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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Chambers Under Fire

The Post picked up this story that Alan at Westword reported on...

District Attorney Carol Chambers has billed the state for more than $200,000 in her quest to convict and put to death two inmates who are charged with killing another inmate four years ago.

Westword reported Thursday that Chambers asked the Colorado Department of Corrections for $204,000 for work last year in the prosecutions of David Bueno and Alejandro Perez.

Both have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jeffrey Heird at the Limon Correctional Facility in Lincoln County in 2004. Chambers is the DA for Arapahoe, Lincoln, Douglas and Elbert counties.

Under Colorado law, counties can be reimbursed by the DOC to prosecute crimes committed in state prisons.........According to the Westword report, Chambers switched from billing hourly to billing portions of salaries last year, which she contends reduces to cost to the DOC.

Part of the bill to the DOC went to fund the entire salary of Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan May, as well as paying for expert witnesses, mileage and lodging.

State Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louis ville, said Thursday the DOC went to the Joint Budget Committee about three weeks ago asking for $290,000, more than two-thirds of the request to meet the bill from Chambers' office. He voted against the funding in the House, which eventually approved it, Weissmann said.

Weissmann said Chambers is within the law, but he questioned where some of the money was going.

"Here she has a deputy DA who is on the payroll of the DOC," Weissmann said. "I can't believe that he is solely doing the death-penalty case."

The Denver Post

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Record High Ratio of Americans in Prison

More than one in 100 adult Americans is in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year, in addition to more than $5 billion spent by the federal government, according to a report released today.

With more than 2.3 million people behind bars at the start of 2008, the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving even far more populous China a distant second, noted the report by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States.

The ballooning prison population is largely the result of tougher state and federal sentencing imposed since the mid-1980s. Minorities have been hit particularly hard: One in nine black men age 20 to 34 is behind bars. For black women age 35 to 39, the figure is one in 100, compared with one in 355 white women in the same age group.

Washington Post

Pew Center Report: 1 In A 100 In Prison

The ratio of people in prison is higher than ever before. Three decades of growth in America’s prison population we have now for the first time, more than one
in every 100 adults is now in jail or prison. From the press release:

During 2007, the prison population rose by more than 25,000 inmates. In addition to detailing state and regional prison growth rates, Pew’s report, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008, identifies how corrections spending compares to other state investments, why it has increased, and what some states are doing to limit growth in both prison populations and costs while maintaining public safety...

... lawmakers are learning that current prison growth is not driven
primarily by a parallel increase in crime, or a corresponding surge in the population at large. Rather, it flows principally from a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through popular “three-strikes” measures and
other sentencing enhancements, keeping them there longer.

Twenty years ago, the states collectively spent $10.6 billion of their general funds — their primary discretionary dollars — on corrections. Last year, they spent more than $44 billion in general funds, a 315 percent jump, and more than $49 billion in total funds from all sources. Coupled with tightening state budgets, the greater prison expenditures may force states to make tough choices about where to spend their money.

Access the report from Pew Research here:

Pew Center On The States

Arapahoe County DA Charges Death Penalty Fees To The State

Alan at Westword brings us another story about Carol Chambers. The death penalty in Colorado is a farce and should just be eliminated. The millions of dollars that are spent could easily be transferred into programs and treatment options for people. Alternatives to incarceration are available and they work. Rehabilitative programs and job opportunities would come to life with the influx of those funds. Thank you Alan for your investigative work.

Westword: The State of Colorado has managed to execute one murderer in the past forty years. Its death row, current population one, is among the smallest in the country. For four years after a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision threw out the state's system of having three judges decide whether an inmate should be executed, not a single new capital case was filed.

Some prosecutors regard the pursuit of the death penalty in the Centennial State as an exercise in futility. Even for the most heinous crimes, they say, it's difficult to get juries to impose the ultimate sentence — and then the appeals process can drag on for a decade or more, with taxpayers shelling out millions to fund both sides of the court battle. A recent memo to Governor Bill Ritter from the Colorado Attorney General's Office says it's not unusual for the defense in a death-penalty case to file between 300 and 400 motions, all of which must be answered by the prosecution. There are district attorneys who would rather undergo a colonoscopy with a garden hose than face such a gauntlet of budget-busting paperwork and frustration.

Then there's Carol Chambers, the maverick district attorney of the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. Her office is pursuing six of the seven capital murder cases now under way in Colorado. The crusade has drawn heat from death-penalty opponents, but it's also attracting scrutiny from the state legislature.

Using a 130-year-old statute that requires the Colorado Department of Corrections to reimburse counties for prosecuting crimes committed inside state prisons, Chambers has found an unusual way to pay for half of her death-penalty cases. She's billed the DOC hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months, effectively shifting the cost of trying to execute three inmates from her county-funded budget to Colorado coffers. The tactic has forced prison officials to go to state lawmakers, seeking a special fund for "payments to district attorneys," and raised questions about whether Chambers can bill the state for the entire salaries of employees in her office, including a chief deputy making $131,000 a year.

"Carol Chambers has turned her death machine into a cash cow," says attorney David Lane, an inveterate death-penalty opponent who is representing one of the prisoners facing possible execution. "I've never seen a capital case go this way. The only explanation I can see is that it's a big moneymaker for her office. Killing people is big business for them."


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Walk To Stop ICE Detention Facility

Saturday, March 1 11:00 a.m.

Colorado Progressive Coalition office, 1600 Downing St. Suite 210

OPPOSE the construction of a new immigrant detention center in Aurora!

The GEO Group, one of the nation's largest private prison corporations wants to build a new 1,100 bed immigrant holding facility in Aurora
The Aurora Planning Commission will vote on the proposal to build this facility March 12.

If you would like to help stop this facility from being built:

1. Contact Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition at chandrarusso@gmail.com with your name and/or organization to sign on to the attached petition

2. Contact the Planning Commission directly, along with the Mayor and Aurora City Council, and tell them to oppose the detention center.

Their email addresses:

3. Personalize and print the petition as a letter to be sent to:

Planning Commission Members, Aurora Mayor and City Council

c/o Susan Chapel

15151 E. Alameda Parkway, 2nd floor

Aurora, CO 80012

4. Join us on Saturday, March 1 at 11 a.m. at the Colorado Progressive Coalition, 1600 Downing St.

We will meet to review strategy, talk about how to engage safely and respectfully.

We will then drive out to Aurora to flyer. If you are unable to make it to this event but know others that

might, please forward this message to them.


Planning Commission Members

c/o Susan Chapel

15151 E. Alameda Parkway, 2nd floor

Aurora, CO 80012

Cc: Aurora Mayor and City Council

Dear Planning Commission Members,

As you may know, the GEO Group, a billion dollar corporation, wants to build a new 1,100 bed immigrant holding facility in Aurora. This facility will hurt our community and lead to great suffering while putting millions of tax dollars into the pockets of a destructive corporation.

We strongly urge you to OPPOSE the construction of a new immigrant detention center in Aurora when it comes up for hearing on March 12.

Here is why:

Detention hurts asylum seekers and other victims of torture and trauma Torture survivors, victims of trafficking, and other vulnerable groups can be detained for months or even years, further aggravating their isolation, depression, and other mental health problems associated with the horrors they have experienced.

· Conditions in detention are atrocious Detention centers across the country have prevented men, women and children access to phones and food. Several people held in immigration detention have died because they did not receive basic medical care. The GEO Group was forced to close detention centers after the US Justice Department sued for “abuse and neglect,” “life threatening conditions,” and sexual assault of children.

· Private prisons profit off of misery GEO is expecting $30 million a year in profits for its new Aurora facility. GEO has a vested interest in having sufficient men, women and children to fill its beds. To GEO, they’re not people, they’re profits- at $95 per person per day. To this end, the GEO group has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to ensure elected officials push for policies that benefit GEO- more detentions nation-wide

· A detention center can become a poorly run state or federal prison almost overnight The GEO Group has not been granted an immigration contract for its proposed Aurora facility, meaning it could be used as a prison. Private prisons have been shown to cut corners, have inadequate staffing levels and receive little government oversight

As decision makers for Aurora, we trust you will make choices that strengthen our communities and enhance our way of life. We believe you will support development that enriches our neighborhoods and maintains our values.

Building one of the country’s largest immigration detention center in Aurora does neither of these things. It is an affront to communities, families, workers and tax-payers. We trust you will not allow this detention center to be built.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Liberals Try Scare Tactics Touting Impending Crime Wave

Here's a great post on Grits that was pointed out by Doc Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy:

Here's how it begins:

Washington Post pundit David Broder says crime may be lurking as an issue more powerful with the electorate than foreign affairs, discussing a national survey by a liberal think tank called Third Way. I'd not heard of the organization but I found a copy of the poll (pdf) online. They also have published an accompanying report with the scare-mongering title, "The Impending Crime Wave." Writes Broder:

when the polling firm Cooper & Secrest Associates asked 1,139 Americans in December which threat they took most seriously, 69 percent chose violent crime and only 19 percent named terrorist attack.

The survey was part of a striking report released yesterday by Third Way, a liberal think tank, and several governors, warning that the crime issue, which has slipped off the political agenda since its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, is about to return.

"Four new and dangerous sociological trends are converging to disturb the peace and are threatening a crisis of crime, if not addressed," the report says.

Grits For Breakfast

Record Sealing Bill - Editorial and Comments

If you have the time to respond to this Editorial please do. Write a letter to the editor of the Coloradoan....

Bad legislation doesn't smell any better the second time around.

Such is the case with House Bill 1082, sponsored by state Sen. Bob Bacon.

The bill seeks to allow those with criminal convictions to have them sealed from public purview after 10 years of clean living. Bacon, a Fort Collins Democrat, believes that those records are making it difficult for those seeking a second chance to find employment. And he's probably correct on that point. Yet, that isn't a strong enough reason to override the public's access to such relevant information.

The public welfare has to be given more consideration. Barring public access to such documents is a slippery slope. The bill does acknowledge that certain types of records will remain open, including those involving sexual offenses, criminally negligent homicide, crimes against pregnant women, harassment, child abuse and domestic violence, among others. That leaves out what some might call a wide swath of "white-collar" crime, making this bill curious in its content and in its exceptions.

The Coloradoan

NJ - Needle Exchange Slow To Reach Addicts

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey has become the last state where intravenous drug users can legally get clean needles, but two of the state's three needle exchanges are struggling to get clients.

A lack of funding, winter weather, remote locations and a mistrust by drug users are all making it tough for the exchanges to reach clients.

One program in Camden distributes needles out of the back of a blue van that sets up Tuesday afternoons near an overgrown vacant lot in an industrial waterfront section of the city, where bottles of all types, trash, condoms and clothing are strewn.

Officials say they would rather have addicts congregating there than in the more visible downtown area. Most of the pedestrians are prostitutes, including some who are among about 15 clients at the needle exchange.

A health education center's motor home, where health workers draw blood for hepatitis tests, give instant HIV tests, and hand out snacks, blankets and condoms, is parked next to the van on Tuesday afternoons. The state government put $10 million toward drug treatment as part of the law that allowed needle exchanges, but didn't fund the needle exchange programs.

"All the programs in New Jersey are operating on a shoestring," said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. But she said the exchanges are nonetheless promising, despite their modest starts.

New Jersey is believed to have tens of thousands of IV drug users, but only about 200 are enrolled so far in the three existing exchanges.


Crack The Disparity - Call The US Senate Now

This was posted by the Drug Policy Alliance, take the time to help make the change!!
February 25, 2008
Imagine being able to reform one of the worst federal drug laws of all time. You can do it. The draconian crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity is on the ropes. We need you to provide the knock-out punch.

Today is a national call-in day on the issue. Please take a few minutes to call your two U.S. Senators and urge them to “eliminate the crack/powder disparity by supporting S. 1711, The Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act.” If you can’t call today, that’s OK. Call as soon as you can. Any time this week would be great. It's easy--our action center will give you the phone numbers and tell you what to say.

Take Action

Two weeks ago the Senate Crime and Drugs Subcommittee had historic hearings on the crack/powder issue. The House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee is having hearings this week. The Drug Policy Alliance and almost a dozen other national groups are bringing in people from around the country to lobby key members of Congress tomorrow.

Support for reform is growing in both the House and Senate and among both Democrats and Republicans. We hope legislation reducing or eliminating the disparity will move within the next couple of weeks.

It’s not every day we have an opportunity to reduce government waste, improve public safety, promote fairness and restore some sanity to U.S. drug policy. So I hope you take a few minutes to make two phone calls.

No Room For Women At The New Jail

The Denver Justice Center under construction won't have enough cells for women,who will be bused to county jail.

The new justice center rising from the ground in downtown Denver will not have enough jail beds for women, critics say.

Under current plans, women, who make up 10 percent of the inmate population but as a group are growing in numbers faster than men, will be held in the new facility briefly and bused to the county jail on Smith Road in north Denver for most of their time in lockup.

"We're disappointed women won't be able to have extended stays at the new facility," said Carol Lease, executive director of The Empowerment Program, a nonprofit organization that provides access to counseling, education, job and housing referrals to incarcerated women.

Jail officials, however, say they planned it this way so women inmates would have access to programs at the Smith Road jail that can help them avoid repeat offenses that will land them back in jail.

Still, some activists say women should have the same access to the new jail facility as men.

"Women will be stashed out at county at an old, decrepit facility," said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, which opposed the new jail.

"Part of the whole point for why the county was going to voters and asking for all this money was concerns about the quality of life," she said......

Lease said her concerns were more about access. She said once the new jail opens it will be tough for families of the women inmates to see them before sentencing because the county jail is so far away.

"We're talking poor people who get put in jail because they can't make bond," Lease said.

Lease said there's evidence that connection with family members helps reduce recidivism.

The Rocky Mountain News

Monday, February 25, 2008

Investigator's Probe Ultimate Fighting In Oklahoma Prison

The Colorado Department of Corrections has sent two investigators to an Oklahoma prison to probe whether correctional officers staged ‘ultimate fights’ among prisoners and rewarded the fight's winner with a cell phone, corrections sources told CALL7 Investigators.The DOC inspector general's staff traveled this week to the privately owned North Folk Correctional Facility at Sayre, Okla., about 130 miles west of Oklahoma City, to investigate the complaint of ‘ultimate fighting,’ sources said. It was unclear Friday whether the details of the complaint have been substantiated.DOC Executive Director Ari Zavaras, in a phone conversation with CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski, confirmed investigators were sent out to Oklahoma.
7 News

Denver Building On New Ideas For Homeless

My first question is whether those who are arriving into Denver homeless from prison will be able to access this housing? What if someone has a felony record? In an effort to build on the issue of "public safety" wouldn't it be more practical to help those who have been in trouble before?

Armed with data showing there's a hidden cost to leaving the unemployed, mentally ill and alcoholics alone on the streets, Denver officials are pushing forward with a $20 million plan to build 200 new housing units for the homeless.

The plan is in keeping with Mayor John Hickenlooper's homelessness initiative, which holds that the past patchwork system of shelters wasn't the best way to tackle the issue.

The proposal is still being finalized and then, depending on financial terms, could go before the City Council this spring. The council has emphasized the need to spread the housing instead of clustering it in strongholds of poverty. While support seems strong among most council members, some reservations persist over that issue, which could raise the ire of some neighborhood activists.

"I can't emphasize enough the importance of this project moving away from the traditional islands of poverty that just warehouse folks," Councilman Paul Lopez said during a recent council committee meeting on the subject.

The administration, sensitive to those concerns, is pledging to make sure the housing is spread around the city, in areas close to mass transit. They are also promising to include on-site managers.

"We would really do our due diligence and make sure these facilities are not in the same old spots," said Roxane White, director of Denver's Department of Human Services.

In the past, the emphasis was on getting a homeless person an emergency meal and bed for the night. Now, the Hickenlooper administration is stressing the need to get behind the root problems that cause homelessness in the first place.

And the best way to do that, officials say, is to provide actual, long-term housing first.

The homeless placed in the new units can stay for months, where they will be encouraged to take advantage of intensive support services, such as drug- addiction counseling, job training and medication for mental illnesses.

The Denver Post

The Nation - Minors In The Big House

Dollars should not drive policy when it comes to decisions about people's lives....

THE NATION _ First, she felt shock. When Oluwaseun Animashaun, of Providence, Rhode Island, learned that her state was planning to try 17-year-olds as adults, she couldn't believe it.

She thought of her younger brother, struggling to get an education in a city where, according to The Washington Post, less than half of students ever graduate high school. She thought of people she knew at school, people growing up in neighborhoods where over a third of families live below the poverty line.

She felt incredulity--and then anger. And now they want to throw us in jail?

Though geographically, Rhode Island is a tiny fragment of a state tucked just under Massachusetts' sleeve, the state--and particularly its capital, Providence--is a microcosm for many of the issues facing the rest of the United States. Rising levels of child poverty. Deepening inequalities. Manufacturing jobs that have disappeared, leaving a vacuum of opportunities for those with little education.

And, increasingly, the mounting challenge of supporting a prison population that continues to expand with alarming speed. Since 1976, with the rise of a "get-tough" stance on crime, Rhode Island's prison population has ballooned by 457 percent.

This summer, with a $300-million budget deficit forcing Rhode Island to cut state spending, lawmakers trained their sights squarely on one group: arrested youth. It costs $98,000 per year to detain a youth at the state's juvenile detention center, which provides counseling, education and rehabilitative services. By contrast, it costs $39,000 a year to lock someone up at Rhode Island's adult prison. To lawmakers, sweeping 17-year-olds into state prison seemed an easy way to shave off dollars from the state budget.

They hadn't reckoned, however, on youth like Animashaun. Or on how misguided the policy would ultimately prove to be.

The Nation

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chairman Questions Parole Releases

Grand Junction Sentinel - The chairman of Colorado’s parole board attributed a recent, controversial statistical spike in the state’s discretionary parole releases to faulty figures.

David Michaud, chairman of the state’s parole board and a former Denver chief of police, said when he saw the Department of Corrections had recorded an 80 percent jump in early, discretionary parole releases from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2007, he was baffled.

According to Colorado Department of Colorado statistics, the number of prisoners released on discretionary parole during that period spiked from 2,813 to 5,069 after nearly a decade of relatively flat release numbers.

“It’s just insane. It’s crazy,” Michaud said. “Those numbers are not accurate.”....

.....He said a spike in the number of inmates whose mandatory parole dates came up last year on weekends or holidays could have increased the statistical spike in the number of discretionary parole releases that lawmakers and others have criticized..

“If an offender’s discharge date, his mandatory release date or his statutory release date comes up on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or a holiday, they will for reasons of transportation and reporting to their parole officer when they go out ... release them two to three days early,” he said. “They will mark that as a discretionary parole (release).”

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said he has been working with the governor’s office to prepare an audit on the parole situation, but he had not heard Michaud’s explanations.

Penry said his first concern is that a new board, with a majority of Ritter appointees, has decided to change its policies without any public discussion.

“This is a potentially major change in policy with no discussion or debate,” Penry said. “Obviously something is different.”

Vern Saint Vincent, a former Aurora police chief and former parole board member, said the surge in discretionary parole releases prior to July 1, when his appointment ended, was partially because of his board’s desire to get hundreds of persons granted parole but not released out of the system.....

....An open records request filed with the governor’s office last week revealed no correspondence between Ritter and the parole board concerning discretionary parole releases.

Grand Junction Sentinel

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bill To Help Medical Marijuana Users At Work - CA

San Mateo Times:

A new Assembly bill with two Bay Area co-authors seeks to protect medical-marijuana users' jobs.

AB 2279, introduced Wednesday, would prohibit employment discrimination against those who use marijuana as medicine in compliance with state law away from the workplace. It would leave intact already existing provisions barring consumption in the workplace, and would protect employers from liability by carving out an exception for safety-sensitive jobs.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, had vowed to introduce such a bill last month after the state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that an employer can fire a worker solely because he or she uses medical marijuana outside the workplace.

"AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the voters and the legislature that medical marijuana patients need not be unemployed to benefit from their medicine," Leno said in a news release issued Thursday.

Cheap Highly Addictive Cocaine Floods Argentina

The New York Times

BUENOS AIRES — Bilma Acuña has two drug-addicted sons and roams the streets of the Ciudad Oculta slum here with a purpose: to save others from the same fate.

She and the group of mothers she helps organize have become the only bulwark, it seems, against the irrepressible spread of paco, a highly addictive, smokable cocaine residue that has destroyed thousands of lives in Argentina and caused a cycle of drug-induced street violence never seen before in this country.

The scourge underscores a significant shift in both Argentina and its larger neighbor, Brazil, which in just a few years have become sizable cocaine consumers. Brazil now ranks as the second largest consumer of cocaine in the world after the United States, the State Department says.

The surge in drug use has been fueled by porous borders, economic hardship and, more recently, the rolling back of restrictions on coca growing since President Evo Morales took office in 2006 in neighboring Bolivia. The result has been the democratization of cocaine in this part of South America, which has become the dumping ground for cheaper, lower-quality cocaine.

In the five years since residents first began noticing the crude yellowish crystals being smoked on the streets of Ciudad Oculta, a neighborhood of 15,000 people within Buenos Aires, paco has become the dominant drug that dealers are peddling.

Just weeks after first trying the drug, Mrs. Acuña’s son Pablo Eche began selling everything he owned to feed his addiction. He committed violent robberies. In a drug-fueled rage he destroyed his house and then sold the land that was left, ending up freezing and alone on the streets until his grandmother took him in.

“The majority of the kids are using here,” said Mrs. Acuña, 46. “My son saw what was happening with the kids in the streets that were using paco, and he always said he wouldn’t get caught up in that. But he did.”

The challenges to stopping the flow are immense. Fewer than 200 federal police officers patrol Brazil’s 2,100-mile border with Bolivia, though the Brazilian government says reinforcements are on the way. Only 10 percent of Argentina’s airspace is covered by radar, leaving traffickers free rein.

Cocaine seizures and major drug raids in Argentina and Brazil have surged in the past two years. The influx of raw cocaine paste used to make crack, from both Bolivia and Peru, has been particularly acute. In Brazil, such seizures by the federal police nearly quadrupled from 2006 to 2007, to 2,700 pounds from about 710 pounds, according to the police.

In Argentina, the deep financial crisis of late 2001 turned places like Ciudad Oculta into what are known here as villas miserias, or towns of misery, easily exploitable markets of impoverished people looking for escape.

“Cocaine is no longer the drug only of the elite, of high society,” said Luiz Carlos Magno, a Brazilian narcotics officer in the São Paulo State Police Department. “Today kids buy three lines of cocaine for 10 reals,” or about $6. For about $1 in Brazil and about $1.50 in Argentina, users can buy enough of the cocaine for a 15-minute high

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cash Crunch Invites Private Prison

NEW YORK, Feb 20 (Reuters) - The weakening U.S. economy has unleashed layoffs, reduced profits and sucked value from the stock market, but some companies, such as those that run prisons and consult for government, can benefit from harsh economic times.
When state and local budgets see shortfalls, cash-strapped governments hire companies like management consultant Maximus Inc, social services provider Providence Service Corp and prison company Corrections Corp of America, according to analysts.
Government belt-tightening could be a boon for a range of mid- and small-cap names whose share prices have in many cases fallen as far as more cyclical companies that really do suffer in a downturn. And, analysts say, that could present some stock market opportunities.

The housing slump has hurt public budgets, as depressed property values and lowered homeowners' equity cut proceeds from real estate and sales taxes.
In 2009, 25 states are facing shortfalls, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That pain trickles down to local governments, which increasingly look to privatize services they traditionally have performed.

By outsourcing a prison, states can save as much as a quarter of its cost, Avondale Partners analyst Kevin Campbell said, which is why private prison companies boosted their market share to 7.2 percent in 2006 from 6.5 percent in 2001-2003.
States might begin a new wave of prison privatization sooner than in the 2001 recession because the United States is still suffering from prison overcrowding as a result of that last downturn, Campbell said.

The Guardian

Cocaine's Effect On Brain Metabolism May Contribute To Abuse

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2008) — Many studies on cocaine addiction - and attempts to block its addictiveness - have focused on dopamine transporters, proteins that reabsorb the brain's "reward" chemical once its signal is sent. Since cocaine blocks dopamine transporters from doing their recycling job, it leaves the feel-good chemical around to keep sending the pleasure signal. Now a new study conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory suggests that cocaine's effects go beyond the dopamine system. In the study, cocaine had significant effects on brain metabolism, even in mice that lack the gene for dopamine transporters.
Science Daily

Most Crack Offenders To Be Released Are Non-Violent

Most of the more than 1,500 crack cocaine offenders who are immediately eligible to petition courts to be released from federal prisons under new guidelines issued by the U.S. Sentencing Commission are small-time dealers or addicts who are not career criminals and whose charges did not involve violence or firearms, according to a new analysis by the commission staff.

About 6 percent of the inmates were supervisors or leaders of drug rings, and about 5 percent were convicted of obstructing justice, generally by trying to get rid of their drugs as they were being arrested or contacting witnesses or co-defendants before trial, according to the analysis being circulated on Capitol Hill by the commission to counter Bush administration assertions that the guidelines would prompt the release of thousands of dangerous criminals.

Washington Post

Thursday, February 21, 2008

CCA Exec Nominated As Federal District Court Judge

Meet Bush's Prison Nominee
Tennessee's next trial court judge might be a prison company executive who has less courtroom experience than most inmates." />

Stephanie Mencimer" />
February 20" /> , 2008" />
In October 2000, Dick Cheney faced off for a debate with Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman. The 60-year-old Cheney appeared comfortable discussing the ins and outs of policy and made good-natured jokes about Lieberman's singing abilities, or lack thereof. Cheney's smooth performance reflected his many years in public service. But the aspiring vice president also had a strong debate-preparation team made up of longtime friends and GOP loyalists. Among them was Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV, a legislative director for Tennessee senator Bill Frist, who was on contract with the Bush/Cheney campaign. Puryear apparently did such a good job prepping Cheney that he was called in again in 2004 to help him gear up for his debate with Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.

Puryear's efforts on behalf of the Bush administration paid off last June when the president nominated him to be a federal trial court judge for the Middle District of Tennessee. Puryear certainly isn't the first judicial nominee selected primarily for his political service, but still, his resume is remarkably thin on the practice of law, a basic prerequisite even for the best-connected political hacks.

Mother Jones

New Appeal Filed On Death Penalty Case

The man sentenced to die for killing four people at a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in Aurora in 1993 is now asking a federal judge in Denver to spare his life. In a 755-page motion filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, attorneys for Nathan Dunlap list 41 reasons his death sentence should be thrown out, including that his original defense attorneys were ineffective. The appeal comes one month after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and after the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence for the third time. Dunlap, now 33 and the only person on Colorado's death row, was convicted in 1996 of first-degree murder for the deaths of restaurant employees Sylvia Crowell, 19, Benjamin Grant and Colleen O'Connor, both 17, and manager Margaret Kohlberg, 50. The jury also found him guilty of burglary, aggravated robbery, attempted first-degree murder, theft and first-degree assault.
Rocky Mountain News

Juvenile Direct File Bill Passes House Judiciary

Bucking the opinion of numerous law enforcement officials, state lawmakers gave their initial approval Wednesday to a bill aimed at restricting prosecutors’ abilities to pursue adult sentences for juvenile offenders.

The House Judiciary Committee agreed, in a 6-5 vote, to approve Rep. Claire Levy’s proposal to raise the minimum age from 14 to 16 for minors who can be charged as adults.

Her measure, House Bill 1208, also removes vehicular homicide and vehicular assault from the list of crimes prosecutors can direct file against a teen.

“I’m not taking a wrecking ball to the (system),” said Levy, a Boulder Democrat.

Levy’s bill, however, drew blistering attacks from law enforcement officials who accused her bill of eviscerating one of the ways they can confront juveniles who commit heinous crimes. Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacey said Levy’s bill assumes prosecutors have either capriciously used or overused the direct-file process.

The Sentinel

Ft. Collins - Broderick Placed On Leave At His Request

At his own request, Fort Collins police Lt. Jim Broderick, the lead police investigator during the 1999 murder trial of Timothy Masters, has been placed on administrative leave.

Fort Collins Police Chief Dennis Harrison said the decision was unrelated to the Masters case but driven by a long-planned routine internal reshuffle and a new investigation by the attorney general into the 1987 stabbing death of Peggy Hettrick.

Broderick is under investigation by the Weld County District Attorney over allegations that he lied on the witness stand, hid evidence and illegally recorded a conversation between Masters and his father.

He faces an internal investigation over the same allegations, which were made by Masters’ defense attorneys.

The Coloradoan

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jennifer Reali Speaks

Jennifer Reali talks about how she was drawn into a murder through a bad relationship.

9 News Video

Editorial - Record Sealing Bill

"Don't seal those records," the Rocky's Feb. 9 editorial opposing House Bill 1082, the record-sealing bill, misses a critical point. There is a social and economic benefit in reducing recidivism - a subject of interest to Gov. Bill Ritter and all Coloradans. Providing incentives, such as record sealing, to those with a drug possession conviction will be an important incentive over the 10-year period.

Drug courts are successful, in part, because of incentives to offenders to successfully complete a program and have their offense removed from the record. The stigma associated with a drug conviction is an unfortunate reality, not helped by this nation's tabloid mentality.

Congress is also considering the Second Chance Act to battle recidivism. It would provide choices and chances to those living a life of good citizenship in long-term recovery from the disease of addiction. This bill - along with HB 1082 - should become law.

Rocky Mountain

Solving California's Prison Crisis

We are thrilled to inform Californians that the Drug Policy Alliance Network has filed a ballot measure that would bring about the biggest prison/sentencing reform in American history.

The Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA) would provide $460 million each year to fund effective, individualized drug treatment and rehabilitation for tens of thousands of people arrested for nonviolent offenses. NORA also requires the prison system to make a major commitment to rehabilitation programs for people inside and outside the prisons. By stabilizing funding for, and expanding access to, treatment and rehabilitative services, NORA will dramatically reduce the prison population and save $1 billion annually, while allowing our criminal justice system to focus on public safety, not punishing nonviolent drug users. We believe that the changes proposed in the initiative could provide a model for reform nationally.

Though NORA might sound a lot like our successful Prop. 36 program, it is much broader. NORA's reforms will break the cycle of prison, parole and return to prison for nonviolent prisoners and parolees. Under NORA, nonviolent parolees all get rehabilitation services to give them a better chance at a successful life after prison, and they cannot be returned to prison for minor violations of parole. This is a major change in policy that will reduce the problem of over-incarceration of nonviolent offenders, with big financial savings as well.

Within the next three months, we must gather well over 430,000 valid signatures to ensure that the measure will appear on the November ballot. You can help us get there by signing a petition at a grocery store near you!

Years of research, experience and insight went into the drafting of NORA. The Drug Policy Alliance Network thanks the many individuals and agencies that collaborated with us on its creation, particularly the Campaign for New Drug Policies, co-sponsor of the measure with us, and we encourage you to learn about and support the measure

VA -- Bill Would Require Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

Some welfare applicants and beneficiaries would be required to pass a drug test and receive counseling to receive public assistance under a controversial bill being considered by the Virginia General Assembly.

Under the proposal, which has been approved by the Senate, people applying for or in the state's job-training program, which is required to receive welfare, would be questioned about substance abuse. Those thought to be abusing drugs could be required to take a drug test.

If they failed the test or refused to comply, they would be required to attend and complete a drug treatment program to ensure that they continued to receive federal benefits under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. If they failed a second time, they would lose their benefits. A stricter version of the bill, which would have revoked benefits immediately, passed the House initially but was tabled.

The state asks welfare applicants to allow caseworkers to screen them, but they can decline. The Senate bill would make the initial drug screenings mandatory.

"It seemed to be a concern of many of the social services personnel in my district," said Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell), the bill's sponsor. "We just thought that there was no place for those who receive public benefits and use them on illegal activities."

Puckett said the issue is a particular problem for social workers and drug counselors across the rustic stretches of his native southwestern Virginia who have struggled to ease the impact of drug abuse and poverty, exacerbated by the region's struggling economy.

Washington Post

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Save Money and Cut Crime

DENVER - The Colorado Parole Board has started releasing some inmates from prison early — about 115 more last month than in January 2007.

The board is banking that treating such inmates for drug and alcohol abuse will do more to keep them from committing new crimes than the old policy of simply warehousing them, and then releasing them, without any such treatment.

The Post supports the policy, which began in the waning days of Republican Gov. Bill Owens' administration and accelerated after Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's appointees became a majority on the parole board.

The policy has its roots in a 2003 law by Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, that increased treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for prison inmates and paid for such treatment by a slight reduction in some sentences.

We backed the 2003 law, but we also urge Ritter to monitor the new program closely and to focus primarily on non-violent offenders to reduce the risk of a violent offender re-offending. That would quickly undercut any public support for treatment programs.

Gordon supports Ritter's actions to ease the pressure prison costs have placed on the state budget.

"This is the first year since 1992 that prison budgets haven't gone up by double digits," Gordon said. "Ritter only asked for a 6 percent increase for prisons this year. If we'd been able to limit prisons to 6 percent a year since 1992, we'd have $255 million more to spend on other things this year."

Denver Post Editorial

Monday, February 18, 2008

Castle Rock Recommends Charges Against Students

Getting children involved with the system is the wrong answer. There are other far more productive means of handling kids when this kind of thing happens.

Castle Rock police are recommending that criminal charges be filed against 11 high school students who ingested the prescription painkiller oxycodone at school earlier this month.

Castle Rock Police Chief Tony Lane says one student accused of bringing the drug to Castle View High School on Feb. 8 and giving it to others should face felony charges of distributing a controlled substance, according to KUSA Channel 9 news report.

Lane said the students who ingested the drug could be charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Rocky Mountain News

Overtime in Prison

California prisoners doing overtime...
SACRAMENTO -- The counselor at Salinas Valley State Prison paid a surprise visit to Nicholas Shearin's cell with good news: He would go home in two days, after a decade behind bars.

She did not mention that he should have been freed eight months earlier.

Shearin was among as many as 33,000 state inmates whose sentences may have been wrong because they were not given all the time off they earned for good behavior and for working in prison.

Records obtained by The Times show that in August, the state sampled some inmate cases and discovered that in more than half -- 354 of 679 -- the offenders were set to remain in prison a combined 104 years too long. Fifty-nine of those prisoners, including Shearin, had already overstayed and were subsequently released after serving a total of 20 years too many, an average of four months each.

Shearin, 38, who is living with his parents in Hawthorne and looking for a job, went to prison for armed robbery. He received less than a third of the good-behavior credit he was due on a second crime, assaulting another inmate.

Shearin said he had told the corrections staff that he was entitled to more time off his sentence.

"I argued that point," he said. "I put in all the paperwork."

But "they did what they wanted to do at the Department of Corrections," said Shearin, who learned from a reporter that he had stayed in prison too long. "They just told me no."

The errors could cost the state $44 million through the end of this fiscal year if not corrected and more than $80 million through mid-2010. But California's overburdened prison agency waited more than two years to change its method of awarding credit for good behavior after three court rulings, one as early as May 2005, found it to be illegal.

More People Released On Parole This Year Than Last

About 115 more inmates per month walked out of prison on early release in 2007 compared with the previous year, a trend stirring up political debate about how much stock to put into rehabilitating prisoners. Though the increase in early exits began in the waning months of Gov. Bill Owens' term, it has grown under Gov. Bill Ritter, who has remade the bulk of the state's parole board since taking office in January of last year. Ritter is pumping more money into drug, alcohol and job-training programs aimed at reducing the likelihood that ex-prisoners will reoffend.

But critics, stunned by the increase in discretionary paroles, say the Democratic governor is pushing a new policy without proper public discussion and risking public safety by gambling that his programs will work. "I find it disturbing, frankly, because it's kind of being done through the back door," said Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger. Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, said he has not dictated any new policy regarding discretionary release and that the board is filled with "people whose judgment I trust with what I consider to be a very serious responsibility." "It's public safety first," he said. "That is and always has been the way I think about criminal justice." Ritter's critics accuse him of appointing a liberal parole board that is flinging open prison doors. But in fairness, the board approved 542 discretionary paroles the month he took office. "Alarming" increase Ritter's first appointment to the board came in March. The appointees include former Denver Police Chief David Michaud as chairman, former Denver County Court Judge Celeste C de Baca, and former victim advocate Rebecca Oakes, whose mother was a murder victim. "They are there because they can exercise judgment," Ritter said. Still, some lawmakers are concerned. Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said he will pursue a state audit and hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate what he called the "alarming" increase. "Numbers like this just don't appear out of thin air," he said. "It's another below-the-radar change in policy with sweeping ramifications. Going after recidivism is a good thing; opening the prison doors isn't the answer." In Ritter's first 13 months in office, the board has released 6,099 prisoners on discretionary parole — an average of 469 per month. That is up from 4,405 discretionary paroles in former Gov. Bill Owens' last 13 months in office, or 339 per month. The shift is a 38 percent increase. Discretionary releases were rising in the last six months of Owens' tenure, however. Severe budget cuts in 2001-03 caused the Department of Corrections to slash $13 million in programs, said department spokeswoman Alison Morgan. Part of the reason discretionary releases are rising is that programs that help inmates succeed after prison are being restored, she said. Ritter said criticism about the increase is coming from "people who have not spent a day in a criminal courtroom." "It's always easy to act as a demagogue where numbers in the criminal-justice system are concerned," he said. Inmates are typically eligible to apply for discretionary parole after serving half of their sentences. Those convicted of the most violent crimes, including murder and some sexual assaults, are not eligible for discretionary parole. Programs for inmates Soon after Ritter took office, he amended his Republican predecessor's budget request by asking for $8 million for drug-treatment programs and mental-health and parole services. About half of ex-prisoners end up back behind

bars within three years, according to the Department of Corrections.

Ritter's budget request for the next fiscal year would pump $5.9 million into programs aimed at reducing the number of returning inmates.

His budget request includes the lowest increase for prisons in years, instead tagging the money for higher education.

Department of Corrections Director Ari Zavaras said the extra money already is having an effect. Prisons have more money this year to provide medicine to mentally unstable inmates as they walk out the door, Zavaras said.

"Public safety will always be No. 1 as far as we're concerned," he said. "We will only do things that we're confident will not jeopardize public safety."

It takes two of the seven board members to grant discretionary parole for a nonviolent offender and four of the seven for a violent offender.

"It can be a risky business," said Michaud, appointed by Ritter to head the parole board in March. "We would all dread the day that we would release somebody early and they would go out and commit a horrible crime."

Shift to Democrats

Ritter appointed five of the current board members, all Democrats. The board, which had a Republican majority before Ritter took office, now has only one Republican member.

Prison spending in Colorado is a hot-button issue, but Ritter said the parole board should not consider that when weighing an early release.

"Prison overcrowding and prison budgets are not their concern," he said. "Their concern is who should be in prison."

But critics accuse Ritter of putting fiscal issues ahead of public safety.

"Government exists for a few reasons — one of the most important being to keep residents safe," said Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield. "If there are bad guys out there, we have to do what it takes to contain them and protect our homes and families."

Added Owens, a Republican, "I'm hoping that this new parole board is as concerned with public safety as I believe the parole board was that I appointed."

The Denver Post

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Guard Accused Of Sex With Prisoner

Just to clarify, San Carlos Correctional is the Mental Health prison in Colorado.

PUEBLO _ A prison guard has been issued a summons on accusations that she had sex with a male inmate at San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo.

Thirty-two-year-old Dominique Romero, also known by the surname Rivas, faces a charge of sexual contact inside a correctional institution.

Prosecutors allege the relationship went on between Oct. 1 and Dec. 12.

Corrections officials say Romero was hired May 1, 2000, and was fired last year, on Dec. 21.

A court appearance was scheduled for Feb. 25.

Rocky Mountain News

Complicated Sentencing Laws Extend Stays

SACRAMENTO -- The thousands of incorrect release dates for state prisoners result from a series of decisions by the California Supreme Court and two state appeals courts between May 2005 and January 2006.

Under state law, inmates can receive 50% off their sentences for nonviolent offenses if they behave well or work while in prison and 15% off sentences for violent offenses.

But inmates convicted of both types have been treated as violent offenders, restricting their time off for good behavior to 15%.

The judges said that policy was wrong. They ruled that on portions of prison terms exclusively related to nonviolent crimes, inmates should receive the more generous rate.

The state received a small reprieve last month, when the state Court of Appeal for the 3rd District said the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was correct in some circumstances to award only 15% credit to inmates serving sentences for nonviolent crimes.

That judgment conflicts with one of the earlier decisions. Prison administrators said they would follow the new ruling and leave existing sentences in place for several hundred affected inmates unless the state Supreme Court says otherwise.

No appeal has been filed.

"The bottom line is that the Legislature's sentencing and credit laws are so complicated that the courts have difficulty interpreting them and [the prison system] isn't capable of implementing them," said Heather MacKay, an Oakland lawyer who won a 2005 appeals court decision overturning one of the state's methods of calculating sentences
LA Times

Owen's Tenure Marked By Prison Growth

Up, up, and away. Unfortunately, the state is not Superman, just Superprison.

Yet last year, the first of Gov. Bill Ritter's administration, the state prison population increased by only 254, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections, compared with a 1,025 inmate increase in the final year of the Owens administration.

Colorado's state prison population continued to grow in 2006, with 22,481 prisoners as of Dec. 31, 2006. That number is from the Bureau of Justice Statistics issued in December 2007. A year is a long time to wait for official prison statistics. Why can't we get the numbers for 2007 from all states by July of 2008?

This column reflects data from the first through the last year of Gov. Bill Owens' tenure, and the potential cost per inmate in 2008.

On Dec. 31, 1998, our state was 26th in gross numbers at 14,312 state prison inmates. On Dec. 31, 2006, we were 23rd. And our 22,481 prison inmates were an increase of 1,025 compared with Dec.31, 2005. That was the 14th largest gross gain that year among the 50 states.

Nationally, total state prisoners increased by 2.8 percent. By contrast, Colorado's 1,025 prison inmate increase was 4.8 percent, the 12th highest percentage tied with two other states.

How did we compare for the eight years of the Owens administration?

The United States had an eight-year 16 percent national gain of 188,837.

In that same time period, Colorado went from 14,312 state prison inmates to 22,481. That's a gain of 8,169, an awesome - or fearsome - 57 percent increase, which was third in the nation, but first among states with prisoners in five or six figures.

Some states have decreased their prison inmate numbers, while other have treaded water. At the same time Colorado increased 8,169 prisoners in eight years, Maryland went up only 373 prisoners, going from 17th in the nation in gross numbers of 22,572 to 22nd place with 22,945.

What happened in Maryland that didn't happen in Colorado?

According to a Governing Magazine article in July 2004, Maryland had shifted from penal retribution toward rehabilitation. "Its leading proponent, Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich came into office in 2003 pledging to get low-level drug offenders out of prison" and into treatment programs instead. Maryland also beefed up education and treatment programs for all inmates.

Ehrlich stated, "The war on drugs has been unsuccessful."

Colorado's numbers are 8,000 more than at the start of the Owens' administration. According to a newspaper report last July, the average annual cost is $27,500 per inmate. Multiplied by the 8,000 jump in prison population and you have a yearly cost increase of $220 million.

Pueblo Chieftain

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Police Department Blamed For Tim Masters Debacle

The special prosecutor in the Tim Masters case is blaming the Fort Collins police department for numerous evidence violations.

On at least four occasions, Fort Collins detectives failed to turn over documents to the attorneys who tried the case - and those lawyers failed to ferret out all relevant information, Adams County District Attorney Don Quick concluded in a report filed in court Friday.

But Quick stopped short of concluding that the omissions amounted to an "intentional hiding" of evidence that could have helped Masters win an acquittal after he was charged in the Feb. 11, 1987, killing of Peggy Hettrick.

Masters, who spent 91/2 years in prison in the slaying, had his conviction tossed out last month after the discovery that skin-cell DNA on the dead woman's clothing was linked to her former boyfriend.

A Fort Collins police spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment.

Hettrick, a 37-year-old manager at a Fort Collins Fashion Bar clothing store, walked to a bar late the night of Feb. 10, 1987. After leaving, she was accosted, stabbed in the back and sexually mutilated. Her body was discovered the next morning in a south Fort Collins field.

Masters, arrested 11 years later, was convicted in 1999.

In recent years, attorneys for Masters mounted a case for a new trial, finding hundreds of pages of documents that were not turned over to his original defense team.

They argued that the materials would have boosted his acquittal chances.

But before a judge decided that issue, the DNA evidence came to light, and Masters walked out of court a free man Jan. 22.

In Friday's report, Quick wrote that "the trial prosecutors were not given the four items of evidence described above by the Fort Collins police department."

"Nevertheless, the law imposes upon the prosecution the duty to disclose even if they are unaware of the evidence," the report said.

Quick found no evidence that Fort Collins police Lt. Jim Broderick, one of the lead investigators in the case, intentionally hid information. But it noted that he "did not convert some of his notes to formal reports on matters that should have been disclosed to both the prosecution and defense."

Rocky Mountain News

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prisoner Lawsuit Law Questioned

NEW YORK (AP) — As longtime chairman of the American Conservative Union, David Keene seems an unlikely ally of the American Civil Liberties Union in a prisoners-rights campaign. But this cause is personal.

Keene's son, also named David, is serving time in a federal prison for firearms offenses arising from a 2002 road-rage incident. The son's stymied efforts to lodge complaints have prompted the father to join a liberal-dominated coalition seeking to ease a tough law restricting inmates' ability to file lawsuits.

Along with such advocacy groups as the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Institute, Keene is urging revision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act that Congress enacted in 1996 to curtail frivolous lawsuits by state and federal prisoners.

"The act accomplished part of its purpose, but I don't think the authors foresaw the unintended consequences," the elder Keene said in a telephone interview from his Washington, D.C., office. "It's Congress' job to go back and fix it."

Backers of the act, known as the PLRA, often cited a case in which an inmate sued because he received a jar of crunchy peanut butter instead of the creamy variety he preferred.

The act's impact is dramatic; prisoner lawsuits in federal courts have dropped from roughly 41,000 in 1995 to less than 25,000 annually even while the inmate population surged from 1.5 million to more than 2 million. But critics say many legitimate cases have been blocked — including numerous grievances involving rape and violations of religious freedom.

"It's important to recognize what an extraordinary piece of legislation this is," said David Fathi, director of U.S. programs for Human Rights Watch. "It takes an unpopular, politically powerless group and makes it more difficult for them, and only them, to protect their constitutional rights."

AP Story

Sit, Stay, Start Over- A Real Love Story

Members Lori McLuckie and Bob Gerle are featured in this story. I know that I write about the animals that are trained in prison often, but it's because it's the best thing that can happen to someone who is in. Unconditional love goes a lot further than a nightstick. I know it's long, but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing

In 1996, at the age of 20, Robert Gerle landed in prison. A series of felonies had climaxed in an aggravated assault charge when he took a police officer's gun and left him bound by his own handcuffs.

At a time when most people are just beginning their adult lives, Gerle found himself at something of an ending. A 24-year sentence in front of him, it was difficult to imagine how he would fill his days.

Within a few years, Gerle began teaching math and science inside Arrowhead Correctional Center's GED program in Cañon City. He gained satisfaction from helping other inmates, but after 3 years, it was waning.

Around that time, a rumor began circulating that the "dog program" was coming to Arrowhead. Gerle didn't get too excited. As he points out, "99.9 percent of prison rumors are complete horse hockey."

Then a transferred inmate showed up from the nearby Territorial Correctional Facility. He'd been in the dog program there and soon would be helping facilitate one at Arrowhead — or so Gerle heard.

It wasn't until minor renovations began on one wing of cells on the living unit, with bunks raised to fit kennels and a potty yard constructed outside, that Gerle believed there'd soon be dogs bounding about. Along with many others who met the prerequisites — six months of good behavior, possession of a diploma or GED, and non-sex offender status — he submitted a formal application to join the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program.

The program would rescue dogs from shelters and desperate situations, vaccinate them and then spay or neuter them. At that point, they'd be turned over to inmates to train for sale as companion, service, search and rescue or explosive-detection dogs. The process would take anywhere from a month to the better part of a year for the specialized dogs....On a cold, early January morning, 36-year-old Marion Crawford and his dog for the month, Lucky, stand alongside his teammates and their dogs against the fence of a K-9 agility course outside his cellblock in Territorial Correctional Facility. Above the men, giant spools of barbed wire line a wall of rock quarried from the scarred mountainside behind the prison.

Though the dogs appear at play, their routines are really the culmination of weeks of obedience training. The dogs keep dually focused on the impediments before them and their trainer's commands. As they grow more skilled with each run through the course, the dogs build confidence. So do the men.

"This program saves dogs' lives, and it changes inmates' lives," says Stevens. "It teaches them new life skills. Some people never even learned how to get up in the morning and go to work.

"One of the things that happens in prison is all an inmate can see is "me-me-me,' ... up there on that block [are] 14 men that have to learn to work together."

Today, the program also accepts "boarding-in" dogs from people who are tired of wrestling with behavioral issues. The money that the DOC charges those folks keeps the program afloat.

It's the companionship, and "somebody who loves you unconditionally," according to Crawford, that make the work worthwhile. And it's the simple occurrence that brings light to the otherwise staid environment. For many inmates, the best part of the day is what had been one of the worst — wake-up call.

Crawford, his face lighting up in the retelling, says that each morning the dogs wake up just before the inmates and sit obediently in their kennels, awaiting the morning bell. As soon as it rings and the lights blink on, the dogs scamper wildly out of the kennels and jump into the inmates' beds to say good morning.

"It's lovely," says Crawford. "It happens every day."

After the ritual, the real work begins. The inherent irony in it: People who've been locked up because they seemingly didn't know how to behave properly in society are training dogs to do just that.

In the words of 49-year-old Cobbin, serving a life sentence for armed robbery: "It's not a pet. It's a job."

The specialized skill earns dog trainers $2 per day, along with incentive bonuses; the average offender makes only 60 cents a day. Aside from the canteen money, and something positive to do, the program yields inmates a master trainer's certificate and the option to earn an associate degree in canine behavior modification from the Colorado community-college system.

Second Chances
When Lori McLuckie, 46, was first accepted into the K-9 program, she'd been in prison 14 years. It had been so long since she'd nurtured something that she was afraid she was going "to break" her dog.

Seated in the corner of a drab conference room, a Dachshund mix in her lap, McLuckie speaks softly and chooses her words deliberately.

"It opens you up," she says, "and you tend to close up in here. When you first come to the program ... you feel kinda raw for a while."

McLuckie, in for life on a murder charge, was one of the first five handlers to launch the dog program at the women's correctional facility. It didn't take long for her to grow into it.

Last spring, she was assigned a blind and deaf, mixed-breed dog named Gracie. On her own, the trainer ultimately devised a system based on a combination of scent and touch. She would stomp a foot next to Gracie so the dog could feel the brush of air and vibration on the floor to communicate the sit, stay or disciplinary commands and appeal to Gracie's nose — all dogs' primary sensory unit — with treats.

She, like all the inmates, needs to believe in second chances.

To date, Stevens and Sanguinetti say no major problems have occurred inside the program.

"The inmates police it," says Sanguinetti. "They don't want one of their peers to blow it for all of them."

"Yeah," adds Stevens, "I wouldn't want to be the inmate who caused the dog program to be closed."

Breaking the cycle
Now 32, Robert Gerle is out on intensive supervision parole in metro Denver, having been released into a halfway house in November 2006 and paroled in April 2007. He wears a bracelet that monitors his movements, but he has earned limited freedoms such as a relaxed curfew and driving privileges to work, church and meetings with his parole officer.

Gerle stands out as a success for his thus-far successful transition back into society — especially considering the state's recidivism rate is 49.8 percent, according to the DOC's latest three-year study.

He likes to believe that when the general public sees inmates working hard to save dogs that, in many cases, were steps away from euthanization — that they are changing behavior patterns and creating good companions — perhaps they'll say, "Maybe, maybe, they're not so bad. Maybe there's some redeeming qualities in some of these folks who happen to be locked up for making bad decisions."

That is how Martinez, 30 years old and in for up to 50 years on murder and robbery, hopes society will view her.

"You don't see what I'm here for," she says, "you see what I'm doing."

K-9 Companion program instructor Edward Shallufy says he's heard many inmates say they never cared for anyone or anything outside prison, but now they feel proud to take care of the dogs.

"It's really strange to see a 300-pound guy with muscles bigger than my neck get down on his knees with sweet talk and baby talk ... caring for [the dogs] when they're sick ..."

Gerle understands there will be plenty of skeptics. To them, he points out that most people — 95 to 97 percent, according to Sanguinetti. — will get out of prison someday.

"Do we want them to get out having this attitude that the entire world is against them, or out with some education and skills that will allow them to become the proverbial productive members of society?" he asks. "The dogs were, and continue to be, the single best ambassador between inmates and staff, and between inmates and the public, that we could possibly ask for.

"No matter how well I present myself, I don't have four legs and a tail."



Editorial - Prosecutorial Misconduct

I missed this editorial on Saturday from CCJRC member Tom Carberry. I'm glad I caught it today.

The Timothy Masters case illustrates three related, but not exclusive, reasons the United States has the very worst criminal justice system in the civilized world.

First, we have a scourge of prosecutorial misconduct that has permeated our justice system for decades all over the country. Prosecutors commit misconduct because they know they can get away with it, and even if caught the courts probably will do nothing about it.

More than 60 years ago, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerome Frank wrote: "This court has several times used vigorous language in denouncing government counsel for such conduct as that of the United States Attorney here. But, each time, it has said that, nevertheless, it would not reverse. Such an attitude of helpless piety is, I think, undesirable. It means actual condonation of counsel's alleged offense, coupled with verbal disapprobation. If we continue to do nothing practical to prevent such conduct, we should cease to disapprove it. For otherwise it will be as if we declared in effect, 'Government attorneys, without fear of reversal, may say just about what they please in addressing juries, for our rules on the subject are pretend-rules. If prosecutors win verdicts as a result of "disapproved" remarks, we will not deprive them of their victories; we will merely go through the form of expressing displeasure. The deprecatory words we use in our opinions on such occasions are purely ceremonial.'

"Government counsel, employing such tactics, are the kind who, eager to win victories, will gladly pay the small price of a ritualistic verbal spanking. The practice of this court - recalling the bitter tear shed by the Walrus as he ate the oysters - breeds a deplorably cynical attitude towards the judiciary."

Nothing has changed.

Second, ineffective assistance of defense counsel happens routinely.

Although we have many excellent criminal defense lawyers, the terrible ones greatly outnumber the good ones. Again, the courts have set the standard for constitutional effective assistance of counsel so low that if a person has a law degree and can fog up a mirror, they have provided effective assistance.

Finally, we have courts filled with judges selected on the basis of who they know, rather on what they know. Our judiciary, both federal and state, and around the country, will do virtually anything to uphold a conviction. Our courts will do almost anything to let evidence in for the prosecution, no matter how spurious, and they will do almost anything to keep exculpatory evidence out. The opinions of the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in the Masters case illustrate this point.

Unfortunately, for every Timothy Masters who finally gets justice, we have thousands of other innocent people rotting in prison because of our broken judicial system.

Rocky Mountain News

OSI Offers $10 Million To Close The Treatment Gap

George Soros' Open Society Institute (OSI) has announced the availability of $10 million in grants to communities seeking systemic changes to provide treatment on demand for individuals with alcohol and other drug problems.

The Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap initiative "is designed to create an awareness of -- and increase resources to close -- an alarming treatment gap: currently, four out of five Americans who need drug and alcohol addiction treatment are unable to get it," according to OSI. "The initiative aims to mobilize public support for expanded treatment by increasing public funding, broadening insurance coverage, and achieving greater program efficiency."

"The basic intent is assuring equal access to institutions and services by all people," said Victor A. Capoccia, Ph.D., head of OSI's Baltimore office, which pioneered the project as part of its Tackling Drug Addiction program area. Grants of up to $600,000 will be awarded to "multi-stakeholder partnerships in jurisdictions at the state, county or city level," according to the program announcement.

Activities that may be supported under the grants include information gathering and dissemination, communications, and public-policy advocacy. Projects in the half-dozen or more communities chosen to participate in Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap initiative will be expected to develop and advance specific solutions to systemic problems that prevent delivery of treatment services.

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Senators Won't Heed Mukasey's Request

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats on Tuesday rejected Attorney General Michael Mukasey's request to change new sentencing guidelines that would enable thousands of federal inmates to seek reductions in their crack cocaine sentences.

In testimony last week, Mukasey asked Congress to pass legislation by March 3 that would block or alter the U.S. Sentencing Commission's directive to apply the possibility for reduced sentences retroactively to people already convicted of crimes involving crack cocaine. The retroactivity could flood courts with applications for early release of thousands of violent criminals, the Justice Department says.

But Democrats and others have long sought ways to correct the fact that the law comes down on crack offenders 100 times harder than those convicted of crimes involving powdered cocaine, and blacks are disproportionately affected by the disparity.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., accused Mukasey of falsely suggesting that the new policy would automatically set free 1,600 violent offenders “to prey on hapless communities.”

“As the attorney general, himself a former federal judge, should have known ... no one can be released without a hearing before a federal judge who is obligated to evaluate each case and to consider factors such as the criminal history and violence,” Leahy said in a statement.

“We can't let such scare tactics by the administration deter us from our goal of achieving fairness and legitimacy in the criminal justice system,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

San Diego Sign On

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Truancy Bill Killed In Committee

HB 1004 which would have made truancy a crime was killed in the House Judiciary today when it failed to get a second when asked to send it to the floor. Great testimony from CCJRC, CPC, Padres Unidos, and La Acadamia to name a few.

HB 1004 -Allows a uniformed law enforcement officer who has probable
cause to believe that a child is truant to take the child into temporary
custody for the purpose of returning the child to school authorities....

Panel Passes Sealing Bill

DENVER - People paying for a mistake they made decades ago might soon get a hand from the Legislature. House Bill 1082, introduced by Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, will allow people convicted of certain types of misdemeanors to have their criminal records sealed. The bill also applies to people convicted of felonies for possession of small amounts of drugs. Ferrandino’s bill passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 6-5 vote Tuesday. It now moves to the Appropriations Committee. Only ex-convicts who have completed their sentences and kept clean records for 10 years would be eligible. Certain convictions, including sex offenses, child abuse, stalking, identity theft and drunken driving, cannot be sealed. Ferrandino says he thinks up to 1,200 people a year might apply. A judge would have to approve their requests, and district attorneys can ask the judge to reject them. Currently, only people convicted as juveniles can have their records sealed. Adults who were not charged with a crime, or who have had charges dropped because of a plea bargain, can request to have records sealed after 15 years.

El Paso County Inmates Let Themselves Out

COLORADO SPRINGS — Inmates at the El Paso County Jail have been using paper and Saran Wrap to open their cell doors.

Sheriff Terry Maketa showed an 8-minute video to county commissioners Monday that showed how the inmates freed themselves from their cells but not from their pods. The video is a re-enactment used to train deputies.

"We had one inmate, it was time for him to do his video visitation, so he let himself out to go do it," said Dennis Hisey, chairman of the board of county commissioners.

In another instance, Hisey said, a couple of inmates got out of their cell, went to another cell, jimmied that lock and assaulted another inmate.

Lt. Lari Sevene, spokeswoman for the sheriff, said inmates have popped locks four times in the past six weeks.

Inmates also have torn teeth from a comb and used the plastic to keep the deadbolt from completely engaging.

The problem, Maketa said, is that the jail has too many high-risk inmates in a medium-security facility. The county closed its high-security facility in 2005 because of safety concerns. That facility housed 300 to 400 inmates.

The Denver Post

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Record Sealing Passes House Judiciary

This editorial ran in Saturday's Rocky Mountain News.
The Rocky Mountain News comes out against record sealing bill...

"Should someone who commits a crime be able to conceal the conviction from the public after maintaining a clean record for 10 years after completing the sentence and any additional restrictions? Or should the public's right to see that record - an essential principle of open government and accountability - be preserved? This is what the debate over House Bill 1082 is all about.

Proponents of HB 1082 argue that those who make one serious mistake in life deserve a second chance. They hold up as examples some now-respectable citizens who, they say, remain haunted decades later by a single conviction, particularly when seeking employment or housing. They point out that a person's history is easy to dredge up in today's Information Age.

We applaud second chances, too. And we'll concede that personal information is infinitely easier to access than ever before. But we also believe that actions have consequences, even though, in most cases, those consequences should diminish over time - and almost always do. People rarely judge someone with a single old conviction for possession of illegal drugs the same as they do someone convicted of the same offense last week.

HB 1082 is the reincarnation of last year's House Bill 1107, which Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed. This year's version includes amendments made to the 2007 bill as well as additional revisions negotiated this week with the governor in the hope of gaining his signature this time around.

A hearing on the latest version is scheduled for Tuesday. The bill would allow Class 5 and 6 drug felonies (possession offenses) to be sealed after the waiting period, and many misdemeanor offenses, excluding the most serious, such as those involving child abuse. It also requires district attorney approval and court review before a request to have a conviction sealed can be granted.

Without doubt the bill is better than last year's. However, no amount of tweaking will alter the reality that it will conceal once-public records - and through a process that will inevitably favor the well-heeled and well-connected.

Given the bargaining that has occurred, it appears likely the governor will sign this bill into law if it passes. Even so, we will always feel he was right the first time about the wisdom of sealing records."

If you feel strongly about getting this legislation passed, please write a letter to the editor in support of the record sealing bill.

Shorter letters are considered first for print publication and edited least.

Submissions must include writer’s name, address and daytime phone number.

Letters must be original, not copied from another source.

Letters to the Editor
Rocky Mountain News
101 W. Colfax Ave., Suite 500,
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 954-2568

It is vitally important that legislators hear from you on the importance and impact of

this bill.

HB 1082 passed out of the House Judiciary today and is headed to Appropriations.

Colorado law does not allow a person with a criminal conviction to seal their record – regardless of the nature of the criminal conviction, the length of time since the conviction, or evidence of rehabilitation. Last year, a similar record sealing bill (HB 07-1107) was passed by the House and Senate but vetoed by Governor Ritter. Governor Ritter has indicated that he does not object to the bill in concept but wants to have more crimes excluded from eligibility for sealing. The bill sponsor is in continued negotiations with the Governor's office.

Summary: This bill would allow people convicted of select crimes to petition the Court to seal a criminal record for only lower level drug possession crimes and some misdemeanors after they completed their sentence and been offense free for 10 years.

· The Court does not have to order the sealing. The Court is required to balance the privacy rights of the petitioner against the public’s right to know on a case by case basis.

· For offenses committed before July 1, 2008, the District Attorney will have to agree before the Court can order the record sealed.

· Law enforcement will always have access to any sealed record.

· Third parties may petition the Court to unseal a record and the names of all people petitioning the court to seal a criminal record will be posted on the judicial website for 30 days.

· The petitioner must have paid all of the fines, fees, costs and restitution ordered in the criminal case. The petitioner will also pay a filing fee that is sufficient to cover the cost of the proceeding.