Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Commissioner Zwirm On The Criminal Justice Commission

The book that was cited was of course, "Getting On After Getting Out". We gave one to every commissioner there.

STERLING — Back in October, Logan County Commissioner Debbie Zwirn was appointed to serve on Gov. Ritter’s new Colorado Commission on Criminal Justice.

On Jan 11, Zwirn attended the justice commission’s first meeting, held in Denver. This first meeting was planned as a learning opportunity. The group will meet every month.

“When Gov. Ritter spoke, he — and all the speakers — cautioned all of us to go beyond our preconceived notions and hear what everyone had to say,” Zwirn said.

As a former legal assistant at the district attorney’s office, she found the proceedings fascinating. Zwirn noted that she heard much that was familiar that day, but many new ideas, too. The day’s speakers reminded panel members over and over that they would spend a lot of time learning, she said.

Overcrowded Prisons

Dr. Richard Kern, executive director of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Committee, described how Virginia has done away with its parole system. Their prisons had been loaded with non-violent offenders, Kern noted.

To deal with this, a goal was set to reduce the number of non-violent prisoners by 25 percent between 2003 and 2006. By 2007, the number has been reduced by 49 percent, Kern said.

These people are not simply turned loose after they have been found guilty. But instead of being sentenced to prison, many are sentenced to various types of work-release programs.

“Here in Colorado, the prison population is increasing at the same time that crime is decreasing,” Zwirn said.....


Since recidivism is a problem of the criminal justice system across the county, ways to provide better assistance for people just getting out of prison were also discussed. Recidivism is about 50 percent for those prisoners who do not receive vocational training.

“They need to learn how to live outside of prison,” Zwirn said, “not just handed a small amount of cash and a bus ticket.”

She is reading her copy of a book panel members received, titled “How to Survive Outside of Prison.” The book is now being used in some places as part of an education program for prisoners who will be getting out soon.

Zwirn said that in addition to the 26 panel members and several speakers at this meeting, there were about 50 or 60 people in the audience. These are open public meetings and anyone is welcome, she said.

Journal Advocate