcohol addicted prisoners were enrolled in programs, months-long lockdowns in overcrowded prisons kept them away from required counseling sessions.

Although the contracts required that inmates enrolled in treatment were supposed to be isolated from the general prison population, none of the programs complied with that basic requirement, a serious lapse that ensured programs would fail.

GEO Private Prison Posting Profits

How much are we willing to pay when there are alternatives available that are more effective and will save us money and lives in the long run. Geo was recently fired from a contract in Colorado because they were unable to perform, that is, build the prison they were contracted to build in Pueblo.

Like license plates, shivs and pruno, there's money to be made in prison. Just ask investors in Geo Group who've seen their stakes in the private jailer more than triple in value in the past year. A breakout as brazen as that might have some investors thinking about locking in profits, but the prison business, sad to say, is booming, and Geo Group looks to have secured its place in the yard.....But it's the severe shortage of prison space and the climbing prison population that make the best case for Geo Group going forward. There are currently 2.2 million people behind bars in the U.S. More than 7% of them are held in the type of privately run facilities built and operated by Geo Group, which has about 30% of the market, according to Patrick Swindle, an analyst with Avondale Partners, the Nashville, Tenn., investment bank. "It's difficult for me to see an environment where we don't grow the aggregate inmate population between 1.5% and 2% each year," Swindle says.
Article Here

HBO's Addiction Premiere

Invitation to March 7 Premiere of HBO Documentary “Addiction”

HBO is partnering with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NIDA, NIAAA, Faces and Voices of Recovery, and others to conduct a national public outreach campaign, “Addiction and Recovery: Communities Take Action.” This is a one-year multimedia effort culminating in a national Rally for Recovery on September 15. The key television event is "Addiction", a 90 minute documentary initially airing on March 15. The documentary is supplemented by 4 independent films on addiction, podcasts, a book, and a comprehensive website. This campaign offers an opportunity to continue to educate our communities about addiction as a chronic and treatable brain disease. For more information on the Addiction project, go to http://www.addictionaction.org/ . Advocates for Recovery will be the lead organization for this campaign in the Denver/Boulder area.

On March 7, HBO will be hosting the Denver premiere of "Addiction" at the Cable Center on the DU campus - http://www.cablecenter.org/. A reception with food will be held at 6PM with the premier of “Addiction” at 7 PM. Following the documentary will be discussion by a local panel of experts and members of the recovery community. This is an invitation only event with limited theatre seating.

To RVSP, please call 1-888-745-7425.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Parole Hearings Are Public by Law

Ann Imse, reporter for the Rocky Mountain News did a story a couple of weeks ago on a man caught up in the revolving prison door in Colorado. When she attempted to attend his parole hearing she was denied access.

Rocky Editorial Here

Hope Where There Has Been No Hope

First ladies often take on an agenda when their husbands assume positions of power, and that is going to ring true in Colorado as well. Advocates for those with mental illness are cheering Jeannie Ritter as she takes on the problems of the the mentally ill in Colorado.

Our overburdened prison population is no secret and nearly twenty percent of that population has a mental illness. Colorado has consistently released those folks from prison without the means necessary to take care of themselves. They often recieve the medication that they need to stay stable while they are in prison but once they are released they are only given enough medication to last for thirty days. After that time is up, they are on their own, and often that means a return to street drugs or alcohol to combat the problems they face.

Realistically, we also need to address the need for substance abuse treatment and the deeper issue of sending people to prison who have addiction problems from a standpoint of public health policy instead of a punitive criminal justice one.

Jeanne Rohner, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Colorado, said the mood began to change when Jeannie Ritter started talking. "She brought hope where there was no hope," Rohner said. "The room just totally energized because they saw the potential that we could do something."

Mental health specialists say there are signs of movement. A bill before the state Senate would mandate expanded insurance coverage for mental illnesses, a measure that advocates see as important.

Another key public policy piece, Rohner said, is to divert mentally ill inmates out of the criminal justice system. As a longtime district attorney, Gov. Bill Ritter is well aware of the connection between law enforcement and the strains of mental illness and last week he announced he'll ask the legislature to fund an effort to reduce the prison recidivism rate. His proposal includes $3.1 million in 2007-08 for mental health services and substance abuse treatment and $858,438 for transitional mental health beds.

Rohner is convinced that the governor's initiative will benefit the state far more than simply adding more and more prison beds.

The state never has been a leader in mental health spending. For instance, in 2001 Colorado spent $64 per person on mental health services while the national average was $81. The state department of mental health, which has a $154 million budget for mental health services this year, plans to ask for an additional $77 million over the next five years.

Jeannie Ritter says that she has come to realize how mental health issues reach into so many different arenas. She had just returned from a meeting of the Denver Crime Prevention and Control Commission recently when she spoke to The Denver Post. She was taken with how many of those at the table saw the same problems but didn't have the right tools to deal with them.

Regina Huerter, executive director of the commission, offers a compelling example. On any given day, she says, 350 to 400 Denver County jail inmates are suffering from severe and persistent mental illness. They should be in treatment, she says. That costs about $12,000 a year per patient while incarceration runs about $30,000 annually. But the facilities and programs don't exist to accommodate them.

Denver Post Opinion

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Denver Post Letters to the Editor

I had the privilige of being at a conference last year where LEAP presented. It was probably one of the most powerful statements on what policy does to affect us on a social level that I have ever been invited to see. The truth is powerful and sickening, but the story needs to be told and something needs to be done about the level of corruption that is at the core of the War on Drugs.

Drugs and Prisons

Re: "Aiming for course corrections on prison priorities," Feb. 15 Diane Carman column.

Diane Carman hits the target in this column. Cutting to the matter's core, her summation of the "bogus war on drugs," defining "Colorado's very own Iraq war," is eloquent. And her reference to the drug war as "insanely self-perpetuating" is a bull's-eye.

The facts and figures on the costs of this ill-conceived policy in Colorado are just the tip of the iceberg. Nationwide, it is a 37-year, trillion-dollar abject failure.

Carman ends her column with a simple statement, saying, "Now all we need is a leader."

I challenge Department of Corrections Director Ari Zavaras, who is a former Denver police chief, and Gov. Bill Ritter, who was Denver DA, to take the lead. Join me and more than 6,500 other current and former criminal justice professionals at LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) in working to end the "war on drugs."

When substance abusers are no longer criminals who commit more crime to pay for their addictions (less crime/incarceration) and drug dealers are out of business for lack of profit (less crime/incarceration), then Colorado, like New York, can close prisons. That's a real "win-win."

Tony Ryan, Aurora

Lawsuit Demands Care For Mentally Ill Veterans

It's becoming less of a secret, for years now the Department of Corrections has mishandled those people who are considered mentally ill. They are expected to live up to the same standards as everyone else when it comes to be competent enough to handle the rigors of being on parole or in community corrections. The lawsuit was filed by civil rights attorney Anne Sulton as a class action suit that alleges cruel and unusual punishment and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of all incarcerated, honorably discharged veterans receiving Veterans Affairs care for their service-connected disabilities, whose incarceration is related to the failure of prisons and jails to provide them with mental health care. The filing estimates that 100-400 inmates fall into the class.

The class would be far larger if not limited to these military veterans. Colorado estimates that 19 percent of its 23,395 inmates are mentally ill.

The suit says 45 percent of Colorado offenders received mental health services in 2000 but that dropped to 20 percent by 2004, after a $1 million funding cut.

Sulton said she limited the case to these veterans because parole and community corrections officials cannot plead limited resources in failing to arrange mental health treatment for them.

"All you have to do is make a call and get the VA to take care of them. It takes 10 seconds," said Sulton, the former Denver attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She is now based in Olympia, Wash.

Read Anne Imse's article here

Life Returned

As a society we always seem to be looking for that magic "program" that is going to keep people out of trouble after they are released from prison. Mountains of research has been done to fine tune programs to reduce recidivism. What we have discovered is that when people have healthy family support, they are more likely to be successful. It is important that we start to work more towards developing systems that keep healthy family and community ties from being severed.

Here's a story of young man who came up the hard way and fell and is trying to get his life back.
Rocky story here

DUI? 5 Year Sentence - Rocky Mountain News Editorial

As introduced, House Bill 1189, by Rep. Joel Judd, D-Denver, would have made Colorado's penalties against drunken driving the toughest in the nation. First-time offenders would lose their licenses for at least five years, and multiple offenders for 20 - unless they satisified other requirements we'll discuss later.

We're open to the suggestion that the state's penalties against impaired drivers are too lenient. But as originally envisioned, HB 1189 was simply too harsh.

Increases the driver's license revocation period for first-time
DUI/DUI per se violators after July 1, 2007, to 5 years.
Increases the driver's license revocation period for multiple DUI/DUI per se violators who commit a second or subsequent violation after July 1, 2007, to 20 years. (Bill Language)
Fortunately, Judd has had second thoughts and plans to ease some of the penalties before the bill is heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

No law can totally eradicate drunken driving. If criminal penalties against driving while intoxicated are too severe, motorists who are caught will simply drive without a license. Even with current penalties, federal officials report that 60 percent to 80 percent of drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked keep getting behind the wheel. Rocky Editorial

Not A Good Week For Attorneys

I think it's called theft by receiving...

Denver city attorney Larry Manzanares was put on paid "investigatory" leave Friday after a stolen computer was found in his home, Denver's 7 reported.

Mayor John Hickenlooper put Manzanares on leave after being contacted by Denver's 7.

"We are extremely concerned about the serious issues raised by this situation and the fact that we were not made aware of the investigation until today," Hickenlooper said.

Manzanares told Denver's 7 reporter Tony Kovaleski he had bought the Gateway computer from a man in a parking lot one block south of the City and County Building last month. Rocky article

And this story that was pointed out by Public Defender Blog is just astounding

SACRAMENTO - The California attorney general on Wednesday charged a private investigator with filing bogus documents to aid four death row inmates, calling the case one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated on the state's criminal justice system.

Kathleen Culhane was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Sacramento on 45 felony counts of forgery, filing false documents and perjury.

"This is fraud at the highest level," Michael Farrell, a senior assistant attorney general, said after the arraignment. "This is someone who is trying to undermine the system." Read the article here

...And then there's the sad story of Michael Andre who police found dead in his home after a stand-off in Cherry Creek yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Thirty-eight
year old Michael Andre was a well known and well liked attorney who represented people facing drug charges and those who worked in the adult entertainment industry. Rocky article here

Friday, February 23, 2007

Wyoming Inmate Dies In Oklahoma Prison

CHEYENNE - A Wyoming inmate housed at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., has died, according to the state Department of Corrections.

No foul play was involved in the death of Charles E. Birr, 60, who was pronounced dead on Monday, agency spokeswoman Melinda Brazzale said Friday.

The exact cause of death was being investigated.

Wyoming currently has about 500 inmates housed out-of-state due to lack of room in the state's prison system. (Colorado currently has 480 people housed in the same facility.)
Billings Gazette

Families Behind Bars

This story doesn't just leave a bad taste in my mouth, it makes me physically ill. We should be ashamed of ourselves, as a nation. How do we wrap our national conscience around the fact that CCA is making money off the incarceration of children and families?

Named after the co-founder of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the T. Don Hutto Correctional Center in Taylor, Texas, opened as a medium-security prison in 1997. Today, the federal government pays CCA, the nation's largest private prison company, $95 per person per day to house the detainees, who wear jail-type uniforms and live in cells. (Truthout)

But they have not been charged with any crimes. In fact, nearly half of its 400 or so residents are children, including infants and toddlers.

The advocacy groups -- the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services -- said they based their complaints on visits to these sites by their members and interviews with detainees.

At the Hutto site, their report said, a child secretly passed a visitor a note that read: ''Help us and ask us questions,'' it said. The groups reported that many of the detainees cried during interviews.

''What hits you the hardest in there is that it's a prison. In Hutto, it's a prison,'' said Michelle Brane, detention and asylum project director for Women's Commission.

At a news conference, the groups charged that some families are kept up to two years in the facilities, with those petitioning for asylum or trying to prove they shouldn't be deported, remaining there the longest. NYTimes

HBO Addiction

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)
Faces & Voices of Recovery
Join Together

Washington, DC - A groundbreaking collaborative project aimed at expanding public understanding of addiction and recovery was launched today by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), Faces & Voices of Recovery and Join Together, three national organizations supporting policies to promote prevention, treatment and recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

In 30 communities from coast-to-coast, this partnership and its affiliates, in conjunction with HBO, will be working intensively to educate Americans about advancements in the understanding of drug and alcohol addiction and its treatment as a brain disease. HBO's multi-platform campaign on "ADDICTION" debuts on March 15, 2007 on HBO.

Don't Follow Our Lead! (Ethan Nadelman on Drug Policy)

Ethan Nadelman the Executive Director at the Drug Policy Alliance, takes on John Walters, the U.S drug czar, who is trying to get Canada to follow in our footstepts on the failed War on Drugs. He discusses our persistent consistency in pursuing something that obviously isn't working. Ethan puts things into perspective here...

The U.S. drug czar, John Walters, is in Ottawa today, trying his best to put a positive spin on one of the greatest disasters in U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Part of his agenda is to persuade Canada to follow in U.S. footsteps, which can only happen if Canadians ignore science, compassion, health and human rights.

The United States ranks first in the world in per-capita incarceration, with roughly five per cent of the earth's population but 25 per cent of the total incarcerated population. Russia and China simply can't keep up. Among the 2.2 million people behind bars today in the United States, roughly half a million are locked up for drug-law violations, and hundreds of thousands more for other "drug-related" offences. The U.S. "war on drugs" costs at least $40 billion U.S. a year in direct costs, and tens of billions more in indirect costs.

Read the article here

Thursday, February 22, 2007

34.1 Million for El Paso County Jail

The work-release program in El Paso County will be revitalized. Terry Maketa knows that this program is a vital part of reducing recidivism...we are glad to see that it's been given new life.

A multimillion-dollar project is the result of a four to one decision by El Paso County Commissioners for funding expected to help with overcrowded jails.

The money, which will come from refinanced certificates of participation, allows the sheriff's department to reinstate the inmate work release program.

"This gives us temporary relief, it mitigates some of the overcrowding we're facing and it's a very viable option," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says.

The program had previously been cut in the county's most recent budget, but can now play a major role in generating revenue to compensate for the project. "The county has an opportunity to refinance some assets and get a reduced interest rate and I think that is good judgment and good use of the tax dollars," Maketa says. "It reduces the payments that they make on existing facilities."

The funding calls for a renovation of the Metro Detention Center in downtown Colorado Springs, making room for an inmate work release dormitory with room for 375 inmates. "This gives us the capital we need to start a self funded program which will repay the debt that we're borrowing the money on."

KRDOTV Article

Legislative Update CCJRC



Your action is needed!

It sure has been a whirlwind at the Capitol. The Governor announced that
reducing recidivism is one of his major goals during his tenure and has
already requested over $8million for substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment
and additional community corrections beds to fund his plan. There is also a proposal
to award $14 million of the tobacco funds to substance abuse treatment.

The following is an update on issues important to CCJRC and what you can
do to help. Many thanks to our various coalition partners like the
ACLU (SB 83), the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar (HB 1107),
and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (HB 1313) for their leadership.

Item 1.

Save the Date! March 6th at 9:30am at the House Judiciary Committee
Hearing Room, 0112 - Private prison operators will be making a presentation
before the House Judiciary Committee. CCJRC has been allotted 15
minutes to also make a presentation. Please come, if you can
Item 2.
Update on Senate Bill 83 - that, among other things, would allow people on parole to vote.
SB 83 is still waiting to be heard on 2nd reading in the Senate. We'll keep you posted.
If you haven't had a chance to contact your Senator, you still have time.

Item 3.
Update on House Bill 1107 that would allow people to petition the court
to seal a criminal conviction after 10 years of completing the sentence.
HB 1107 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a very strong 9-2 vote.
It is now waiting to be scheduled for a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.
This should happen sometime in March. We'll keep you posted.

Item 4. Please support HB 07-1313.
Identifies what documents
the Department of Revenue is to accept in issuing state identification cards,
including a DOC inmate ID.

Hearing Scheduled in the House Energy and Transportation Committee
Tuesday, February 27th at 1:30pm
House Committee Hearing Room 0107

On February 20, 2007, Representative Rosemary Marshall (D) and
Senator Paula Sandoval (D) introduced HB 07-1313 that lists what documents
the Department of Revenue shall accept in issuing state identification cards.
HB 07-1313 would also require that a Department of Corrections photo
ID be one of the forms of ID that is accepted.

Photo identification has become a necessity in daily life. People need an ID to drive,
obtain employment, open a bank account, rent an apartment, and apply for many social services.
Many homeless people and people recently released from prison find it very difficult,
if not impossible, to get a state ID. Without ID, many people can be denied access
to shelters, motels, clothing closets, food pantries, and certain public benefits.

HB 07-1313 provides clear legislative direction to the Department of Revenue
on the types of documents that should be considered secure and verifiable forms
of identification for obtaining a state ID or driver's license. The documents listed include:
" Passport
" Valid birth certificate and a valid social security card
" Valid driver's license or identification document issued by a state government
" An identify document issued by the department of corrections and a valid social security card
" Documents issued by the U.S. government granting or recognizing the person's immigration, asylum, or refugee status
" Documents recognized by the U.S. government to prove identity

HB07-1313 lists that the following documents or combinations be valid
methods of proving that a person is lawfully present in the United States:
" Passport
" Valid birth certificate and a valid social security card
" Valid driver's license or identification document issued by a state government
" Documents issued by the U.S. government granting or recognizing the person's immigration,
asylum, or refugee status
" Documents recognized by the U.S. government to prove lawful presence

In addition, HB07-1313 authorizes an applicant who is denied a driver's license, permit or
identification card to request a hearing to determine whether the applicant is qualified.
Your support is needed to ensure that Coloradans get the documentation
they need in order to live, work, and maintain their lives here.

Many thanks to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless for their
diligent work on this issue over the past several years. If you have any questions,
contact Deb DeBoutez at 303.285.5220 or ddeboutez@coloradocoalition.org.

Please contact the members of the House Energy and Transportation Committee
for HB07-1313. Phone calls or emails. We can't do this without your help.

Representative Alice Borodkin
District 9 Democrat
Denver/ Arapahoe County
E-mail: aliceb321@aol.com

Representative Gwyn Green
District 23 Democrat
Jefferson County
E-mail: gwyn.green.house@state.co.us

Representative Dan Gibbs
District 56 Democrat
Eagle/Lake/Summit County
E-mail: dan.gibbs.house@state.co.us

Representative Don Marostica
District 51 Republican
Larimer County

Representative Liane "Buffie" McFadyen (committee chair)
District 47 Democrat
Fremont/Pueblo County
E-mail: buffie2006@hotmail.com

Representative Frank McNulty
District 43 Republican
Douglas County

Representative Michael Merrifield
18 District Democrat
El Paso County
E-mail: michael.merrifield.house@state.co.us

Representative Dianne Primavera
District 33 Democrat
Adams/Boulder/Broomfield/Weld County
E-mail: dianne.primavera.house@state.co.us

Representative Joe Rice
District 38 Democrat
Arapahoe/Jefferson County
E-mail: joe.rice.house@state.co.us

Representative Jerry Sonnenberg
District 65 Republican
Logan, Phillips, Sedgwick,Weld
E-mail: jerry.sonnenberg.house@state.co.us

Representative Spencer Swalm
District 37 Republican
Arapahoe County
E-mail: spencer.swalm.house@state.co.us

Representative Glenn Vaad
District 48 Republican
Weld County
E-mail: glenn.vaad.house@state.co.us

Pamela Clifton
Outreach Coordinator
1212 Mariposa St #6

Contempt Citations Issued in Disregard of the Mentally Ill

Mentally ill inmates would wait no longer than 28 days for treatment or evaluations under an agreement reached today with state officials.(Rocky Article here)

The settlement between state officials and attorneys representing inmates came after a Denver judge issued contempt citations against the state hospital superintendent and the director of the department of human services for failing to provide court-ordered competency evaluations or treatment for inmates.

Denver District Judge Martin Egelhoff, who pushed the state to treat inmates more quickly, was elated Thursday at a hearing where the settlement was announced.

Inmates were caught in a backlog that left some of them waiting as long as six months for evaluations or treatment. The state blamed the backlog on a lack of funding for staff and beds. ...

"Their mental illness was exacerbated and compromised," she said. "They were given meds here and there at the local jails. But lack of immediate help takes them back months and years in their treatment." (Denver Post)

She added that the hospital staff cares about helping the mentally ill but hadn't received enough money.

"They are rich in the heart but poor in the pocket," Eytan said.

Gov. Bill Ritter's transition team was involved in the settlement conferences.

"Under this settlement, detainees will get the services they need in a reasonable time frame, the jails can manage their populations better, and the state can meet its obligations," Ritter said.

The agreement will run until a new 200-bed high-security unit at the state hospital is opened in the summer of 2009. It should easily accommodate criminal defendants who need mental health treatment, officials say.

If the state hospital and the Colorado Department of Human Services fail to meet the 24- and 28-day deadlines, they face hefty penalties, including fines of $1,000 per quarter, per patient.

A Stroll Through Supermax

Yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales toured Supermax and he said that things are fine concerning the monitoring of phone calls and mail.

The issues certain are other security improvements sought by the prison's staff and the townspeople of Florence, including more corrections officers and a perimeter fence around the four-prison federal complex that includes Supermax.

Alan from Westword has his own particular take on the issue:

"Attorney General Alberto Gonzales walked the buttoned-down halls of the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum in Florence yesterday, then announced that all was super at the federal supermax. No need for more staff or monitoring at the high-tech prison, a repository of terrorists and superfiends. No need for a new $20 million perimeter fence that some in the community have been demanding, afraid that Eric Rudolph or Ted Kaczynksi might slip out and bomb the local Carl’s Jr...."
Westword article here

Changes at DMV

HB07-1313 has been introduced into the legislature. This very important piece of legislation and an action alert has been issued by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and CCJRC.

Rocky Mountain News article here

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Give'em A Chance

This is a great story about how those directly impacted by the system are the ones who may be the best equipped to work with others who are struggling with re-entry. This story also reminds us how small policy changes can be so debilitating and in some cases devastating.

This is why we support the Record-Sealing bill, the Parolee Voting bill, The Second Chance Act, and the Identity Bill (HB07 1313, which will allow people recently released from prison easier access to a state identification when they get out.) We have to remove those barriers that keep people from being successful if we want to reduce recidivism and increase public safety. Every felony conviction shouldn't carry a life sentence.

In a storefront church in Brooklyn, a half dozen people with criminal records listened intently as another ex-offender led a workshop on their rights and employer hiring practices.

Toward the end, one of them asked if it was a waste of time pursuing a civil service job.

Glenn Martin, who served six years in prison for armed robbery and is now co-director of an organization focused on helping ex-offenders find work, offered reassurance.

"Does anybody here know somebody who works with city sanitation with a conviction record?" he asked on Monday from the pulpit area of Peterson Temple Church of God in Christ in Crown Heights.

Martin, 36, of Midwood, and several supporters -- including church members, workshop organizers and representatives from other groups that work with ex-offenders -- quickly raised their hands.

"Does anybody here know somebody who works for probation with a conviction record?" More raised hands. "Does anybody here know an attorney with a criminal record?" Same thing.

"You can get into these fields," Martin said. "I'm telling you, I've seen it. I've seen it. It's more difficult but it's not impossible."

Death Penalty Crazy

Carol Chambers is going after more death penalties than any DA in the state put together, all by herself. She was going after both of the men convicted in a murder earlier this year, but now is told; You can go after one, but not the other.

Is it because one is more guilty than the other? Oh no, it's far more heinous than that, it's because of a "clerical error" or more elegantly put,""It is the grossest incompetence imaginable in a death penalty case, to be this sloppy," defense attorney David Lane told the television station. "This kind of mistake will result very possibly in striking the death penalty against Robert Ray." ...Which would allow the state to kill one man and not another. The whole thing is barbaric and deeply disturbing.

But the district attorney "is moving forward with the death penalty in this case," Chambers' spokeswoman, Kathleen Walsh, said Thursday. Rocky Article here
and here

Alan from Westword puts his own particular spin on the issue here.

The squish pundits and squash-eating liberals are once again questioning the wisdom of Colorado’s death penalty. But that doesn’t mean squat to Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers.

Okay, so the death penalty as practiced here has claimed exactly one life since 1968 - that of the eminently qualified Gary Davis, whose sordid career as a rapist and murderer was examined in unflinching detail in these pages a decade ago in “The Killer Inside Him.” Okay, so the futile effort to make a few of our least wanted pay the ultimate price has cost close to $50 million, with the taxpayer footing the bill for the legal arguments on both sides. So state representative Paul Weissmann wants to abolish the death penalty and plow the savings into solving cold cases. So death penalty cases tend to be a big waste of time, an excruciatingly prolonged and emotional quest for votes and revenge, not justice.

So what?

None of it matters to Chambers. She’s always marched to a different tune — the executioner’s song. WESTWORD ARTICLE HERE

Connect the Dots Arnold

His prison population is exploding, he's been ordered to reduce that population and his most recent attempt to force prisoners out-of-state has been blocked He agrees that more programs need to be in place to reduce recidivism and that people should be in smaller community-based centers closer to their homes in order to help them on re-entry. Corrections Sentencing points out that he's also moving the drug czar to take over the drug treatment failure within the prison system.

The governor issued a news release calling Jett, 53, "the right person at the right time to take on this critical responsibility. There is no one more experienced in addiction and recovery services and no one more committed to making substance abuse treatment the cornerstone of our rehabilitation efforts in Corrections."

And he wants to wereck the funding for Prop 36. On one hand, he said, Jett has overseen implementation of the Proposition 36 treatment-not-jail law for nonviolent drug offenders; that law has saved taxpayers more than $800 million and is on target to graduate more than 70,000 participants over five years.

I just wonder if the Gov. hasn't connected the dots somehow.

Read the article here.

Death Penalty Repeal? Maybe Not

A town hall meeting in Longmont on Saturday was attended by Paul Weissman-D, the sponsor of the bill to repeal the death penalty. He doesn't expect it to pass, and is already looking to reform sentencing laws next year.

Read the John Fryar article here

Colorado Women's Corr. Fac Running Help Desk

There is a only a small number of women that can participate in this program, but it will give them a sense of hope, so that when they leave prison they feel that they have a marketable skill that may keep them from coming back. What would be best, is if companies like these would have jobs waiting for these folks when they are released, or at least set up referrals so that they have a better shot at being successful.

When Terri Moore is released from the Colorado Women's Correctional Facility in Canon City today, after serving two and a half years for fraud, she'll re-enter society with a brighter future than most felons. That's because she has spent the past 15 months working five days a week on the Colorado Department of Corrections IT help desk -- and she has already drawn interest from a company that hires ex-cons.

"I've gained a lot there," said Moore, explaining that the job has helped her deal with anxieties she once had over working with or talking to people.

Moore participated in an innovative program developed by the Colorado Department of Corrections in which a handful of female inmates from the nearby women's prison have been working on the agency's IT help desk since 2005. Corrections officials came up with the idea in the face of planned IT cutbacks.

Gonzales Says Supermax is Safe

FLORENCE, Colo. -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales toured a federal prison holding some of the nation's most violent and disruptive inmates on Wednesday and said the facility is secure, but he conceded that it could be improved.

"Are there challenges? Yes," said Gonzales, the nation's top law enforcement official. "Can we do better? Yes."

Gonzales agreed to visit the prison, known as Supermax, after Colorado's two senators raised concerns about staffing and security.

He stopped short of promising to increase the number of guards or build an additional fence around the compound, as some state and local officials have advocated. Instead, he said he was willing to listen.

Washinton Post article here

Parolee Voting Bill -- Laid Over Till Thursday

The Parolee Voting Bill has been laid over five times now. It's on the schedule for tomorrow, so if you haven't called your senator in favor of this bill, you still have time.

Colorado Parolees Deserve the Right to Vote We need your help with Senate Bill 83 ASAP!

Find your senator's contact info by going to http://www.leg.state.co.us and
click on the legislative directory for the Senate. Or you can go to http://www.Vote-Smart.org

To Read More Click here

Tobacco-cash Means Millions for Treatment

Tobacco-cash plan OK'd

Senators approved diverting $34 million from tobacco-settlement money Tuesday into health-care programs and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

On a 25-10 vote, the Senate passed SB97 by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Jefferson County, which would give 49 percent of the money to CU. Health-care programs - including rural health care, mental-health and drug-and-alcohol counseling for inmates, and immunization programs - would divide the rest.

Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver, said she voted against the bill because nearly half the money would go to higher education rather than health care.

"There just is so much need, and I really feel strongly that those dollars could be better spent on the needy and disabled," she said.

Spitzer and Swarzenegger - Prison Reform

From coast to coast, how small changes in policy can divert a crisis, or create one. My mother always said "if you want to be successful, find someone who is and just do whatever it is that they do." We need to decide what we want our own prison crisis to look like in five years, and what success really means to Colorado.

New York's Eliot Spitzer, the tough ex-prosecutor turned governor, wants a commission to examine closing some of his state's dozens of prisons. Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pressing for $11 billion in bonds to add 78,000 beds to California's already burgeoning and overtaxed system.

What's going on here?

Partly, it's what both men inherited. New York's prison population peaked at 71,000 inmates in 1999 but has dropped by 8,000 since. Major explanations: dropping crime levels (especially in New York City) and increased efforts to find alternative treatment for nonviolent offenders.

California's prison population, meanwhile, has continued to surge. It's now at 173,000 inmates, an $8 billion yearly bill. Overcrowding and threats of riots are so serious that a senior prison official last year warned of "an imminent and substantial threat to the public."

Seattle Times Editorial here

Judge Stops Out Of State Prison Transfers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A Sacramento judge Tuesday blocked California corrections officials from transferring inmates to out of state, ruling that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's declaration of a prison overcrowding emergency was "unlawful" and that the movement of the prisoners violates the state's civil service principles......."The emergency here is not within the control of any single county or city in California," Ohanesian wrote. "This is so not because of the magnitude of the crisis. It is because control of the state prisons is exclusively within the purview of state government and not local government. The intent of the Emergency Services Act is not to give the governor extraordinary powers to act without legislative approval in matters such as this that are ordinarily and entirely within the control of state government."
Read the article here

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nearly $10 Million For Metro Denver Homeless

We are very excited to announce that long-time CCJRC member, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless was awarded more than $4 million from the federal government today. We'd like to take a moment to acknowledge all the excellent work that these groups have done over the years.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today awarded agencies that serve the homeless in metro Denver more than $9.9 million.

The money is a crucial part of the budget for many groups that serve the homeless.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless was awarded more than $4 million for a variety of projects, including the 100-unit Renaissance Riverfront project along the South Platte River at Park Avenue West..

Rocky Mountain Article here


NY Times Article -- Supreme Court and Sentencing Guidelines

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 — The Supreme Court returns on Tuesday from a monthlong recess to face a daunting and urgent task: explaining what it meant two years ago when it ruled that the federal sentencing guidelines were to be treated as “advisory,” no longer binding on federal judges.
The justices will hear arguments on Tuesday morning in two cases that will provide the latest chapter, although almost certainly not the final one, in the court’s continuing and, to many, profoundly unsettling reappraisal of the roles of juries and judges in criminal sentencing.
NY Times article here

Prisoners of the Census Bureau

The Real Cost of Prisons points us to an article that examines how we have no idea how or where to count the 2.2 million people that we have incarcerated and what the consequences of that are. It's an issue for Colorado since most of our 22,000 incarcerated people are in rural areas spread out across the state, and in time, the prison populations for these rural towns can match or even exceed the real populations of those towns.

TODAY, MORE THAN 2 million people, or nearly one out of every 100 adults, is sitting in a jail or prison in the United States -- an incarceration rate unprecedented in U.S. history.

The total number of prisoners is not in dispute. But how to tabulate them is emerging as perhaps the most vexing issue of the 2010 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau counts prisoners as residents of the towns and counties where they are incarcerated, even though most inmates have no ties to those communities and almost always return to their home neighborhoods upon release.

This has enormous and unsettling political and economic consequences, especially for California. The state banishes many of its urban offenders to prisons clustered in rural areas and intends to send at least 5,000 of its inmates out of state to cope with the prison overcrowding crisis....A provocative analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative estimates that if prisoners held in upstate New York were counted in their home neighborhoods, at least four state Senate seats — all Republican — would be in jeopardy after redistricting.

As Michigan state Rep. LaMar Lemmons (D-Detroit), a proponent of census reform, said: "Prison is not a residence; it is a condition."

LA Times Editorial here


Michael Connelly has a great post/essay for Presidents' Day that he calls, W.W.A.D? (What Would Abe Do?

But of course you know that Lincoln was not that hard line. He had practiced defense law. He had a view of humans as capable of improvement and furthering themselves, hence his dislike of slavery which threathened individuals because it took a person's work from them and which threatened society because it substituted a system of a person's own labor and its subsequent reward with the forced labor of others....Lincoln saw a human sameness, a "there but for the grace of God," that is lacking in much of our corr sent policy today. We don't have to wonder what he would think about alternative sanctions and treatment for substance abuse....

Supermax Overcrowded and Understaffed

Years of get tough on crime policies, mandatory minimum sentences and over incarceration of low-level drug offenders is finally coming home to roost. There isn't enough space or money to run Florence. They can only spread themselves so far, and in response, the nation's highest-security federal prison is resorting to exteme tactics that results in long-term psychological torture of human beings.

United Nations officials have condemned the U.S. use of prolonged isolation and other tactics in Supermax and other prisons, citing the International Convention Against Torture that the U.S. ratified in 1994.

"This is against international law and against human decency," said Bonnie Kerness, coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee's Prison Watch monitoring campaign.

It's also a place where the extreme isolation of prisoners raises concerns among human- rights advocates about psychological torture.

Gonzales' visit Wednesday - with lawmakers, prison administrators and union leaders in tow - is designed to help tackle these and other troubles that could threaten security at the ultra-high-security Supermax prison and the adjacent high-security U.S. Penitentiary.

Post Article here

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ken Gorman -- Medical Marijuana Activist Killed

Police identified Ken Gorman as the man who was killed in a South Decatur Street home over the weekend, but would not say if they believe marijuana theft was a possible motive in the homicide. Gorman, a 59-year-old activist who sold marijuana for medicinal purposes, was shot to death sometime after 7 p.m. Saturday in his home. Post article here

"Ken has been around forever, and he did quite a bit to draw attention to an issue that he believed in," said Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER, an organization that helped legalize possession of small amounts of pot in Denver.
"For over 20 or 30 years, (Gorman) has been at the forefront of the issue, but if marijuana was legal, this would not have happened," Tvert said. "The thing that Ken spent his entire life fighting ended up killing him, and that's marijuana prohibition, and not marijuana." Rocky article here

No Answers in Jail Death - A Year Later

A year ago today, Emily Rae Rice bled to death and was found facedown on the floor of Denver's city jail, hours after she was arrested in an alcohol- related crash.

On Sunday morning, dozens of friends, family members and activists from Denver CopWatch began a 24-hour vigil outside the jail to express outrage over the way she died.

They played music, held signs that read, "The longer she pled, the more she bled," and chanted for justice in her name.

Rice was drinking before the crash, her parents acknowledge, but they say her injuries were then ignored by doctors at Denver Health Medical Center and by Denver sheriff's deputies who worked in the jail.

Denver Post Article here

Higher Education is Feeling the Pinch.

A Denver Post Editorial points out that we are below average is spending for higher education statewide, we also know that we are dead last when it comes to funding substance abuse treatement....and our budget for prisons keeps going up. The Department of Corrections asked for another $53 million dollars this year and if they get it, that means they win over education who only got an additional $49 million dollars. What a message we are sending....

The puzzle over how to fund higher education has been solved at the state legislature for another year: Each of Colorado's public colleges and universities get a little bit of, well, not much.

Rather than tearing "each other to ribbons for a relatively small advantage," as University of Northern Colorado president Kay Norton put it, the schools have agreed to divvy up next year's state funding in the same proportions as this year's funding.

And even though schools came to the Capitol armed with a study showing Colorado's higher education system needing $832 million just to meet the average state funding of their peers across the country, lawmakers could offer only an extra $49 million. So, even if other states held the line on higher ed, Colorado would need another $783 million just to be average....

Either way, students heading to campuses across Colorado next fall can expect another round of higher tuition rates.

With prison costs and Medicaid gobbling up greater portions of Colorado's budget, and so many other parts off-limits to cuts, the riddle of higher education funding won't be solved under the current system.

A new funding stream for higher education must be found.

A Letter from Lisl's Dad - Editorial

In Aspen Daily News' article, "Ritter defends Auman case; moves on to running Colorado," that recounts the tragic death of Denver police officer Bruce VanderJagt, the governor stated, "... we offered Lisl Auman a plea bargain. She could've gotten as little as 15 years and she might have been out in five years for good time. (Auman and her attorney) turned the plea bargain down. They wanted probation. I didn't believe Lisl's conduct warranted it."

Thank you Dr. Hunter S. Thompson for continuing to haunt Gov. Bill Ritter's political life by forcing the resurrection of the revisionist lie of the purported alternate plea bargain that never occurred. Lisl, who did not know the murderer, was offered one plea bargain that would have resulted in her spending a minimum of 30 years in prison. There was no other offer.

Read the Editorial here

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Opposition To The Death Penalty

David Lane wrote this article that appeared in the Denver Post Perspective (I couldn't find in online though). David is an extremely well-respected civil-rights attorney in Denver, member of CCJRC and long-time opponent of the death penalty.

By David Lane

Opposition to the death penalty is rising around the nation, and that should motivate newly-elected officials in Colorado to seriously reconsider the conventional wisdom of the past and consider abolishing the Colorado death-penalty law, as well as broadly reforming our sentencing laws.

A legislative commission in New Jersey recently recommended by an overwhelming majority that the state legislature abolish the death penalty as being contrary to “evolving standards of decency” in society.

It is expected that New Jersey will be the first state in 35 years to abolish this relic of a barbaric past. Colorado should follow suit.

Currently Colorado has only two people on death row. Experts deem it likely that procedural errors at the trial level will ultimately result in death sentences being vacated for both Nathan Dunlap and Edward Montour, who will instead receive sentences of life imprisonment without possibility of parole, thereby emptying our death row. Montour was convicted in the 2003 murder of a corrections officer. Dunlap was convicted for the 1993 murder of four employees at a restaurant in Aurora.

Since 1980, Colorado has spent well over $50 million dollars in the extended trial and appellate procedures of potential death penalty cases for the sole purpose of executing one person — Gary Davis in 1997. These costs are built into every death penalty case and include attorneys fees and expert witness fees for both the prosecution and defense of a death penalty case. Putting aside all the philosophical arguments about the death penalty, spending that kind of cash for a demonstrably failed government program is foolish beyond words.

It is reflective of a social pathology that values naked vengeance over rational public policy. Are we willing to spend millions to execute one person while our children are attending failing schools?

The death penalty is in full retreat nationally. Last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, there were fewer than 114 death sentences imposed by juries, down from a high of 317 in 1996. Last year 53 executions were carried out, down from 98 in 1999. This is reflective of society’s understanding that wrongful convictions are not uncommon and that life without possibility of parole (Colorado’s alternative to death) is a just punishment.
Politicians for years have been far more committed to the death penalty than the public. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, national polls have shown that when the death penalty is compared to life without parole, where the killer is forced to work his entire life making restitution to the victim’s family, only 41% percent of the public favors the death penalty.

Colorado is currently considering sentencing reform on a large scale. HB1094 sponsored by rep. Paul Weissman would eliminate the death penalty and cycle the savings into the investigations of cold cases. This is a far more productive use of scarce resources than spending millions to satisfy a mythical societal blood-lust.

It has recently been reported that the cost of prison expansion in Colorado under current law could cause a virtual standstill in other capital improvement projects statewide.
Mandatory sentencing resulting in thousands of non-violent offenders being incarcerated for years is draining the life out of this state.

Throwing money down the rat-hole of prison expansion and the death penalty is absolutely absurd, given the plight of our schools and the availability of sound alternatives. Forcing judges to ignore justice in any given case and send non-violent people to prison so that politicians can crow about how tough they are on crime is harming Colorado.

The legislature and governor need to take a hard look at sentencing in Colorado. We can make a good start by eliminating the death penalty and many mandatory sentences for non-violent offenders.

Habitual criminal statutes such as California’s notorious “three strikes” law sound good but often result in massively expensive long-term incarceration not for people who are menaces to society but who are instead merely public nuisances. Sending low-level drug users who have written bad checks and shoplifted to prison for decades of incarceration at about $30,000 per year to the taxpayers is simply a foolish waste of money and lives.

For a fraction of the cost of incarceration, the state could run serious intervention programs designed to change people’s behavior, give them skills to live successfully and ultimately become productive members of society.

Any society is in dire straits when its prison budget squeezes other, more valuable government programs, and this is where Colorado finds itself. Serious sentencing reform will go a long way toward restoring fiscal sanity to our state.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Of Meth and Men

This article was posted in the Westword in December by Luke Turf, prior to Think Outside the Cage being launched. Not only is it a very personal story about methamphetamine addiction, it also tells the stories of two CCJRC members, Bob Dorshimer and Imani Latif and the work that they are doing, on the battlefront, helping people recover.

In public, gay men once called meth "Christina" because it sounded like "crystal." The nickname was soon shortened to "Chrissy," then changed again to "Tina" by the time Rod Rushing finally decided to get rid of the bitch.

Rod and Tina had been up for a night, maybe two, three or more, and hard rain was pouring down when Rod sought shelter -- and help -- at Addiction Research and Treatment Services, a clinic in City Park West. In 2003, more and more gay men were showing up at ARTS with meth addictions. They were all assigned to Bob Dorshimer's caseload.

Bob took Rod to the clinic's conference room, where they sat down for lunch. It was the first food Rod had eaten in days.

As he ate, he talked with Bob about the rising popularity of the "party and play" scene in the Mile High City. Men who craved meth-fueled sex could find each other by surfing websites and chat rooms or cruising the bathhouses in town and searching out the party. But Bob could see that the party was about over for Rod.

"I thought to myself, "Wow, look what meth is doing, look what meth has done to this man,'" Bob remembers. "It had taken away his job and his career; he was homeless, and all he had left was meth."

Read the story by Luke Turf here at Westword

Making Up Their Own Rules ...

I love this. A Rocky Mountain News reporter was accessing her legal right to attend a public hearing of a parole revocation.
"But parole board hearing officer Celeste C de Baca then refused to allow the reporter to attend, citing jail rules giving the defense attorney the right to refuse access...
Parole board staff members told the Rocky this week that a parole revocation hearing scheduled for Friday at the Denver jail would be open to the public, and no special arrangements were required."

It's pretty bad when contracted parole hearing officers don't know the rules and are supposed to navigate through the myriad of technical violations and laws to decide whether someone has to go back to prison.

"Finally, Parole Board Chairman Stanley was tracked down. He called C de Baca to say the hearing was public. By then, it was over.

Dunston Released To The Streets

The street definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and
expect different results. In a closed (?) parole hearing on Friday, (see the story above) Dunston was released to go to treatment again to a program that doesn't have room for him. Read the first excellent article by Ann Imse here about the revolving door.

Dunston Sidner, a mentally ill crack addict who has cost taxpayers $200,000 in the past 12 years, was ordered released to parole Friday - once again to a treatment program that may not have room for him.

Sidner, 56, who was profiled in the Rocky on Friday, illustrates one of the problems contributing to the state's skyrocketing bill for prisons: half of Colorado's inmates return to prison within three years.

Parole board hearing officer Celeste C de Baca on Friday said after a closed hearing that she had approved a plan that may send him to his sister's home over the weekend, and move him next week to a residential treatment center for mentally ill addicts run by Mental Health Corp. of Denver.

MHCD has two such facilities sufficiently staffed to take parolees, said MHCD chief Dr. Carl Clark. But there's a waiting list. And the state has no contract with MHCD to pay for parolees like Sidner....

"So they're competing with everybody else for these slots," Clark said.
Finding room for parolees "is really hard to do."

Ann Imse's follow-up article here

Friday, February 16, 2007

Kids On Drugs -- The Legal Ones

Michael at Corrections Sentencing hit it here: Methadone abuse is up. Not just by former heroin addicts .... part of increased abuse of prescription drugs by teens. (They're not using marijuana as much right now so that means, the gateway closed, we'll have fewer addicts in the future, right? Putting money on that?

THURSDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- American teens are cutting back on their use of marijuana, but their abuse of prescription drugs in recent years has stayed the same or increased.

That's the conclusion of a report released Wednesday by White House drug czar John Walters.

Teens are also abusing anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and stimulants like Adderall, Walters said. Overall, 2.1 million American teens abused prescription drugs in 2005. "The drug dealer is us," Walters said, adding that adults need to keep track of prescription drugs and dispose of them properly when the drugs expire.

Washington Post article here

Ft. Collins Jail Is Capped

The Larimer County Detention Center is going to put a cap on the number of inmates it houses — about 50 fewer than are in the jail on an given day.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that Sheriff Jim Alderden said at a meeting of the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee that he’s capping the number at 450 inmates.

The Rocky Article here

Putting Money Into Treatment

An amended budget plan submitted by Ritter last week calls for an $8 million increase in spending next year with the aim of decreasing future prison construction and operating costs by $14.2 million or more.

To cover some of the costs of the programs, Ritter would reduce prison-bed spending by $3.2 million in the 2007-08 budget. Owens' budget called for $12.9 million to cover the costs of additional prison beds.

"I think this is a good first step," said Ari Zavaras, executive director of the Department of Corrections....

On the campaign trail, Ritter described his commitment to reducing the state's prison costs as a "moral obligation."

The cost of building and running prisons is squeezing the state budget and taking money away from schools, he said.

Twenty years ago, the state spent $63 million from the general fund budget to run prisons. In 2006-07, the cost was $585 million from the general fund.

Advocates for criminal-justice reform said they were encouraged by Ritter's shift in priorities but want him to do more.

Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, which represents 104 organizations and faith-based groups, said they want the state to put even more money into programs because putting sick people behind bars doesn't solve the problems.

"Incarceration doesn't cure mental illness," she said. "Incarceration doesn't cure substance abuse."

Denver Post article here.

How Much Does A Revolving Door Cost?

Bad policy decisions and budget cuts hurt people. Colorado's policy of catch and release and catch again has caught up with us and has hurt thousands of people in the process. We are a state full of collateral consequences. People caught up in the system who could have been caught up to and resucitated years ago have continually fallen through the cracks. Read Ann Imse's report on Dunston Sidner and realize that his story echoes throughout the Department of Corrections.

Dunston Sidner, like many felons with drug addictions and mental illness, has received little treatment, repeatedly fails parole and ends up back behind bars. So far, he's cost taxpayers at least $200,000. The state Department of Corrections hasn't done much to increase his odds of making it. Twice, prison officials released him to a homeless shelter packed with other addicted felons and surrounded by drug dealers. Last time, he was let loose without his psychiatric medications. He lasted barely a week before wandering off, a parole violation.

Figuring out how to keep Sidner and others like him - minor criminals, drug addicts, the mentally ill - from returning to prison is one key to solving Colorado's corrections crisis.

The state's prison population is soaring five times faster than the national average. Taxpayers are facing an $800 million bill for new state prisons over the next five years, and that doesn't include the cost of running them.

Colorado's new governor and legislators have made it clear they aren't happy about this.

"The costs (of prisons) are spiraling out of control and eating into our ability to fund education and health care," Gov. Bill Ritter said in his State of the State speech days after taking office.

Dunston Sidner is well-spoken and polite as he sits in the Denver jail. He's honest about his mental problems and addiction.

"I can't stand in front of a judge and say, 'I won't do this anymore,' " he says

Somehow, he stayed out of serious trouble with the law from 1980 to 1995.

But on the evening of March 4, 1995, Denver police picked him up for loitering at 22nd and Stout streets. They found one-hundredth of an ounce of crack in his pocket.

That was the beginning of 12 years in and out of prisons and jails.

Rocky Article here

Lafayette Council Withdraws Bid To Increase Marijuana Penalties

For Immediate Release -- Feb. 16, 2007
Lafayette City Council withdraws bid to increase marijuana penalties
Officials reconsider drastic and unnecessary ordinance in light of
strong public opposition

Contact: Mason Tvert, SAFER executive director, 720-255-4340

DENVER -- The Lafayette City Council has withdrawn a municipal
ordinance that would have drastically and unnecessarily increased the
fine for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposed
measure would have increased the fine for possessing less than one
ounce of marijuana from a maximum $100 fine and no time in jail -- as
called for under state law -- to a maximum $1,000 fine and up to one
year in jail.

Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), along with the
ACLU of Colorado, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, and
Sensible Colorado, coordinated a strong grassroots response in
opposition to the proposal, which the council initially approved at
its Feb. 6 meeting. According to a statement on the Lafayette City
Council's Web site (see below or http://www.cityoflafayette.com/
News.asp?NewsID=1466), "City staff and City Council have determined
that more information and analysis are needed on this matter."

"We are very pleased that the Lafayette City Council has withdrawn
this drastic and unnecessary measure," said SAFER Executive Director
Mason Tvert. "We appreciate their responsiveness to the concerns of
Lafayette and Boulder County citizens, and we look forward to serving
as a resource for accurate information on marijuana at the council's
public workshop on this issue in April."