Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

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.

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