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, May 31, 2007

Western Slope Loses Defender of the Poor

Greg Greer is all about defense.

He defends people accused of crimes who can't afford attorneys. He has helped coach the defense for Glenwood Springs High School's football team.

He's leaving the position of chief public defender for the Glenwood Springs region after 20 years in the office, but will still be a defender.

"I think in addition to being a good trial lawyer and wonderful friend, he is one of the strongest lawyers our system has ever had," said Ann Aber, training director for Colorado's public defenders. She's known Greer for 17 years.

"I really feel like poor people in Colorado are losing one of their most tireless champions," Aber said.

Today was planned to be his last day as public defender. He's starting a solo private practice, Greer Law Firm PC, in which he'll continue his 25-year dedication to criminal defense work. Greer said the State Public Defender's Office is bringing on someone new to replace him but he didn't want to say too much about it.

Some people say it's demanding, working in a public defender's office and handling 80 to 100 open cases at any time. Greer calls it a luxury.

"As a public defender, you can dedicate yourself solely to the practice of law," he said. Public defenders get lots of serious felony trial experience and can focus on developing their criminal defense strategies, he added.

"The government is dangerous and someone needs to be that check," he said. "It's just exposure to the need to protect people against the extraordinary power of police and prosecution," he said.

But he said he's eligible for retirement at 50, after 20 years at the Glenwood office, and he wanted a change.

"I'm looking forward to giving the kind of detailed attention that private practice will allow," Greer said.

Glenwood Springs Independent

Watching the Detectives - NJ

I found this post on Governing Through Crime which explains how the murder rate in NJ is going up even though the city adopted the "broken windows" community policing.

Two recent stories in the NYT spotlight different strategic innovations that are very common today in American policing. Both raise concerns about the futility of creating more secure and prosperous cities by continuing to govern them through crime. They also raise concerns about the ways race and racism are at work whenever we govern through crime.

In several fascinating articles and video reports in the Regional section of the Times, Andrew Jacobs has reported on a multi-night mini-ethnography he did with Newark police officers in some of the sections of that beleaguered city. (Newark Battles Murder and Its Accomplice, Silence). The very title of Jacob's story represents how powerful the pull of crime is on his imagination after a few nights with the police in Newark (metaphors of war and of criminal law intertwine).

The background of rising murder rates over the last several years is truly alarming (since it has wiped out most of the homicide reductions that Newark like most American cities had in the 1990s--- On the general phenomenon See, Zimring's The Crime Decline). But as the accompanying charts show, the rape and robbery rates, which also plunged in the 1990s, have continued to fall. This suggests that the that homicide spikes in Newark (and cities like Oakland California as well), are largely due to score settling among a very specific network of young men.

Yet rather than a strategy aimed at addressing that network, the Newark Police Department has embraced the widely used "broken windows" method of intensive policing of low level criminal activity in an entire neighborhood in an attempt to deter more serious crime. The flaws in this strategy have been widely aired (See Bernard Harcourt's Illusions of Order). For our purposes one need only note that it is a strategy totally invested in the unity of "crime" as a category (rather than structure of knowledge and power created by governing through crime).

Governing through crime

District Attorneys Need Character

Most of us felt relieved when we learned that Mike Nifong, the rogue district attorney from Durham, N.C., was facing serious charges for his abuse of power in the Duke University lacrosse case. However, the search for justice does not end when a single corrupt prosecutor is caught and removed.

The sad truth is that the list of prosecutors who have put pride and politics ahead of justice is longer than any of us would like to believe. Last year, Bob Herbert of the New York Times chronicled quite a list of just such occurrences. He concluded that analysis by pointing to the government's "pervasive indifference to injustice in the justice system." Those are harsh words, but he reached that conclusion only after pointing to innocent people unnecessarily going to prison and much more.

We must be certain that the district attorneys we elect possess unimpeachable character because the reality is that we place a special burden on the government, those who prosecute cases for all of us, to be sure that all of their investigations are thorough, that confessions are not coerced, that lineups are done correctly, that forensic testing is accurate and that those test results are readily shared.

All prosecutors must also be confident that the witnesses they call (law enforcement people, experts, snitches, eye witnesses, etc.) are competent and honest. And, unlike Nifong, we expect them to be ready to admit a mistake and change directions the moment contradictory facts emerge.

Unfortunately, some honest-appearing prosecutors with latent character flaws suffer a lapse when they are driven by a zeal to win, political ambition or pride in wrongly holding to an announced position.

Opinion Greeley Tribune

Prison Women Working on Farms

The farmers are paying 9.60 an hour for women in prison to work on their farms. The women are only making 60 cents a day. The last report that we heard was that they were looking forward to bonus incentives that would equal 4.50 an hour for working on the farms. This report says that bonus only equals out to $2.00 a day. Where is the rest of the money going? DOC only has to pay for transportation, a sack lunch and one officer to guard the women all day long. Just do the math.
Ten women working 8 hours a day is 768.00 a day or 3,840.00 a week. Even if the guard is making $20.00 an hour that's only $160.00. Maybe $100.00 for gas for the van, that's about 266.00. So where does the other $500 a day go? Not to the women who are working in the fields. That money would sure go a long way into paying off restitution and give them something to work with when they are released.

A small crew of women inmates from a medium security prison in Pueblo is pioneering a new concept on local farms - using inmate labor to replace Mexican migrant workers who aren't here this summer because of the inhospitable climate of Colorado immigration law.

State Rep. Dorothy Butcher, D-Pueblo, proposed the idea last summer, when some farmers said they were unable to get their crops harvested in the wake of a special legislative session that enacted some of the most stringent immigration measures in the nation.

The pilot project under the Department of Corrections' industrial program features 10 women from La Vista prison in Pueblo, formerly called Pueblo Minimum Center. The prison was renamed when it was upgraded to a medium security facility.

This week, the inmates were at work hoeing weeds on the farm of Joe Pisciotta Jr. near Avondale. In the past three weeks, they also worked at farms of Russ and Patti Dionisio and Steve Mauro.

Pisciotta said the farmers are paying the DOC $9.60 per hour for the inmates, compared to the minimum wage of $6.85 for a migrant farm worker. The inmates get 60 cents a day, and they also may receive incentive bonuses up to $2 a day on Correctional Industries jobs, according to Katherine Sanguinetti of the DOC. The rest of the farmer's payment goes for the expenses including a guard and transportation.Pueblo Chieftain

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Public Defender Skeet Johnson Retiring

Growing up with his parents and two brothers in the projects of Chicago - in an atmosphere of intimidation "where you didn't know what was going to happen next" - Skeet Johnson says he was surrounded by love at home.

"My mother was a steadying influence. She vowed that the streets wouldn't get us," Johnson recalls.

And his dad, a chauffeur to wealthy Chicagoans, was "the strongest man I know."

Johnson, 59, retired this month after nearly 23 years as a lawyer with the Colorado State Public Defender's office, representing in court those accused of crimes.

The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar recently awarded Johnson its 2007 Alvin Lichtenstein Life Achievement Award for his "remarkable accomplishments."

The Denver Post

MI - Prison Reforms Not Optional

Facing a $1.6-billion budget gap next year, Senate Republicans continue to treat Michigan's $2-billion prison system like a sacred cow. With 51,000 inmates -- more than at any time in the state's history -- Michigan spends far more on prisons than surrounding Midwest states, but its streets and communities are no safer. The answer is not more of the same.

Yet that's essentially what a report by a state Senate subcommittee on prisons and public safety, headed by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, called for Tuesday. In the name of public safety, it opposed even modest changes in sentencing and parole policies proposed by the Department of Corrections. Those reforms could enable the state to close two or three of Michigan's 42 prisons over the next year and a half.Michigan Free Press

Judges Need Discretion in Sentencing

Des Moines --Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal criminal sentencing rules as unconstitutional. Some in Congress, fearing bleeding-heart federal judges would go soft on criminals, vowed to override the ruling. They needn't worry - if all federal appeals courts behave like the one that covers Iowa, at least.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals based in St. Louis for the second time ordered that an Iowa man convicted of distributing methamphetamine be sentenced to a term at least twice as long as the two years set by U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett in Sioux City. Just to be safe, the court reassigned the case to a different federal judge in Iowa, because it didn't trust Bennett to follow its dictate.

The result, in this case, is that Jason Pepper - now working and going to school in Illinois, after completing is original two-year sentence - will be going back to prison. He will likely serve at least two more years, perhaps more. Federal prosecutors in the case recommended a sentence of nearly seven years.
Read the Article Here

Prisoner's First Amendment Trial Begins

Mark Jordan wants to share his thoughts with the world.

The problem is, Jordan is an inmate at Supermax, the nation's most secure federal prison and home to such well-known prisoners as Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

Prison regulations have prohibited inmates from acting as reporters or publishing under a byline because of security concerns.

Jordan argued that the rule isn't applied consistently. Some prisoners have been published without getting in trouble; others, himself included, have been disciplined.

So in a case that could have implications for other federal prisoners, Jordan filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the rule violated his First Amendment rights.

Rocky Mountain News

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Prison Mess and Politicians - CA

Our prison mess: Politicians just make them worse
By Catherine Campbell
Fresno Bee
For the past 30 years, the California Legislature has passed laws lengthening prison sentences, built prison gulags all over the state, emptied the taxpayers' treasury to the prison guards union and its candidates, used crime to frighten and manipulate the voting public and refused to acknowledge the catastrophic prison system they created -- all out of self-interest.

Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines' self-congratulatory, chest-thumping commentary in The Bee May 3, titled "California's Prison System in Crisis," would have us believe that he and the rest of the Legislature stood tall in the face of a possible "takeover" of California prisons by a federal judge.

Politicians love crime. Give a politician a good crime, preferably a sex crime against a child, and he will pop up on the front page with a new piece of sentencing legislation, named after the victim, of course, having consulted his advisers on the political up-tick such a photo op will give to his political fortunes.

Before 1977, politicians did not set prison sentences, the state's Adult Authority set sentences. Most convicted criminals went into prison not knowing how long they would spend there, and their release date was determined by a rather harsh board of former cops and parole agents who periodically reviewed their crimes, history and prison behavior in determining their sentence lengths.

The Adult Authority was arbitrary; it tended to be racist, and it punished prisoners who spoke out. But it was, in the end, more humane than what we've got now.

Prisoners had a motive to behave well in prison and to rehabilitate, because that was the key to freedom. True fiscal conservatives, Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown, were running our state then.

Prison sentences were relatively short, and our prisons were dungeons where corruption, brutality and neglect were rampant. Given what has happened since, perhaps this was a good thing. Perhaps we should have left well enough alone.

Instead, in 1977, with the passage of the Indeterminate Sentencing Law, we gave the issue over to politicians, who love defining whole new crimes and increasing sentences, and have gone at it with an enthusiasm that would make one think they actually believe in what they are doing.

But their enterprise is cynical. Every study done, whether by law enforcement or pin-headed intellectuals at the University of California at Berkeley, establishes that longer sentences do not make us safer in the long run; they just make more prisoners and more prisons.

Real Cost of Prisons

Homeless and On Parole

(AP) DENVER Homeless shelters are increasingly becoming a haven for ex-inmates just released from prison, with a new study finding nearly one in four in the Denver metro area taking refuge there.

"They're in partnership with us," said Tim Hand, assistant director of adult parole for the Department of Corrections. "It's almost like they're part of our structure."

The study by the Piton Foundation and Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition found that housing, difficulty in finding jobs, overcoming substance abuse, and dealing with a patchwork parole-support systems are some of the challenges facing parolees.

Piton is an organization that studies social problems in Denver and seeks alternatives to incarceration.

Piton analyzed the home addresses of about 6,600 Colorado parolees as of early May. Of 1,377 parolees in Denver, about 37 percent were at homeless shelters or other temporary housing. Across the metro area, about one-fourth of the 3,379 parolees were in temporary housing, which is defined as two or more parolees at the same address.

Many live in the shelters immediately after their release from prison, while others end up there after they fall upon hard times, said Christie Donner, director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

Letter to the Editor - A Prison State

This letter appeared in the Rocky today...

Like all of the new metro-area courthouses, the new Denver courthouse will symbolize injustice and lack of transparency by having no windows in the courtrooms (“Justice taking shape,” Spotlight, May 19).
The present courthouse has large windows that let in the light of day as all human spaces should have. By contrast, the new courthouse symbolizes what America has become — a prison state where our constitutional rights have become mere platitudes.

Thomas K. Carberry, Denver

Prison Nursing Homes - New York

Yet another complication of "get tough on crime." We have a population of people who are old or sick and in prison for years, and that population is going to continue to grow.

FISHKILL, N.Y.- In the day room, white-haired men in robes watch "The Price is Right." Out on the balcony, another looks through bars as he fidgets from side to side.

Prisons have been dealing with the special needs of older prisoners for years, but the one here in Fishkill state prison is considered unique because it specializes in dementia-related conditions.

The unit—30 beds on the third floor of the prison's medical center—is a first for New York and possibly the nation, through experts say it likely won't be the last as more people grow old behind bars.

The unit has the clean-white-wall feel of a nursing home—but for the prison bars. A marker board in the day room includes a picture of a sun with a smiley face and a reminder to "Have a great day." The activity calendar lists puppies on Thursday and bingo on Friday. As long as they behave, patients can wander from their rooms to the day room.

"They're still in prison," said Fishkill superintendent William Connolly. "This is just a unique environment within a prison environment."

Connolly said the men's crimes are not considered in the screening process, though their prison record matters. The idea is to provide proper care and a safe environment.

"A lot of guys, when they were confined to the general population, they stayed in their rooms, they wouldn't come out," said nursing director Angela Maume. "They were in a cocoon."

Denver Post

Monday, May 28, 2007

Parent in Prison - Void At Home

CHICAGO, May 27 -- When 12-year-old Heaven Carr wakes up, her mother is not
there to make her breakfast. As the school year ends, Heaven is already sad that
her mother will not be around to do the back-to-school shopping come
Carr's mother, Elaine, has been behind bars for five years. Her
father, Shaun, who was once jailed himself, does his best to pick up the slack,
even as he runs a home remodeling business during the day and a cleaning service
at night. But Heaven says it's not the same.
"There are no services for men
in this position -- none," Shaun said. "You'd think that if a man decides to
stay with his kids, people would embrace you and help you pull through. But it's
the opposite."
The stakes are high for Heaven and her three siblings. Those
who deal regularly with the incarcerated suggest that 50 to 70 percent of
children of imprisoned parents will end up behind bars. Such children are also
less likely to do well in school, a growing body of research suggests.
In the Chicago area, where there are an estimated 90,000 children of the
imprisoned and paroled, a fledgling coalition of community groups and state
politicians is developing strategies to create better lines of communication
between children and their jailed parents, and to diminish the severe shortage
of help.
The Chicago-based Community Renewal Society is working with
legislators and state officials to expand family-oriented programs, to be run by
nonprofits, in prisons.

Meth 101?

I cannot believe that this actually happened. The DEA held a "Meth 101" class at Metro to show people how easy it is to make methamphetamine. They call it a community awareness class.
Considering that the problem seemingly has finally become more of an importation issue than a local problem, what's the DEA trying to do, bring it back home? It's Fun! It's Easy! It's Toxic!

Cooking methamphetamine takes only a few hours and requires simple household ingredients, like striker plates from matchbooks, the guts of lithium batteries, drain cleaner.

"It's pretty gross," said Matt Leland, who works in career services at the University of Northern Colorado and who recently helped cook the drug in a lab. "If someone was truly interested in manufacturing meth, it would not be that hard."

The Drug Enforcement Administration invited Leland and other citizens - such as software engineers, a teacher, a pastor and a school principal - to make methamphetamine last week in a lab at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

"At first, I thought, 'Man, I cannot believe they showed us how to do

it.' But you can find the recipe on the Internet," Leland said. "It just goes to show anybody who really wants to do it probably could."

The class was held as part of the DEA's first Citizens Academy in order to give the public a close-up view of what the agency does to keep drugs off the street.

Although meth remains a significant problem across the U.S., the number of clandestine labs has dropped because some of the ingredients are harder to obtain.]

Drug Court, Juveniles and Yoga

A juvenile court magistrate is sentencing kids to yoga class in Larimer County. It doesn't address the problems of those who are going home to poverty, abuse and addiction but it does give them a space to focus on themselves without outside pressures, even if it's for a short time.

FORT COLLINS - Eric Campbell was not particularly enthusiastic when he learned that, as part of juvenile drug court, he would have to attend weekly yoga sessions.

"I thought it was crap," he said, quickly apologizing for his language. "It wasn't going to help me. I was just going to go and mess around."

Six months later, the 18-year- old feels differently.

"It's cool," he said. "It's like a mental and physical thing. Right now, I wouldn't know what to do without it."

His concentration was evident he and 14 other teens followed the direction of yoga teacher Cathy Wright.

She asked her students to keep their spine straight, roll their arms in and breathe.

"You come to yoga to learn to relax your tensions, but you have to be able to perceive it to relax it," she told the young men, who are all dealing with some form of substance abuse and were ordered to attend the class by Magistrate Mary Jo Berenato.

A year after Berenato became the juvenile magistrate for the 8th Judicial District and took over juvenile drug court, she launched the yoga program.

Rocky Mountain News.

Paroling Homeless in Colorado

For the last two years we have been working on a study with the Piton Foundation about people who are paroling to Denver and the problems they face. We surveyed our members who were in prison on a revocation and we also surveyed people as they visited local parole offices. We met one man who was trying to get a check cashed for $5.61, he had just been released and dropped off out on Smith Road. With no I.D. and no home to go to. That is all he was released with.

Griffin has been in the Denver shelter since he was paroled about two weeks ago. The 44-year-old says he would probably be allowed to live on his own once he finds a job and can afford rent.But, in his view, it's nearly impossible to find work while living out of a homeless shelter.

"I'm grateful for a place to stay," Griffin says, sitting in a folding chair at the Crossroads Shelter on a recent evening. "But you shouldn't put people in a place like this."

The Department of Corrections says parolees must have a fixed address, and sometimes a shelter is the only option.

"This is keeping them from living on the streets, and this is our way to manage and supervise them," says DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti. "We know where they are every night. We can keep them safe and the public safe."

Parolees at Crossroads do not blame the Salvation Army but say the facility is not conducive to staying straight. They say drugs are readily available just outside. Hanging out with other parolees isn't exactly helpful either. Related article

We have a 65% recidivism rate in this state for people who are trying to serve a mandatory parole piece. A startling number of those nearly 85% are being returned to prison for a technical violation. This isn't new criminal activity. It's a violation of a condition of parole. Not having an address, missing a meeting, not having a job or drug or alcohol use. These violations cost the state $28,000 per person per year. Alternatives work and we aren't taking the initiative to use them.

We are missing the boat when it comes to recidivism. The governor recently unveiled his Recidivism Reduction Plan that adds more beds to community corrections but still doesn't help people who are running up against so many brick walls that they finally lose hope. We need real reform and real change if we are going to tackle the basic problems that are failing the people who are returning to community from prison. Our thanks to Burt Hubbard for taking on this story and illuminating the issue of homelessness.
More than one in three parolees in Denver and one in four in the metro area are living in homeless shelters or other temporary housing after getting out of prison, a new study has found.

A lack of affordable housing, combined with a rising number of parolees, has led prison officials to increasingly turn to shelters to house ex-inmates.

In one shelter, sophisticated electronic monitors have been installed to track as many as 75 parolees at the same time, and prison specialists routinely make the rounds of shelters, checking on parolees.

"They're in partnership with us," said Tim Hand, assistant director of adult parole for the Department of Corrections. "It's almost like they're part of our structure."

The study, by the Piton Foundation and Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, found that housing was just one of several challenges faced by parolees. Others included difficulty in finding jobs, overcoming substance abuse, supporting themselves and dealing with a patchwork parolee-support system.

"It's really a crisis," said Christie Donner, director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

The nonprofit Piton Foundation studied parolees as part of its ongoing research into social issues in Denver. It seeks alternatives to incarceration.

Rocky Mountain News

Hard to Be Homeless and On Parole - Rocky Mountain News

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wall Street Journal Predicts Prison Boom

We know that the unprecendented building of private prisons has exploded in the last few years and with new immigration laws coming into play it's only going to get worse. State's are shying away from looking at smarter alternatives that would work, as they tiptoe around the issues of addiction, poverty and the lack of decent education. It seems as though it's easier to look away then deal with the problems thoughtfully and head on. The private prison system are just the carpetbaggers of this century and we act as though they are welcome to handle our social ills.

The prison business looks ready to stage a breakout.

Tougher mandatory sentences were already straining the nation's jails. Now, the Department of Homeland Security's Border Initiative and its detention of undocumented immigrants has further burdened the system. Federal prisons already have 33% more inmates than they were designed to house and state prisons are similarly overcrowded.

[Unlocking Profits]

The upshot? A severe shortage of prison space -- and a robust outlook for the three biggest private jailers.

A Need to Outsource

The vast majority of prisons are still owned and operated by federal or state governments; less than 8% of prisons are outsourced to private operators. But the private market -- dominated by Corrections Corp. of America, Geo Group and Cornell -- is expected to grow substantially over the next five years.

A February report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit research foundation, forecasts a 13% increase in the inmate population by 2011 -- in line with past growth rates, but further compounding the overcapacity problem. That amounts to as much as $27.5 billion in new prison construction and operation.

That kind of burden leaves states and the federal government with little choice but to outsource incarceration to private companies.

Corrections, Geo and Cornell are "far and away the biggest beneficiaries of that trend," says Patrick Swindle, an analyst with boutique investment bank Avondale Partners in Nashville, Tenn.

h/t to Grits for Breakfast

Wall Street Journal

Saturday, May 26, 2007

WESTWORD - Casey's Making Moves

We've been following Alan's story of Casey Holden who was recently released from the Colorado State Pen and how he's doing on parole. Here's the latest installment. There's a link to the previous installments imbedded in this article.

When we last checked in with Casey Holden, he was scraping by as a wage slave at a pizza joint in Grand Junction. This was a better life than being locked down in the Colorado state pen, mind you, but a bit short of Holden's dreams of getting an education, getting his own place and making some real dough — the green kind, not the stuff you plaster with tomato sauce and shove in an oven.

But things are looking up.

Holden, 26, has three years of parole to complete after spending most of the last ten years in prison — and he's letting us tag along by occasional blog (previous entries can be found here ) as he navigates the maze of financial, legal, and family issues confronted by parolees trying to make it on the street.

For a healthy young man looking for quick cash — to pay for restitution and classes, drug tests and rent — the oil-and-gas fields of the Western Slope are a powerful lure. But Holden's parole officer has told him he doesn't want him working in that high-paying industry yet, out of concerns over a possible criminal environment among roughnecks and the logistics of making it back to town for random drug tests. This seems highly ironic to Holden; oilfield workers get drug-tested all the time, and he's met plenty of sketchy characters at his low-paying pizza job. But you can't argue with the Man.


WESTWORD - 16th St. Mall Cops Out of Control

You'd think after Evan Herzoff got his settlement for $8,500 from the city because of a cops bad behavior, the cops would think twice before manhandling citizens and refusing to give up their identity. A friend of my daughters was recently on the mall after work (he's 16, weighs about 140 lbs, and it was 1:00 in the afternoon) during that horrific cold snap in January. He had lost his bus money and asked someone for a quarter so that he could get home. Two mall cops threw him up against a wall and ticketed him for "aggressive panhandling." The case was dropped in court when his dad threw a fit, but that doesn't change the perception that this young man now has of what "to serve and protect" means.

Here's Luke Turf's story in Westword..

Angelina Hergenreder doesn't usually give money to the homeless men who call out to her as she leaves her hostess job at a restaurant on the 16th Street Mall. But the man who asked for spare change one Wednesday evening in early April was so polite — even after she'd denied his request — that when Hergenreder returned her movies to McDonald's, she bought him a cheeseburger. Then she took it over to the panhandler and gave him a dollar, too. The nineteen-year-old do-gooder was crossing the mall, ready to catch her bus, when suddenly someone grabbed her left arm from behind and pulled it up, yanking her in the opposite direction. Hergenreder screamed and tried to hit whoever had her arm in his grasp. "I thought I was being attacked," she says. But then the man caught her other arm, identified himself as an undercover police officer, and briefly flashed his badge.

By the time the undercover cop pulled Hergenreder back by the 7-Eleven, where she'd handed the buck and the burger to the homeless man, another undercover officer was arresting him. The cop who'd grabbed Hergenreder took the burger and tossed it in the trash, then threw the dollar at her. He said he could arrest her for giving something of value to a panhandler after dark, she remembers. When she questioned whether such a law existed, the cop told her to leave. She then asked for the officer's name and badge number, but he told her that he "didn't have time for that," she says. If she wanted to complain, he said, she could write to the mayor.

"And that's when I walked away," Hergenreder says. "I wasn't going to try anything after that."


NY - Drug Dealer Registry

A senator in New York is pushing for a registry for convicted drug dealers. Much like a sex offender registry program. This is just too much. Why just drug dealers, why not embezzelers and drunk drivers? At this rate people who have committed a crime will eventually just have their own yellow pages.

....ALBANY - First a sex-offender registry. Now one for drug dealers?
A Southern Tier senator said yesterday that he would introduce a bill to create a
statewide roll call for convicted felony drug dealers. Similar to the one for
sex offenders, convicts would have to registe with the state for up to 10 years,
notifying the Department of Criminal Justice Services of any address changes,
and the list would be available on the Internet.
"I think it would be one of
those extra deterrents and I think it would clearly be effective," said Sen.
George Winner, R-Elmira. "Drug dealers are not out there wanting to advertise
their location. And it would make neighbors and others aware and very vigilant
of their activities."
The Republican said that similar legislation has been
proposed in Maine and New Mexico. Also, he noted that the federal Drug
Enforcement Agency recently launched a "Meth Site Registry" that posts locations
in each state where methamphetamine clandestine labs or dumpsites have been
Winner got the idea from Police Chief David Rouse of Bath, in Steuben
"Absent of a drug-dealer registry, drug dealers can conceal their
identities and criminal pasts, moving undetected from one jurisdiction to
another while continuing their illicit trade," Rouse said in a statement. "When
encountered by law enforcement they provide bogus identification and their true
identifies are not known until they are subsequently arrested and
cost of Prisons

Friday, May 25, 2007

Some Records Should Be Sealed

Second chances

Some criminal records should be sealed

May 22, 2007

That those who break the law should pay for their transgressions is beyond dispute. The penalty, however, should be proportionate to the crime - and in that the law should recognize the need for fairness to society as well as justice for the perpetrator.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has a chance to advance the interests of both justice and fairness by signing House Bill 1107, a measure to allow the records of some crimes to be sealed. Doing so would allow those who have committed relatively minor crimes - and who have since met their legal obligations and otherwise behaved themselves - to get on with their lives and contribute to society.

The idea of a proportionate penalty only goes so far, of course. There can be no full atonement for murder, for rape or for crimes against children. But nothing like that is at issue here.

What is under consideration is whether someone who did something wrong can ever return to the ranks of respectable citizens. Within careful limitations, HB 1107 says "yes."

If signed by the governor, the bill would allow those who have been convicted of nonsexual crimes to petition a judge to seal their criminal records. That would then allow them to check "no" next to the question about having been convicted of a crime on employment applications.

A series of restrictions would apply. Those convicted of sexual offenses would not be eligible, nor would anyone guilty of domestic violence or crimes against pregnant women. Applicants would have to show 10 years of good behavior since completing their prison term, probation or parole stemming from their original conviction. And the records in question would not be sealed to law-enforcement agencies or those required by law to run background checks, such as schools or day-care centers.

Sealing of criminal records would have to be approved by a judge. In addition, the district attorney in the jurisdiction where the original crime was committed would be able to veto the request. And as the result of an objection by the Colorado Press Association, third parties - newspapers, for example - would be able to ask a judge to review the record and decide if disclosure would be in the public interest.

The upshot of all those limitations is that career criminals, child molesters and serial killers need not apply. Even if a judge would go along, district attorneys would never risk sealing the records of a violent predator. Nor would they be likely to approve anyone who did not show a real record of success.

Who might be allowed to seal their records? The Denver Post pointed to two examples: A 44-year-old man was caught with $25 worth of cocaine and has lived with that criminal conviction for 22 years. Another, a Fort Lewis College graduate, served as an Air Force policeman and was headed for a career in counseling before he stupidly struck a cop, 20 years ago, after a night of partying in a bar.

What those two did was illegal, and both have paid for their actions. Now, after years of living within the law, they should be allowed to move on.

More to the point, society should be allowed to reap the full benefit of whatever they have to offer. Gainful, taxpaying employment would both complete their rehabilitation and allow them better to contribute.

Gov. Ritter should sign HB 1107.

Durango Herald

Minimum Wage Increase Passes Through Congress

For the first time in 10 years a minimum wage increase will be handed to the president as part of the larger Iraq spending package. Minimum wage will increase nationally up to 7.25 in stages over the next three years. Colorado passed a minimum wage increase to 6.85 last year, however our legislation is tied to the consumer price index and will continue to go up automatically.

WASHINGTON, May 24 — Congress handed a major victory to low-income workers on Thursday night by approving the first increase in the federal minimum wage rate in a decade.

By a vote of 348 to 73, the House approved the measure as part of a deal on Iraq spending. Less than two hours later, the wage increase was approved in the Senate, where it was combined with a bill providing more money for the Iraq war. That vote was 80 to 14.

The measure would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 in three stages over two years. The bill includes $4.84 billion in tax breaks for small businesses. They have made a case, supported by Republicans and the White House, that the wage increase would be a burden for them.

President Bush said he would sign the measure as part of the bigger spending package that had been negotiated between Democratic lawmakers and the administration.

After the bill is signed, the wage increase will become the first item in the “Six for ’06” agenda of the new Congressional Democratic leadership to become law.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said the increase was overdue.NY TIMES

Criticism in Ohio Execution

LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- Death penalty opponents called on the state to halt executions after prison staff struggled to find suitable veins on a condemned man's arm to deliver the lethal chemicals.

The execution team stuck Christopher Newton at least 10 times with needles Thursday to insert the shunts where the chemicals are injected.

He died at 11:53 a.m., nearly two hours after the scheduled start of his execution at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. The process typically take about 20 minutes.

''What is clear from today's botched execution is that the state doesn't know how to execute people without torturing them to death,'' American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio attorney Carrie Davis said Thursday.

''Having one botched execution is too many; that Ohio has now had two botched executions in as many years is intolerable.''

Officials said the delay was due to Newton's size -- he weighed 265 pounds. In May 2006, the execution of Joseph Lewis Clark was delayed about 90 minutes because the team could not find a suitable vein. He was a longtime intravenous drug user.

A group of Ohio inmates is suing over the state's injection method, saying it is unconstitutionally cruel, and Thursday's delay helps show that the state is unable to smoothly complete executions, said Greg Meyers, chief counsel for the Public Defender's Office.


Pregnant Smokers May Contribute To ADHD

We all know that smoking is bad for pregnant women, we are finding out more reasons why. Kids with ADHD are more likely to become substance abusers as well.

Science Daily Women smokers who become pregnant have long been encouraged to reduce or eliminate their nicotine intake. A new study being published in the June 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry provides further reason to do so, as it presents new evidence that in utero exposure to smoking is associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) problems in genetically susceptible children.

The study investigated male and female twin pairs, aged 7--19 years, to assess the relationship between genetic variations, prenatal substance exposures, and ADHD sub-types. Rosalind Neuman, Ph.D., one of the study's authors, explains the findings: "When genetic factors are combined with prenatal cigarette smoke exposure, the ADHD risk rises very significantly. When the child has either or both of two specific forms of dopamine pathway genes (DAT and DRD4), and was exposed to cigarette smoking in utero, the risk for having combined type ADHD (many inattention and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms) increased 3 to 9 fold."

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, adds, "These data highlight a new risk of maternal smoking, increasing the risk for ADHD in their children. ADHD, in turn, increases the risk for substance abuse. Thus, it appears that in utero exposure to nicotine may help to perpetuate a cycle across generations that links addiction and behavioral problems."


Sheriff Wants To Force Drugs on Mentally Il

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is crafting legislation that would let county jail officials forcibly medicate mentally ill inmates who won’t take prescribed drugs.

Sheriff Terry Maketa said the jail has become the de facto largest mental health treatment center in the county and needs the same authority as a mental hospital to force medication.

“We’re there. The day has arrived,” Maketa said last week. “We can stick our heads in the sand and pretend it is not an issue, but it is.”

After years of budget cuts to state mental health programs, the jails of Colorado have become the primary mental health providers in Colorado, according to sheriffs and mental health advocates.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, 18 percent to 22 percent of jail inmates here have “significant mental health issues.”

The jail employs one part-time and five full-time mental health counselors and a director of mental health, and it contracts with a psychiatrist. But when a severely mentally ill inmate won’t take medication, they lack the authority to force the issue.

The state mental hospital in Pueblo, which is supposed to take severely mentally ill inmates off the jails’ hands, has had its own problems. This year, two state officials nearly faced contempt of court charges because of the hospital’s inability to accept inmates from counties, despite court orders mandating they be treated there.

Maketa said severely mentally ill inmates who refuse treatment face long waits to get into the state hospital. The number who refuse is small, three to five a year, but growing, Maketa said.

Colorado Springs Gazette

Thursday, May 24, 2007

CSP II To Break Ground

Even though the state didn't receive any bids during the bidding process to build another maximum security prison they are starting the process anyway.

Heavy equipment has moved into the prison complex east of CaƱon City in preparation of groundbreaking this week for the new Colorado State Penitentiary II, the Fremont County Commissioners learned Tuesday morning.

Melvin Cole of the Colorado Department of Corrections told the commissioners no bids were received during the official bidding process for the new prison. Regardless, the state elected to begin the work for the new prison, which has been at a standstill for years as the state struggled to fund construction funds.

CSP II will mimic the original Colorado State Penitentiary in architecture and purpose. Situated near CSP, the second penitentiary will have 960 beds for the DOC’s most violent, dangerous and disruptive offenders. It has a scheduled completion date of 2010, Cole said.

Canon City Record

On The Lighter Side -- Love Is A Drug

This is an article that was posted in the Washington Post a few months ago and replayed by the Situationist. It will make you smile as you realize that our brains are our natural dope peddlers and we don't need to take anything to become addicted to love.

It’s all about dopamine, baby, this One Great True Love, this passionate thing we’d burn down the house and blow up the car and drive from Houston to Orlando just to taste on the tip of the tongue.

You crave it because your brain tells you to. . . .


God’s little neurotransmitter. Better known by its street name, romantic love.

Also, norepinephrine. Street name, infatuation.

These chemicals are natural stimulants. You fall in love, a growing amount of research shows, and these chemicals and their cousins start pole-dancing around the neurons of your brain, hopping around the limbic system, setting off craving, obsessive thoughts, focused attention, the desire to commit possibly immoral acts with your beloved while at a stoplight in the 2100 block of K Street during lunch hour, and so on.

“Love is a drug,” says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.” “The ventral tegmental area is a clump of cells that make dopamine, a natural stimulant, and sends it out to many brain regions” when one is in love. “It’s the same region affected when you feel the rush of cocaine.”

Passion! Sex! Narcotics!

Why do we suspect this isn’t going to end well?

Because these things are hard-wired not to last, all of them. Short shelf lives. The passion you fulfill is the passion you kill. The most wonderful, soaring feeling known to all mankind . . . amounts to no more than a narcotic high, a temporal state of mania.

“Being in love, having a crush on someone is wonderful . . . but our bodies can’t be in that state all the time,” says Pamela C. Regan, a professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and author of “The Mating Game: A Primer on Love, Sex and Marriage.” “Your body would fizzle out. As a species, we’d die.”

Some of these love chemicals in the brain, scientists measure by the picogram, which is a trillionth of a gram.

How fragile, this [crazy little] thing called love.

Private Prison Costs Soar in NM

By Steve Terrell | The New Mexican
May 24, 2007

New Mexico pays significantly more than nearby states to house inmates in private prisons, according to a report presented Wednesday to state lawmakers.

The 100-page audit by a Legislative Finance Committee review team says New Mexico's private-prison spending rose 57 percent in the past six years, while the inmate population increased only 21 percent.

"Business decisions across two administrations may result in New Mexico paying an estimated $34 million more than it should pay for private prison construction costs," the report says.

But Corrections Secretary Joe Williams defended the private prisons, saying the higher operating costs are justified.

The major private prison operator in the state is The GEO Group, which operates facilities in Hobbs and Santa Rosa and will operate a prison being built in Clayton.

GEO, formerly known as Wackenhut, was brought in to manage private prisons by former Gov. Gary Johnson and has been embraced by Gov. Bill Richardson.

New Mexico pays nearly $69 a day per inmate at the private prison in Hobbs and more than $70 at the prison in Santa Rosa.

In Texas, the cost is $34.66 a day. Colorado pays $50.28 a day for inmates at private prisons. In Oklahoma, the rate is $41.23. Other states listed in the study include Idaho, $42.30, and Montana, $54.58.

Santa Fe New Mexican

Sentencing Commission Bill Signed

Governor Ritter signed 15 bills into law today including one that begins the implementation of a sentencing commission in Colorado. The Commission will be comprised of 26 people who are mostly from government positions. There are three at large positions that will allow the possibility of community representation in the overall committee. HB 1107 which would allow people to have their records sealed after ten years has not been signed yet.

The Denver Post ....Ritter also said he hoped the state would become a "national leader" with the creation of a Criminal Justice Commission that will take an ongoing look at sentencing guidelines.

Ritter presided over a noisy, 1 1/2-hour event in the Capitol's west foyer. With each bill, Ritter ushered a bill sponsor to the microphone to give remarks.

The education reform bills that were signed call for better data collection to measure school performance and to monitor online schools.

Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, called Senate Bill 215, which regulates online schools, the "Kumbaya bill of the year" because it survived a contentious debate.

The criminal justice bills establish the commission and close a loophole in current law related to sex crimes by licensed professionals. In the future, the state's professional licensing panels will refer matters to criminal prosecutors.

Jim Scarboro, a lawyer who is part of the nonprofit Colorado Lawyers Committee, said efforts to revamp prison sentences are "dear to the governor's heart."

The Denver Post

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Prescription Drug Abuse Rampant

Addiction is addiction. Whether the drugs are prescribed from a legal doctor or the one dealing off the street corner.

Abuse of prescription medications is rampant - reaching literally every corner of the country, according to data compiled by Denver Health's nationwide surveillance system.

The system analyzed reports of drug abuse and found that incidents involving prescriptions for opioids - a class of pain-relieving drugs that includes Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin and Dilaudid - occurred in 93 percent of the nation's postal-code regions.

"The really important thing to understand as a parent is every place - in every town, every county in the U.S. - has prescription-drug abuse occurring," said Dr. Richard Dart, director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, a part of Denver Health.

The findings follow a 2005 federal report that found prescription-drug abuse increased 42.5 percent nationwide between 2001 and 2005.

That report, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said that in 2005, 11.4 million people had abused prescription drugs in the past 12 months, up from 8 million in 2001.
Dart said contracts with private buyers of the data prohibit the release of specific age and regional information.
He did say people between 20 and 30 years old account for the greatest share of prescription-drug abuse.
Typically, teenagers start out by snatching the pills from their parents' medicine cabinets, Dart said.


Prison Business Competes With Private Sector (California)

Colorado's version is Correctional Industries.

The Real Cost Of Prisons - Established in 1982, the Prison Industry Authority's mission is to rehabilitate inmates by putting them to work, and also to reduce the operating costs of prisons. But the authority -- which operates with little legislative oversight -- only employs a small fraction of the state's 172,000-plus inmates.

At present, the authority provides work for about 5,900 inmates and operates more than 60 service, manufacturing and agricultural operations at 22 prisons. Inmates earn from 30 cents to near $1 an hour to make flags, shoes, printing services, eye wear, gloves, office furniture, license plates, clothing and more. The authority can sells its products to federal, state and local government agencies. The state has been the biggest customer.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation views the authority as a key part of a renewed effort to boost rehabilitation programs. But some lawmakers say the added responsibility might have to be accompanied by greater legislative oversight.

"There clearly is some benefit to the PIA, but at the same time I am concerned when the PIA is misusing its authority and unfairly competing with small businesses," said Assembly Member Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, who leads a budget subcommittee that oversees prisons.

By law, state agencies, with some exceptions, are required to purchase products from the authority, even if private businesses sell the items for less.

Businesses complain

The state auditor in a 2004 report found the authority's pricing to be fairly competitive, but said its cost savings claims were "questionable."

Last year, the authority posted a $4.7 million operating loss on $179 million in revenue, though the authority says it would have posted a small profit if it weren't for significant one-time costs associated with a streamlining effort.

The food packaging business was launched in 2003-04 and today includes cookies, bread and, most recently, peanut butter and jelly. But the move into the new enterprise has been plagued by delays and has generated plenty of complaints from small-business owners.

American Copak in Southern California, an Adolph supplier, says it faces the possibility of worker layoffs.

"We may be talking about 50 to 100 people, between our company, Adolph and the vendors who supply us," said American Copak president Steven A. Brooker. "This will cause a ripple effect."

Brooker's firm produces millions of peanut butter and jelly squeeze packets each year. The prison contract produces 25% to 30% of his overall revenue, he said.

"As a company, we knew we were going to compete against other small businesses," Brooker said. "But I never would have imagined that we would have to fight against the government for our business."

Other prison suppliers also are concerned. Christian Bartels, owner of CB Enterprises in Ceres, said 90% of his produce and other grocery items goes to the state prisons.

"What they are trying to do is do their own packaging and be their own manufacturer," Bartels said. "And once that happens, they won't need people in the private sector like me -- people whose employees are paying taxes, buying things and stimulating the economy."

Real Cost Of Prison

8,000 Prisoners to Be Transferred Out Of California

California will resume sending an estimated 8,000 prisoners to other states next month after an appeals court ruled that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can do so while he challenges a prior ruling that halted the transfers.

Schwarzenegger praised the decision by the Third District Appellate Court, which was filed late last week and announced Monday, saying it would let the state take a critical step toward reducing prison overcrowding. Critics, however, warned that shipping inmates against their will could be dangerous for guards, prisoners and the public.

For the governor, the decision couldn't have come soon enough. Three judges have scheduled separate hearings next month to consider appointing a panel that could cap the state's inmate population - which could potentially order the release of thousands of prisoners. The state now has 172,000 prisoners living in space designed for fewer than 100,000.

Schwarzenegger issued a statement saying the transfers will help California avoid the court-ordered release of dangerous felons and even increase safety for overburdened guards.

"Out of state transfers will improve the safety of California's institutions for our correctional officers and staff as well as the inmates, and will provide much needed space for rehabilitation programs," Schwarzenegger said. "Transferring of inmates out of state is a critical component of the state's overall plan to relieve overcrowding."

The decision follows the Legislature's approval in April of a $7.8 billion plan also designed to help stave off a federal takeover. The plan calls for heavy state borrowing to pay for adding 53,000 new beds, as well as boosting education, job training and other rehabilitation programs. The plan also authorizes the governor to continue transferring inmates out of state until 2011 to relieve overcrowding.

Lance Corcoran, spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which sued the state over the transfers and prevailed in a Sacramento County Superior Court in February, said the transfers will expose guards to serious dangers.

He pointed to a riot in an Indiana prison last month as evidence. That riot, involving about 500 inmates, apparently began after prisoners recently transferred from Arizona refused to return to their living quarters.

"Inmates who are forced to leave the jurisdictions in which their families have the opportunity to visit them creates a very volatile situation that's unsafe for the inmates, unsafe for the guards, and unsafe for the public," Corcoran said.


Cure For Hepatitis C Announced

A leading researcher has announced that the treatment of hepatitis C is a cure for the virus. Thanks to the h/t from Corrections Sentencing. This is great news considering the number of people who contract Hep C in the prison system or through high risk lifestyles. The problem is whether people can get treatment started while they are in prison.

Science Daily The use of peginterferon alone, or in combination with ribavirin, points to a cure for hepatitis C, the leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for liver transplant, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher recently said.

Mitchell Shiffman, M.D., professor in the VCU School of Medicine, and chief of hepatology and medical director of the Liver Transplant Program at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, is one of the lead investigators in the study, which was presented at the 38th annual Digestive Disease Week conference in Washington, D.C. VCU was among about 40 sites worldwide studying pegylated interferon alfa-2a, manufactured by Roche Inc.

Nearly all -- 99 percent -- of patients with hepatitis C who were treated successfully with peginterferon alone, or in combination with ribavirin, had no detectable virus up to seven years later. Researchers say this data validates the use of the word "cure" when describing hepatitis C treatment as successful treatment is defined as having undetectable hepatitis C virus in the blood six months following treatment.

"We at VCU are encouraged by this data because it is rare in the treatment of life-threatening viral diseases that we can tell patients they may be cured," Shiffman said. "In hepatitis C today, we are able to help some patients achieve an outcome that effectively enables them to put their disease behind them."


America's Prison Addiction (Maine)

American's addiction to prison plays itself out state-by-state. The thoughtfulness that goes behind how state governments are dealing with their individual "addiction" can often be measured the same as measuring the efficacy of a drug treatment program.

Maine, like the rest of America, is addicted to prisons. The only way we are going to beat this addiction is if we stop using our drug of choice — more prisons — for our current problem of prison overcrowding. The answer to prison overcrowding is fewer prisoners, not more prisons.

The principle reason our prisons are overcrowded is that jail time is our society’s preferred method of treating people who commit crimes primarily because they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, or are mentally ill. Half of all prisoners in America have these conditions as the primary problems that led to their crimes. If, as part of their sentences, we aggressively treated those prisoners for the illnesses they have instead of simply incarcerating them, and devoted more resources to treating these problems before they resulted in crimes, we would need fewer prisons, not more.

In recent discussions about running out of jail cells in Maine we have been doing just what addicts usually do when they run out of their drug — scramble desperately for more drugs. Recent proposals put forward as the answer to Maine’s prison overcrowding have primarily been ways of housing more prisoners, including sending state prisoners to county jails, outsourcing Maine’s prison overcrowding problem to other states by sending prisoners to a for-profit prison in Oklahoma, building a new prison in Cutler, and expanding the Charleston Correctional Facility.

Read the Article Here

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Who's A Rat. Com

Thanks to Doug Berman for the h/t
on this fascinating story in the New York Times about a guy who started a website to out informants. He was originally busted on a drug charge because of one. Now the Justice Department prosecutors are stepping in.

There are three “rats of the week” on the home page of whosarat.com, a Web site devoted to exposing the identities of witnesses cooperating with the government. The site posts their names and mug shots, along with court documents detailing what they have agreed to do in exchange for lenient sentences.
Last week, for instance, the site featured a Florida man who agreed in September to plead guilty to cocaine possession but not gun charges in exchange for his commitment to work “in an undercover role to contact and negotiate with sources of controlled substances.” The site says it has identified 4,300 informers and 400 undercover agents, many of them from documents obtained from court files available on the Internet.

“The reality is this,” said a spokesman for the site, who identified himself as Anthony Capone. “Everybody has a choice in life about what they want to do for a living. Nobody likes a tattletale.”

Federal prosecutors are furious, and the Justice Department has begun urging the federal courts to make fundamental changes in public access to electronic court files by removing all plea agreements from them — whether involving cooperating witnesses or not.

“We are witnessing the rise of a new cottage industry engaged in republishing court filings about cooperators on Web sites such as www.whosarat.com for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment,” a Justice Department official wrote in a December letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.

“The posting of sensitive witness information,” the letter continued, “poses a grave risk of harm to cooperating witnesses and defendants.”

In one case described in the letter, a witness in Philadelphia was moved and the F.B.I. was asked to investigate after material from whosarat.com was mailed to his neighbors and posted on utility poles and cars in the area. NY TIMES

California Prison Budget To Trump Colleges

Here in Colorado we aren't far behind as our prison budget grew nearly as much as our budget for higher education this year. Our Higher Ed budget increase was barely a of million dollars more than our prison budget increase. It's a dangerous and disturbing trend that is being played out. The minute we took one dollar out of our education budget to fund prisons was when the train wreck began.

James Sterngold, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, May 21, 2007

As the costs for fixing the state's troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone -- for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities.

Based on current spending trends, California's prison budget will overtake spending on the state's universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities.

But California has all but guaranteed that prisons will eat up an increasingly large share of taxpayer money because of chronic failures in a system that the state is now planning to expand.

Under a new state law, California will spend $7.4 billion to build 40,000 new prison beds, and that is over and above the current annual operating budget of more than $10 billion. Interest payments alone on the billions of dollars of bonds that will be sold to finance the new construction will amount to $330 million a year by 2011 -- all money that will not be available for higher education or other state priorities.

"California is just off the charts compared with other states in corrections spending," said Michael Jacobson, director of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York, a leading research organization. "Budgets are a zero-sum game, essentially. The money for corrections comes from other places. The shame of it is that California could have improved crime rates and a better funded higher education system if they ran things better."REAL COST OF PRISONS

Another Private Prison Buyout

ROSELAND, N.J., May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Community Education Centers, Inc. (CEC), the leading provider of offender reentry services, today announced that it has acquired CiviGenics, Marlborough, Mass., the largest provider of in- prison treatment programs. The move creates the largest offender reentry services company in the United States. The combined company provides services ranging from residential and non-residential reentry programs, in-prison treatment services, and jail management services.

The company will have a staff of more than 3,500, annual revenues in excess of $200 million and will operate 97 facilities in 22 states, which includes reentry centers, in-prison treatment programs, and jail management contracts. The company will be headquartered in New Jersey and will have an estimated 20,000 individuals in its daily care.

"The leaders of America's prison systems are increasingly aware that recidivism reduction is the best policy for government and incarcerated individuals," said John J. Clancy, Chairman and CEO of CEC. "CEC has been committed to recidivism reduction since its inception over a decade ago and now our national reach will have an even larger impact. I'm excited about CEC's increased ability to provide effective reentry services and the growth potential for all facets of the company."

According to federal statistics, the U.S. incarcerated population has grown from 0.5 million in 1980 to 2.3 million in 2005, more than quadrupling in 25 years. The number of offenders either incarcerated or back in the community is expected to increase from roughly 7.1 million to 8.5 million by 2012. As a result, the public sector is now turning to companies such as CEC and CiviGenics that provide effective reentry services that reduce recidivism rates.

Read the Article Here

Monday, May 21, 2007

Money To Help Children of Addicts

Now if we can just get some money in Colorado to help the addicts.

Children of parents or siblings addicted to alcohol or drugs often feel their loved one’s addiction is their fault.

Many times those children internalize the problems so much that they become alcohol or drug addicts themselves, care providers say.

Today, a prevention and educational program aimed at teaching children ages 7 to 12 that others’ addictions are not their fault and they can’t cure it for loved ones was announced in Denver.

The program, The Betty Ford Center Colorado Children’s Center, received a $1.5 million grant from the Daniels Fund to expand the program in Colorado. The Center has programs in Dallas and Rancho Mirage in California.

Mary Pat Woodard, coordinator for the program in Colorado, said the Center started a pilot program in Colorado in 2003 and has helped about 300 Colorado children so far through monthly programs.

Early Release Causes Clash

Early U.S. inmate-release rules lead to clash

DOJ calls sentencing panel's broad guidelines a 'dead letter.'

Marcia Coyle / Staff reporter
May 21, 2007

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Sentencing Commission are at loggerheads over a commission proposal to expand the extraordinary circumstances that make prisoners eligible for so-called compassionate release or reduction in sentence.

The commission in early May sent to Congress a proposed sentencing guideline that, for the first time in 24 years, would give courts guidance on what should be considered extraordinary and compelling grounds for adjusting a sentence.

The guideline broadens the grounds beyond current policy at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which decides whether to make motions for sentence reductions after receiving prisoners' applications. And the guideline comes at a time when the Justice Department is in the final stage of approving a regulation that narrows even further the current policy.

The American Bar Association, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and other groups had urged the commission for years to act on a mandate to the commission in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. In that law, Congress mandated that the commission issue policy statements on how the law's compassionate-release section should operate and what factors should be considered extraordinary and compelling.

The Bureau of Prisons has interpreted the law narrowly, generally only approving motions for cases in which a prisoner is terminally ill or incapacitated by illness.

The Justice Department warned last summer that any expansion of current policy would be a "dead letter." A department spokesman reiterated that opposition to the commission's new submission to Congress.

"The [commission] should have limited the examples of extraordinary and compelling reasons to the inmate's terminal medical condition, with a life expectancy of one year or less, or medical conditions that are profoundly debilitating in nature," the spokesman said. The requirement that the prisoner have a life expectancy of one year or less is contained in the department's proposed regulation.

Despite the department's opposition, the commission defines extraordinary and compelling reasons as: terminal illness; a permanent physical or medical condition, or deteriorating physical or mental health because of the aging process, that "substantially diminishes" the prisoner's ability to provide self-care; the death or incapacitation of the prisoner's only family member capable of caring for the prisoner's minor child or minor children; or, as determined by the Bureau of Prisons, there is an extraordinary and compelling reason other than, or in combination with, the reasons described.
'Grossly underutilized'

Since 1990, the Bureau of Prisons has filed an average of 22 sentence-reduction motions each year despite a steadily increasing federal prison population.

"Logic would say it has to be true that this provision is grossly underutilized," said Professor Stephen Saltzburg of George Washington University Law School, who presented the ABA's views to the commission. "We know in prisons we have rising levels of hepatitis and less adequate medical care. All circumstances suggest as the population rose and conditions didn't get any better there would be more occasions for use of the statute."

But the statute has never been a priority of the bureau or the department, he added, even though it is an important feature of sentencing law.

However, the Justice Department spokesman said the guideline "could undermine the determinate sentencing system established by the Sentencing Reform Act by treating compassionate release as an open-ended, parole-like early-release mechanism."

Mary Price, vice president and general counsel of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said, "We feel very strongly the commission left open the possibility that a future Bureau of Prisons — not this one — might take a more generous view of this authority."

As long as the commission did nothing, said Saltzburg, it was "almost certain" the statute would remain, in the words of the Justice Department, "a dead letter." But the guideline, he added, will allow interested observers, including those in Congress, to ask the bureau and the department why they aren't considering those standards, as the law requires.
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New Private Prison Company

The Inland Group has hired all of Centracore's senior staff after it was bought out by the GEO company. The Inland Group tried to buy Centracore but was outbid by the Florida-based GEO.The used to focus on building shopping malls. Now they want to build prisons.

Inland Group Inc. wants to spend some time behind bars.

Known mainly for its far-flung shopping center empire, the Oak Brook-based company is getting into the prison development business. After falling short in a bid to acquire Florida-based prison owner CentraCore Properties Trust last year, an Inland Group affiliate recently hired three CentraCore executives, including its president and CEO, to start up its own prison development business.

The appeal: With overcrowding at many state prisons, it’s a growing industry, not to mention recession-proof.

“There is a tremendous need for correctional facilities in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho and California,” says Chuck Jones, president and CEO of Inland Public Properties Development Inc., a unit of Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc.

Mr. Jones, CentraCore’s former president and CEO, joined Inland American earlier this year after selling his company for $356 million to Florida-based Geo Group Inc., a prison owner and operator. Inland American had bid for CentraCore last year, but walked away empty-handed.

The new Inland unit will build and own prisons and other government buildings, mainly at the state and local level. It will lease the properties, not run them.

“We’re doing exactly the same thing that we were doing before. It’s just a different platform,” says Mr. Jones, 58, who is based in Austin, Texas. “I would be disappointed if by the end of ’08 we haven’t done somewhere between $300 million to $400 million in new projects
Real Cost of Prisons

Smokeless Pot

SAN FRANCISCO, May 17 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have created a cannabis-vaporizing device to produce the same biological effect as does smoking marijuana but without harmful toxins.

The University of California-San Francisco research focused on delivery of the active ingredient delta-9-tertrahydrocannibinol, or THC.

The study's lead author, Dr. Donald Abrams, noted smoked cannabis alleviates the chronic pain caused by HIV-related neuropathy but concerns had been expressed that smoking marijuana was not safe.

"This study demonstrates an alternative method that gives patients the same effects and allows controlled dosing, but without inhalation of the toxic products in smoke," said Abrams, a University of California-San Francisco professor of clinical medicine.

Patients rated the "high" they experienced from both smoking and vaporization and there was no difference between the two methods by patient self-reporting. In addition, patients were asked which method they preferred.

Science Daily

Governing Through Crime Or Governing By Race

An immpresive post at Governing through Crime that Michael at CORR SENT
points us to that discusses the war on the poor and racial disparity.

Does America accept the moral necessity of a war on crime despite its clear tendency to reinforce almost every aspect of racialized disadvantage and disparity, or is that war on crime a barely disguised strategy to maintain a system of unequal citizenship on the basis of race?

Denver Rescue Mission Marathon

One of those stories that show that people are salvageable and that with support they can get past the "demons" that chase them. There is a saying that recovering from addiction isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.

Crack addiction burned almost every relationship in Shannon Chandler's life. He hurt most of his friends and family. But through it all, his mother, Nancy Chandler, stood strong and supported him.

On a sunny Sunday morning, amid cheers and banners and balloons, Shannon Chandler, 41, lumbered across the finish line of the Colorado Colfax Marathon. With tears running down his face, he still had the energy to embrace Mom, waiting at the finish line.

"She stuck with me through my addictions, and she was there for me at the end of the race," said Chandler, one of 17 men in the Denver Rescue Mission's drug rehabilitation program who took on the race.

trickled in wearing their bright yellow Rescue Mission T-shirts - all completing a goal they set out to accomplish when they began an intense training program in January.

A few who had started the program dropped out before the race.

Some, like Chandler, ran/walked the half-marathon. Nine men took on the entire 26.2-mile course from Aurora west through Denver and Lakewood, finally finishing at Colorado Mills mall.


HB 1107 - On It's Way to the Governor

I would like to thank the Post for running this article. We hope that you will call or email the governor and ask him to support HB 1107.

Ray Hupp was 22 when he got caught with $25 worth of cocaine. That screw-up has trailed the 44-year-old construction- company owner half his life, and he'd like to erase it.

It's possible he could, under a proposed law awaiting Gov. Bill Ritter's signature.

People convicted of certain nonsexual crimes could petition a judge to seal their criminal records 10 years after completing prison time, probation or parole, wiping their pasts clean.

"I kick myself all the time," said Hupp, recalling all the job applications he filled out, checking the "yes" box on whether he had committed a crime. "Nobody ever called."

Some say House Bill 1107 offers the gift of a second chance. But to critics, who imagine an employer unknowingly hiring someone convicted of embezzlement to keep their books, it strips away the public's right to know.

The proposal would reverse a 1988 law that shut down the process to seal criminal convictions in Colorado.

Under current law, judges can seal arrest records only when there is an acquittal or the charge is dropped. State law does not allow someone convicted as an adult to seal records of a conviction.

The bill under consideration by the governor says a person with a sealed conviction can check "no" to the question about criminal history on job applications.

"It's a very strong incentive for people - do well, and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel," said Christie Donner, director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

Only people who do not commit a crime in the 10 years after completing prison, probation or parole are eligible to seal their records. They could not seal convictions involving sexual offenses, domestic violence or crimes against pregnant women.

The Denver Post

226 Kids In Texas Improperly Sentenced - To Be Released

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The agency that runs the Texas state juvenile prison system said it will release 226 inmates after a review found their sentences were improperly extended.

Advocates for Texas Youth Commission inmates and their families have complained that sentences are often extended inconsistently or in retaliation for filing grievances.

Jay Kimbrough, who is heading an investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the agency's facilities, formed a panel to review the records of nearly all inmates with extended sentences. The six-member panel, which included community activists and prosecutors, reviewed the cases of 1,027 inmates whose sentences were extended.

"For the youth we're releasing, we did not find that the extensions were warranted," agency spokesman Jim Hurley said Friday. "The others will be reviewed on a regular basis."

Hurley said the 226 inmates will be released on parole as soon as guardians can pick them up or they can be transferred to an interim halfway house.

Kimbrough said in March that the panel would review the documentation on each inmate's sentencing extension and discuss whether the decision was just and appropriate, and then refer their recommendation to a retired judge.

The review is one of many ongoing reforms to the state's juvenile system after the disclosure of allegations of sexual abuse of inmates by staff and a possible cover-up by agency officials. The commission incarcerates about 4,700 offenders ages 10 to 21


Sunday, May 20, 2007

More Probation Support.

We need to reduce recidivism in Colorado, everyone should know that by now. One of the best ways to reduce the prison population is by making sure people don't end up there in the first place.

The failure rates on probation are just as bad as the failure rates on parole. Part of that problem is exacerbated by the huge numbers of people that probation officers have on their case load. We've already added new parole officers, now if we can just take some of the load off of the public defenders we might be getting somewhere.

The Colorado Judicial Branch says it is expanding its probation-services department by about 13 percent with the addition of probation supervisors, officers and administrative staff.

The department expects to add 81 probation officers, 12 probation supervisors and 18 support positions by the end of the summer.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Group Coming Out Against HB 1313

There is a group of people (Sec. of State and friends) who are coming out against HB 1313. Please call the Governor and tell him to sign this important bill. One of the pieces of this legislation would allow people to get an ID using their Department of Corrections identification card in conjunction with a birth certificate or social security card. The barriers to housing, employment and services are huge just because of a lack of an identification card and the difficulty in obtaining one.

If Gov. Ritter truly wants to reduce recidivism in Colorado then he has to take a serious "boots on the ground" look at what people are facing when they are coming back to community.

A bill that would make it easier to get a Colorado driver's license also would encourage illegal immigration and therefore Gov. Bill Ritter should veto it, a coalition of political leaders said Wednesday.

House Bill 1313 would expand the list of documents a person could use to prove residency and citizenship, undercutting efforts to curb illegal immigration, identity theft and terrorist threats, said members of the group, including Secretary of State Mike Coffman and former Democratic Gov. Dick Lamm.

"This bill allows for the use of hospital records, school records, religious records and tax returns to provide proof of identity and lawful presence," Coffman said. "It's a dramatic shift from current practices and could open loopholes to allow individuals to obtain a driver's license or identification card who are not entitled to one."Rocky Mountain News