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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

From Prison To Work

JACKSONVILLE -- There is another way.

As Jacksonville works to curb its crime rate, five ex-offenders come home to Duval, St. Johns and Clay counties every hour, or about 4,000 monthly.

More than half of them will return to prison, costing taxpaxers about $22,000 for each year they're locked up. This doesn't include the emotional cost suffered by their families and communities, nor does it include the incalculable impacts on the area's economy.

The alternative is re-entry programs, which have gained traction nationwide as businesses find value not just in hiring hard-working employees but also in helping the community.

The Ready4Work program, which costs $4,100 per ex-offender and has a 5 percent recidivism rate, is expected to save taxpayers $5.4 million this year, said Kevin Gay, executive director of Operation New Hope, which runs the local program. Seventy percent to 75 percent of the more than 300 ex-offenders whom the program has placed in jobs since 2005 are expected to stay employed.

"Ready4Work has proven that the ex-offender population wants to work," Gay said. "It all came down to economics. We needed to create a business model that would empower people."

Gay did just that after leaving the insurance industry to start the nonprofit Operation New Hope. In his business travels, he saw poverty and crime-ridden communities in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Baltimore that were gentrified, but whose original residents did not benefit enough.

In addition to helping ex-offenders enter the work force, Ready4Work gives referrals for child support, food stamp residency, legal aid and other services.

By the end of 2008, about 500 ex-offenders are expected to use the program. Of the 45 ex-offenders who have been placed in jobs this year, 43 are still employed.

Biz Journal

California - Reduce Prison Population By 40,000

SAN FRANCISCO—A federal court referee is recommending that California's prison population be cut by nearly 40,000 inmates over the next four years.

There is little agreement over how to accomplish that, leading a special judicial panel on Friday to grant more time for settlement talks.

The three-judge panel says it will set a trial in November if the state, inmate advocacy groups, law enforcement organizations and others fail to agree on ways to solve prison crowding. They have 30 days to reach a settlement.

The federal courts could order an immediate release of inmates or cap the prison population, actions the Schwarzenegger administration and others want to avoid.

The court-appointed referee who is trying to negotiate a settlement says the state's 170,000 inmates should be reduced to about 132,000 by the end of 2011.

Referee Elwood Lui is proposing the population be trimmed by diverting parole violators and some convicts serving short sentences into community treatment or alternative-punishment programs.

Attorneys for the state, counties and local law enforcement say they are not yet ready to accept his proposed settlement. Republican lawmakers also have raised objections.

The Mercury News

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lawyer Alleges Cover Up In Jail Death

After settling a wrongful-death suit against Denver Health Medical Center for $4 million this week, the family of Emily Rice began applying pressure on the city of Denver to settle a similar case.

At a news conference in front of the Denver City and County building today, lawyers for Rice's family accused Denver officials of engaging in a widespread coverup to deny responsibility for Rice's jailhouse death.

While lawyer Darold Killmer lauded Denver Health, he said the attitude of Denver officials has been far different.

"The City and County of Denver has not stepped forward to accept any accountability, any responsibility, or any acknowledgment of the harm," said Killmer.

"There has been a significant coverup. There have been so-called investigations which were designed to whitewash the problem," added Killmer. "Every investigation officially launched by the city of which we are aware has been designed to help them defend themselves rather than to find the truth."

The Denver Post

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prison Nation - National Geographic

Airing on June 1

Denver Health Settles In Case Of Emily Rices Death

Congratulations goes out to Darrold and Mari!! Our deepest condolences continue to go out to the Rice family.

A settlement has been reached between Denver Health Medical Center and the family of Emily Rice, who died at the Denver jail two years ago.

Details of the settlement, which includes changes in policies at the hospital, will be revealed at a press conference in front of the City and County Building Friday morning.

The hospital also has agreed to pay millions of dollars to the family, according Darold Killmer and Mari Newman, attorneys for the Rice family.

On Feb. 19, 2006, Emily Rice, then 24, died of massive internal injuries to her spleen and liver.

She had suffered the injuries in an automobile accident earlier but they were not detected or treated by Denver Health Medical Center, which released her.

The settlement with Denver Health Medical Center does not affect the Rice family's lawsuit against the city of Denver and the Denver Sheriff Department.

The Rice family claims that sheriff department staff members repeatedly ignored Emily Rice and other inmates' pleas for medical attention for her injuries.

Rocky Mountain News

Adams VS. CCA

Good news today. The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling that the inmates had to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing suit, making new law in Colorado in a lengthy well-reasoned opinion which addressed every argument made by CCA and rejected every argument. The opinion can be found on the internet under “Colorado Court of Appeals”, decisions rendered on May 29, ----Adams et al v. CCA.


Plaintiffs, Vance A. Adams and eighty-four other individuals, were incarcerated in the Crowley County Correctional Facility (CCCF), a private prison housing inmates pursuant to a contract with the Colorado Department of Corrections, at the time of a July 2004 riot at CCCF. They brought this action against defendants, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which owns CCCF, and several CCA employees, alleging that they were not involved in the 2004 riot but nevertheless sustained injuries as a result of defendants’ acts and omissions before, during, and after the riot. Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages on theories of negligence, assault and battery, outrageous conduct, and civil conspiracy. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to section 13-17.5-102.3(1), C.R.S. 2007, and additionally dismissed the claim for punitive damages as premature. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiffs contend the trial court erred in dismissing their complaint because section 13-17.5-102.3(1) does not require
exhaustion of remedies where only common law tort claims are asserted. We agree.

Denver Panel Signs Off On Pot

The mayor's marijuana review panel voted 5-4 Wednesday to recommend to the City Council that Denver stop prosecuting adults for possession of small amounts of pot.

Backers of the resolution called it a another step in the right direction for Denver voters who passed an initiative in 2005 to remove penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

In 2007, voters passed another initiative making the arrest and prosecution of adults who possess marijuana "the city's lowest law enforcement priority."

"This sends a strong message, and hopefully (police and prosecutors) will be taking that into account," said Brian Vicente, panel chairman and a supporter of the resolution.

Even with Wednesday's vote, the review panel won't be forwarding the recommendation to the City Council until 2009, when it will also will provide the number of Denver arrests for marijuana possession and the number of prosecutions conducted by the city attorney's office.

Vincent A. DiCroce, an assistant city attorney and panel member, voted against the resolution, saying it was premature for the panel to make recommendations when it hasn't yet collected those statistics.

DiCroce, director of prosecution for the city attorney, also questioned whether the City Council could dictate to his office how to carry out its prosecutorial duties.

In a related development, DiCroce said he has been in talks with the chief county judge to streamline the process for people given citations for marijuana possession.

DiCroce said under proposed procedures, suspects would no longer be required to appear before a judge and attend court hearings. Instead, anyone arrested would be able to pay fines by mail, similar to the way people pay fines for parking tickets.

At a previous meeting, DiCroce said his office doesn't pursue many petty marijuana cases anyway.

Mason Tvert, panel member and executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER, which helped lead the passage of the voter initiatives, said he had mixed feelings about the proposed changes. Tvert said the city attorney's office is taking the initiatives seriously because it's becoming easier for people who have been arrested for pot possession to avoid the court's bureaucracy.

"Overall, it's a good step forward because it shows that the city's coming around to understand that it's not worth its time and resources to worry about cases of adult marijuana possession," Tvert said.

On the other hand, he said, by making it easier for the accused to pay fines, they are admitting guilt.

"This just makes it easier for people to check off a box as opposed to going to court and hearing their options and understanding they could plead not guilty," Tvert said. "This makes it easier for them to keep doing what they're doing and issuing citations. We don't think they should be issuing citations at all and neither do the people of Denver."

Voting in favor: Tvert; Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado; Philip A. Cherner, defense lawyer; Frank Moya, defense attorney and the resolution's author; and Sandy Mullins, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.

Voting against: DiCroce; Denver police Lt. Ernie Martinez, president of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association; Councilman Doug Linkhart; and Dora-Lee Larson, representative of the Denver Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.


Rocky Mountain News

Tapia Pushing Pueblo For DOC Headquarters

Colorado's Department of Corrections wants a new headquarters building and state Sen. Abel Tapia is pushing for Pueblo's business community to rally together to make a winning pitch.

The clock is running, too, because corrections officials are asking for all the competing "requests for proposals" to be submitted by mid-June.

"You're talking about 200 well-paying jobs and we should be doing all we can to get it," said Tapia, the Pueblo Democrat who is also Senate president pro tem. "My experience on the (Legislature's) Joint Budget Committee tells me the final decision will be based on the best price."

Toward that goal, Tapia has helped organize meetings of the Pueblo Economic Development Corp., Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, Pueblo County and city officials to focus on how to fashion a winning proposal.

"PEDCo is determining if we can have a role in this," said Keith Swerdfeger, interim president of the economic development group. "We're talking to a broad base of businesses and we believe the community should put its best foot forward in making a proposal to the state." Right now, the state corrections division is headquartered in an office building in southern Colorado Springs. Tapia said the lease on the building will expire in 2010 and the building has been plagued with problems. DOC officials have made it clear they want a new headquarters, resulting in the state asking for proposals from Front Range communities from Pueblo to Douglas County.

"El Paso County lawmakers aren't going to want to lose these jobs either," Tapia said.

Pueblo has one obvious site for the headquarters - the state-owned land on the north side of 24th Street, across from the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. "We're going to have to be creative," Tapia said. "That site has the advantage of the state already owning the property. There are other sites around the city as well. Whatever site we put forward, we are going to need architectural, financing and construction expertise."
Pueblo Chieftain

SAFER Needs Your Help


The Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel appointed by Mayor John
Hickenlooper has officially recommended that the Denver City
Attorney's Office STOP prosecuting adults for marijuana possession in


It is critical that we demonstrate the strong sentiment of the public
in favor of implementing this recommendation. You can help bring about
change in how Colorado's capitol city handles marijuana by taking just
one or two minutes to send a message to Denver city officials urging
them to support and/or follow this recommendation.

You do NOT need to live in Denver OR Colorado to lend your voice to
this effort!


OPTION #1: Copy & Paste

Step 1: Open a blank e-mail

Step 2: Copy and paste the following address list, subject, and
message into your e-mail

Step 3: Hit send!

Address list:

milehighmayor@ci.denver.co.us, city.attorney@denvergov.org,
rick.garcia@ci.denver.co.us, jeanne.faatz@ci.denver.co.us,
paul.lopez@ci.denver.co.us, peggy.lehmann@ci.denver.co.us,
marcia.johnson@ci.denver.co.us, charlie.brown@ci.denver.co.us,
chris.nevitt@gmail.com, carla.madison@ci.denver.co.us,
judy.montero@ci.denver.co.us, jeanne.robb@ci.denver.co.us,
michael.hancock@ci.denver.co.us, carol.boigon@ci.denver.co.us,

Subject: Support Mayor's panel recommendation

Message: (Be sure to include your name and address if you reside in

I am writing to encourage you to support the implementation of the
first recommendation of the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel.

The majority of the panel approved the recommendation, which calls
for the Denver City Attorney's Office to adopt an official policy to
no longer prosecute cases of private adult marijuana possession.

The Marijuana Policy Review Panel was appointed by the mayor to
implement the "lowest law enforcement priority" ordinance approved by
Denver voters to the greatest extent possible, and this recommendation
would bring about the changes the majority of voters wish to see.
Denver voters have made it clear they do not think adults 21 and
older should be punished simply for possessing a drug less harmful
than alcohol, and it is my understanding that the Denver City
Attorney's Office is able to refrain from prosecuting in such cases.
Thus, I hope you will urge that office to follow the recommendation.

In Missoula, Mont., where a similar "lowest law enforcement
priority" initiative was adopted in 2006, the Missoula County
Attorney's Office adopted an official policy to uphold the new
ordinance and stop prosecuting in cases of simple adult marijuana
possession. Seattle and a number of California cities have also
adopted "lowest priority" ordinances and experienced a decline in
prosecutions for marijuana possession. Like the people in those
cities, Denver citizens are ahead of the curve when it comes to
reforming marijuana laws and policies, and we too can take a more
common-sense approach to marijuana use by adults.

Although marijuana possession is only punishable by a $100-$200 fine
in Denver, it is important that you understand the detrimental effect
a marijuana arrest can have on an individual. Everyone who pays their
citation (and thus pleads guilty) receives a permanent drug conviction
on their criminal record; people can lose their jobs, college
financial aid, professional licenses, public housing benefits, and
more; and those on parole or probation could find themselves in one
of our already overcrowded jails or prisons.

For those reasons and more, the voter-approved ordinance was
endorsed by the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the ACLU of Colorado,
the National Lawyers Guild Colorado Chapter, the Rocky Mountain Peace
and Justice Center, the Libertarian Party of Colorado, the Green Party
of Colorado, ProgressNow Action, and Sensible Colorado, among others.

I hope you will join these organizations, the majority of Denver
voters, and me in standing up for a more rational approach to adult
marijuana possession in Denver.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration and I look
forward to hearing where you stand on the panel's recommendation.

OPTION #2: Get Personal

Send a personalized version of the above message to the mayor, the
city attorney, the council president, your council members (don't
forget the two at-large members), or all of the above. You can also
give them a quick phone call with a similar message.

Please be courteous and be sure to include your name and address if
you reside in Denver. If you reside outside of Denver or in another
state we encourage you to mention you hold Denver's progress on this
issue in high esteem and hope it serves as an example for your city
or town.

Mayor John Hickenlooper - milehighmayor@ci.denver.co.us

- 720-865-9090

City Attorney David Fine - city.attorney@denvergov.org

- 720-865-8600

Councilman Rick Garcia - rick.garcia@ci.denver.co.us

- 303-458-4792

Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz - jeanne.faatz@ci.denver.co.us

- 303-763-8562

Councilman Paul Lopez - paul.lopez@ci.denver.co.us

- 303-922-7755

Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann - peggy.lehmann@ci.denver.co.us

- 303-504-5781

Councilwoman Marcia Johnson - http://marcia.johnson@ci.denver.co.us
- 303-355-4615

Councilman Charlie Brown - http://charlie.brown@ci.denver.co.us
- 303-871-0601

Councilman Chris Nevitt - http://chris.nevitt@ci.denver.co.us
- 303-865-8900

Councilwoman Carla Madison - http://carla.madison@ci.denver.co.us
- 303-298-7641

Councilwoman Judy Montero - http://judy.montero@ci.denver.co.us
- 303-458-8960

Councilwoman Jeanne Robb - http://jeanne.robb@ci.denver.co.us
- 303-377-1807

Council President Michael Hancock -
- 303-331-3872

Councilwoman Carol Boigon - http://carol.boigon@ci.denver.co.us
- 720-865-8100

Councilman Doug Linkhart - http://linkhartatlarge@ci.denver.co.us
- 720-865-8000

Spread the Word

After you've taken action and contacted Denver city officials, please
be sure to forward this message to any friends, family, coworkers, or
others who might also be interested in taking action in support of
marijuana policy reform.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

$10,000 Credit? Get It For Hiring An Ex Con In Philly

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — One-time thief Heber Nixon Jr. has filled out his share of futile job applications. All said being a felon wouldn't stand in his way — but the promised calls from managers never came.

He finally got a second chance when he showed up at a construction site looking for work and found a sympathetic builder.

Now, the city of Philadelphia is making a concerted effort to encourage the hiring of ex-convicts amid a renewed interest nationwide in dealing with high recidivism, growing crime rates and exploding prison populations.

Philadelphia averaged a murder a day the past two years and has been sued to reduce its overcrowded, record-high jail population.

So on his 100th day in office last month, Mayor Michael Nutter announced a program, being headed by an ex-offender, that gives $10,000 a year in municipal tax credits to companies that hire former prisoners and provide them tuition support or vocational training.

"This is one of the best crime-prevention programs we'll ever have," he said.

Initiatives to help former prisoners re-enter society have become a renewed priority across the country as new data shine a spotlight on staggering rates of incarceration and recidivism.

For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, a study released in February found. Federal data show about 700,000 people are released from state and federal prisons each year.

Michael Thompson, director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center, said the level of interest in finding ways to keep ex-prisoners from repeat offenses is unprecedented. "It's really quite extraordinary," he said.

AP Report

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prison Guard Who Sexually Assualted Woman In Jail

DENVER - A guard who used to watch the jail, was in jail this week, after being charged with having a sexual affair with a female inmate, then repeatedly missing his court hearings.

The sex behind bars is a crime in itself for former Sgt. Leshawn Terrell, but it's not half as shocking as the charges contained in the inmate's lawsuit against the guard, filed this month.

Police first charged the Terrell in 2006 for the sexual relationship.

And now an inmate at the Denver Women's Correction Facility, who's name we have chosen not to use, is telling her story in a Federal law suit, claiming Terrell made her a "virtual sex slave"; coerced her into repeatedly having sex with him in the kitchen cooler over the course of five months in exchange for coffee, stamps and money; and then sexually assaulted her so savagely, the inmate sustained internal injuries according to her lawyer.

"She's been assaulted in ways that are so inhumane and so offensive we can't talke about them on tv," Mari Newman told us.

What's more, she says, her client wasn't alone.

"What I've learned after the filing, I've got many many e-mails about other similar cases, and this is a problem system wide in the Colorado Department of Corrections," Newan said.
Fox News

Marijuana Panel To Promote City Action

Denver Marijuana Panel considering big proposal this week

Following Denver voters' approval of SAFER's "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative last year, Mayor John Hickenlooper established a Marijuana Policy Review Panel to implement the law to the greatest extent possible and study the issue.

At the panel's meeting this Wednesday it will consider recommending to city officials that the Denver City Attorney's Office should stop prosecuting cases of private adult marijuana possession. If the recommendation is approved it will be included in a report to the Denver City Council as an official recommendation from the mayor-appointed panel. Such a bold proposal at just the panel's third meeting is a good sign that there is a lot more action to come.

They Do Graduate

Sometimes all it takes is a little creativity to get kids to finish. Everyone can't work within the rigidity of a public school. What a great program and opportunity. This is what prevention looks like, I can imagine what the lifetime cost savings could be for the community.

Twenty-year-old Danielle McGuire was getting herself ready for her job at McDonald's and scooting her 2-year-old son out the door for preschool when she got the call.

Caseworker Brian Brinkerhoff wanted her to finish high school.

Somehow over the din of her harried life as a young, single mother trying to pay the rent, she heard Brinkerhoff's message about a unique program that offered a flexible schedule, relevant classes and a new career path.

And now McGuire is among 10 graduates of a new Denver high school tailored for students who hate high school.

There's Chris Martinez, who was so bored and disenchanted at West High School that he left to take a job in construction. With his new diploma, he has a paid welding internship at Xcel Energy this summer.

And Destiny Reed, who, with a teenage bipolar diagnosis acted out and eventually left school to work at Blockbuster. Now she's working at a day care, hoping to eventually get certified to run her own.

The graduates have wildly diverse backgrounds — one was enrolled in a Christian high school, and another spent years in foster homes and homeless shelters after his father shot out the boy's kneecaps.

A common thread, as the teachers see it, is the decision to step back into a school building.

"I'd be a manager at McDonald's if it wasn't for this," McGuire said.

The Denver Post

At Risk Kids Paired With Rescued Dogs

This is a great idea. The use the dog program in prisons around the country and they are among some of the most successful ideas to help people. It's not about job training so much as it is about learning to be a better person.

Put any kid with any dog and you'll see two happy faces.

And if that kid and that dog share histories of abuse and abandonment, you'll see a bond develop that changes both of their lives.

No one could be more pleased about this than Richie, a freckle-faced fifth grader, and Fanny, his furry, four-legged friend at an Englewood dog shelter.

"Everybody says she's a hard dog to teach," Richie said. "Now, since she knows me, she allows me to calm down, and she's like not scared to learn her tricks because she knows me."

Richie and the other kids in this program that pairs at-risk children with shelter dogs don't give their last names or the cities where they live to protect their privacy and maintain their safety.

Once a week for the past couple of months, Richie, along with a half-dozen or so other Denver-area kids, referred by the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, visit the Englewood headquarters of Freedom Service Dogs to work with the animals.

With the help of a certified trainer, the children teach the dogs tricks such as rolling over, fetching and shaking paws and in turn learn lessons of their own: patience, confidence, compassion.

Rocky Mountain News

Monday, May 26, 2008

Prison ID Program

May 17, 2008 02:45 am

CANON CITY - More than 50 inmates were photographed and fingerprinted Thursday, but this time, instead of going through booking to get into prison, they were getting their ticket to freedom. The photos and fingerprints were for driver’s licenses and state identification cards which newly paroled inmates will need for everything from getting a job to finding a place to live.

The program goal - bringing the driver's license bureau to prison - is designed to ease the transition from prison to the streets for inmates within 120 days of release, said Bill Zolman, who oversees the program for the Department of Corrections. It is a new program blossoming under the urging of Gov. Bill Ritter and bolstered by a cooperative spirit between the Colorado Department of Revenue's Driver’s License Bureau and DOC.

"This is one of the first times in the nation, that corrections and the driver's licensing authority, have worked this close together," Zolman said. "These men and women need these IDs to secure employment and get a bank account. "The program helps serve what the governor wants to do to reduce recidivism and ease the transition from prison to the streets."

A total of 90 to 100 inmates from Canon City, Buena Vista, Crowley and Arkansas Valley prisons were processed through the mini driver's license bureau this week. "We started the program six months ago and this is the second time we've done it," Zolman said.

Department of Motor Vehicle Director Joan Vecchi, with the help of two employees, set up the miniature driver’s license bureau at the East Canon Prison Complex visitor's center complete with computer, fingerprint machine, camera, blue photo backdrop and printer.

Just prior to establishing the lab at the prison complex, motor vehicle employee Aggie Garcia is provided with a list of names. She runs them through the system to see who qualifies for a drivers license, or, if the privilege is revoked, who will need a state identification card.

"Every once in a while we do mobile labs like this at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, places where people have a hard time getting out," Vecchi said. "The equipment vendor suggests we don't do it because moving the equipment is hard on it with the wear and tear." Because DOC releases, on average, 40 to 50 inmates a day, the license program, ideally, should be conducted once a month.

"If we could do it on a monthly basis, one day both in Canon City and maybe one day in Denver at Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, we could hit the vast majority of people," Zolman said. "Not everyone leaving needs this - some still retain their IDs and some are not interested."
Vecchi foresees a day when she can leave a set of equipment at the East Canon Prison Complexvisitor's center permanently to make the task easier. She also is hopeful she will get two new employees to run the mobile labs on a monthly basis.

Once the IDs are made, they are sent to the prison the inmate will be leaving, the address they will be paroling to, or even the shelter they will go to if they are homeless. Territorial prison inmate Robert Pullen was one of the inmates getting an ID Thursday. He is three weeks away from release.

"I'm grateful and I want to thank them for giving us this opportunity to do this," Pullen said. "This needed to happen because I've heard others couldn't get an ID, couldn't get a job and they end up right back in prison." As for Pullen, he has no intention of coming back. Now that he has his ID and a new Social Security card, as well as a job and place to live lined up, he has no plans to ever return to prison.

"I learned a lesson the hard way and I've paid my dues. It (making it on the outside) won't be a problem," he said.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reincarcerted: Experiences of Men Returning To Prison

This is a report that was issued by the Urban Institute last month. It's an exhaustive study that looks at why people are returning to prison.
Urban Institute

Drug Tests For Students Out Of Line - Editorial

Whether your son plays on his high school's football or chess teams, or your daughter is the school's premier debater or basketball star, they could be required to submit to a random drug test if they want to participate. The kid who just shows up for class every day, though, will never have to worry about being singled out, maybe even if there's reason to suspect he or she is using drugs.

That's the bottom line of a movement that is gaining acceptance and being adopted in an increasing number of school districts in many states. In Colorado, random drug testing for students participating in extracurricular activities is policy in three districts and under serious consideration in at least a dozen more.

The program is being promoted by President Bush's Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the idea has been received favorably by many educators. Some parents, who feel something must be done about drug use in schools, support it, too - even though detecting drug use by randomly testing students is like firing into the forest and hoping a deer walks into the shot.

To us, the flaws in random student drug testing are obvious, and outweigh the justifications advanced by all who advocate it.

Rocky Mountain News

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dying Over Drug Politics

The conflict over state and federal medical marijuana laws must be resolved.

California and 12 other states now allow the use of medical marijuana, yet the federal government does not.

That means sick people with authorization from their doctors to use marijuana are still in legal jeopardy, that California employers can fire workers who use marijuana recommended by a physician, and that people in need of an organ transplant can be barred from organ-transplant waiting lists.

Too bad there is not a common-sense transplant.

The Star wrote last month about a Seattle man, Timothy Garon, denied a spot on an organ-transplant list because he had used medical marijuana, authorized by his physician, for symptoms related to Hepatitis C.

The University of Washington Medical Center, which has strict rules about organ recipients' drug use, denied Mr. Garon a shot at a new liver, in part, because marijuana is illegal under federal law.

He died May 1. Continued at the Ventura Star

Friday, May 23, 2008

Warrant Issued For Former Corrections Officer Accused Of Rape

Thanks goes out to Erin for the heads up on this story. It is a sad testament that this practice continues in the state and private prison industry. Mari Newman is a an exceptional attorney and we applaud her efforts.

By Erin Rosa 05/23/2008

An arrest warrant has been issued for a former prison guard with the Colorado Department of Corrections who is facing both civil and criminal charges of sexual misconduct with inmates, including rape.

The corrections officer failed to appear in court on Tuesday for criminal charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a female inmate he used to supervise, according to Denver district court records. A civil suit filed earlier this month accuses the same guard of raping a female inmate while she was in state custody.

District court records show that 37-year-old Lashawn Terrell, a former sergeant at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility, was first charged by state authorities with engaging in sexual relations with an inmate at the prison in 2006. The sexual acts were reported to have taken place from June to October that year, according to legal statements in the case.

Court records show that Terrell was arrested for the first offense and incarcerated briefly before being released on a $10,000 bond in November 2006.

The case is still pending, and clerks with the district court confirmed that a warrant had been issued for Terrell for failure to appear for a hearing on Tuesday.

On May 13, Mari Newman with Killmer, Lane & Newman, a legal firm that focuses on civil rights issues, filed a lawsuit against Terrell and the state corrections department claiming that the former guard raped and sodomized an inmate at the women's correctional facility in 2006 and that the department had failed to act to stop the abuse.

It is unclear whether there is more than one accuser since the names of possible sexual assault victims are redacted before records are made public.

Newman did not respond to a request for comment, but according to the legal brief, Terrell is alleged to have coerced the female inmate into engaging in sexual acts in the kitchen cooler area in the facility during her work assignment program.

Terrell then "proceeded to treat [the inmate] as a virtual sex slave," even though the inmate "told him she did not want to have sex with him," according to the brief. In exchange for the sexual acts, Terrell is alleged to have given the inmate small amounts of "money, stamps, and coffee."

According to the lawsuit, the rapes escalated to a point where the inmate was forcibly sodomized by Terrell and physically injured in the rectal area, causing long-term bowel difficulties. The legal brief states that a cellmate notified department authorities when she noticed the inmate was bleeding upon returning to her cell.

The suit also claims that other inmates at the women's facility had seen Terrell raping or engaging in sexual behavior with other inmates, and that the corrections department was negligent in letting such things happen in a state facility.

In response to inquires about Terrell and the two legal cases, department spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said she could not comment on pending litigation. The department has yet to respond to the suit in court.

Attempts to contact Terrell were unsuccessful
Colorado Springs Independent

Ritter Vetoes Direct File Bill

Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday fulfilled defense lawyer predictions and vetoed legislation that would have allowed judges to require violent teen offenders to be tried as juveniles instead of adults in some cases.

The veto of House Bill 1208 leaves in place a system that allows prosecutors to determine whether teen felons should face adult prisons and penalties of up to 40 years behind bars.

"I believe HB 1208 would alter a system that has not been shown to be defective," said Ritter, a former Denver district attorney who helped craft the current law in 1993. Current policies "have adequately and fairly addressed the problems that beset our state in 1993."

The tougher stance on teen crime followed the so-called "Summer of Violence," where several bystanders, including young children, were injured or killed by gang-related gunfire.

Critics say that district attorneys have too much discretion in how teens are charged.

The Denver Post

Thursday, May 22, 2008

State Officials Defend Privates

DENVER - The Colorado Department of Corrections will have a new carrot - or stick - to use in its dealings with private prisons starting this summer.

Under a new law approved by the Colorado Legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter, the department will be able to withhold inmate per diem money if a private prison doesn't comply with conditions of its contract.

The measure, detailed in HB1363, allows the DOC to negotiate as part of its annual contracts with private prison companies what per diem rate it will pay, and how much extra it can give up to a maximum rate set by the Legislature each year.

Currently, that rate is $52.69 per inmate a day, but is set to increase 4.25 percent next year, bringing that per diem to $54.90 a day.

"It gives us some flexibility, a tool to work with a private facility that emphasizes public safety and improved outcomes," DOC Executive Director Ari Zavaras said of the new law. "The way it was set before is, whatever the per diem is, that's what we had to pay," he said. "What we have the ability to do now is if minimum staffing patterns aren't met, we can actually reduce per diems. That gives the privates the incentive to staff them appropriately. It's also going to give us the ability to negotiate programs, which should improve outcomes that directly relate to recidivism."

Though private prisons routinely come under fire by some, most notably Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, as facilities designed more to incarcerate inmates rather than rehabilitate them, Zavaras said that's not what he sees at all.
The Pueblo Chieftain

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


With prison costs soaring, many states are understandably desperate for ways to cut recidivism and increase the chances that newly released prisoners build viable lives. The Second Chance Act, signed into law by President Bush last month, would galvanize the re-entry effort, providing the states with money and guidance. Now Congress must appropriate the promised dollars.

Some states are already leading the way. In Illinois — where the inmate population has doubled since the late 1980s — Gov. Rod Blagojevich has begun a promising re-entry program that could become a national model. The comprehensive plan includes drug treatment, job training and placement and a variety of community-based initiatives designed to help newly released inmates forge successful postprison lives.

Illinois is also revamping its parole system by hiring more parole officers and changing regulations so that parolees who commit lesser violations are dealt with in their community — with counseling, drug treatment or more vigilant monitoring — rather than being reflexively sent back to prison. The state is working with Chicago’s Safer Foundation to provide job training and placement for people just out of prison.

Parole-based reforms are also proving effective in Texas and Kansas. Both states have expanded drug treatment and other services and have seen a drop in parole revocations. Therapeutic programs that help ex-offenders reconnect with their families — while providing them with medical and mental health care — are also important.

A fully funded Second Chance Act would help other states develop their own much-needed re-entry programs. The $330 million cost is a small price to pay to reduce prison populations and give more ex-offenders a better chance to make it on the outside.


SB 007 Signed Into Law - Help People In Jail Access Benefits


17-26-138. Benefits assistance - legislative declaration -
demonstration grant program - repeal.




1, 2009, THAT:









click here to read entire bill

Officers Face Departmental Charges In Sean Bell Killing

Seven New York City police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Sean Bell, including three detectives who were acquitted in a criminal trial, were formally accused on Tuesday of breaking Police Department rules in the case.

The department said that the officers violated the internal policy manual in a variety of ways, including improperly firing their guns and failing to process the crime scene after Mr. Bell was killed and his two friends injured in a storm of 50 bullets.

The three detectives who stood trial in the case — Detectives Gescard F. Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper — were charged with “discharging their firearms outside of department guidelines,” said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. Detective Isnora was also charged with taking enforcement action while working as an undercover officer instead of letting officers who were present, and not working undercover, take control.

New york Times

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Tack On Straying Parolees Offers A Hand Instead Of Cuffs

WICHITA, Kan. — Since his release in January after serving time for a 2006 theft conviction, Lonnie Kemp has violated his parole conditions several times, getting drunk and kicked out of a halfway house and showing traces of marijuana in urine tests. If this were a few years ago, he almost certainly would be back in prison.

Similar parole violations after a previous theft conviction, in 1988, had repeatedly landed him back inside. In those days, parole was enforced with a spirit that officials recall, only half-jokingly, as “trail ’em, nail ’em, jail ’em,” overfilling the prisons but doing little to rehabilitate offenders.

Today, Kansas is a leader in a spreading national effort to make parole more effective and useful — to reduce violations and reincarcerations as it protects the public and seeks to help more offenders go straight. Mr. Kemp’s parole officer is keeping close tabs on him, but instead of sending him for a punitive stretch behind bars, he required Mr. Kemp to attend a substance-abuse program, made sure he had a stable home with a relative and helped him get a job with a construction company.

A similar transformation of the parole system has begun in several states including Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Texas. It has been prompted in part by financial concerns: more than one-third of all prison admissions are for parole violations, helping to drive an unsustainable surge in prison-building.

It has also been driven by evidence that conventional parole supervision is often a waste of resources. “If we sent him back to prison for 90 days, he’d have to start all over with his life again,” Kent Sisson, parole director for southern Kansas, said of Mr. Kemp. “Instead, he’s working, paying child support and getting a G.E.D.”

Mr. Kemp, 51, said: “Before, you didn’t want to have parole officers around, they’d send you back for almost anything. This time, I have positive people around me and I can call my parole officer any time.”

An influential study in 2005 by the Urban Institute concluded that parole supervision had little effect on the rate at which ex-prisoners were re-arrested.

“Parole is a system set up to find failure,” said Michael Jacobson, president of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York and a former chief of corrections and probation for the city. “If what you’re interested in is finding failure and putting people back in prison, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

New York Times

Bent County Adds Prison Beds

LAS ANIMAS - The 720-bed expansion project at the Bent County Correctional facility is complete, officials said Friday.

Warden Brigham Sloan said the estimated $44 million construction project, which almost doubled the capacity of the facility, has added two new housing units for inmates.

The facility, which is owned by Corrections Corporation of America, has increased its capacity to 1,466 beds.

Sloan, who took over as warden last year, said most of the project was finished by the first week of April.

"Everything else fell into place this month," Sloan said. "We are very excited about having the beds available for the state of Colorado. Our staff is excited to see what we have been able to accomplish for our partners (state of Colorado)."

In 2006, the Department of Corrections awarded contracts for 2,220 additional prison beds to handle a rising inmate population.

The plan included the expansion of the Bent County Correctional Facility.

The facility, which is a medium-security prison for men, previously had 746 beds in general population and a segregation unit.

Sloan said the expansion includes a new medical unit, additional educational and vocational areas and a new gymnasium.
Pueblo Chieftain

Middle Class and Marijuana

A variety of middle-class people are making a conscious but careful choice to use marijuana to enhance their leisure activities, a University of Alberta study shows.A qualitative study of 41 Canadians surveyed in 2005-06 by U of A researchers showed that there is no such thing as a 'typical' marijuana user, but that people of all ages are selectively lighting up the drug as a way to enhance activities ranging from watching television and playing sports to having sex, painting or writing.

"For some of the participants, marijuana enhanced their ability to relax by taking their minds off daily stresses and pressures. Others found it helpful in focusing on the activity at hand," said Geraint Osborne, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta's Augustana Campus in Camrose, and one of the study's authors.

The focus was on adult users who were employed, ranging in age from 21 to 61, including 25 men and 16 women from Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland whose use of the drug ranged from daily to once or twice a year. They were predominantly middle class and worked in the retail and service industries, in communications, as white-collar employees, or as health-care and social workers. As well, 68 per cent of the users held post-secondary degrees, while another 11 survey participants had earned their high school diplomas.

Science Daily

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Schools Say Yes To Drug Testing

PAGOSA SPRINGS — Dillon Sandoval would welcome an easy out — a solid reason to say no to the dope-smoking among students in his high school.

"If a kid has an excuse not to do it, people will stop asking him. Then they'd maybe even stop using," said Sandoval, a 16-year- old sophomore at Pagosa Springs High.

The reason to just say no is coming.

At least three districts in Colorado conduct random drug tests on students in extracurricular activities. Holyoke plans to begin testing next year. And representatives from schools in several other places — Weld County, Durango, Archuleta County, Colorado Springs, Dolores and Towaoc — were all in Pagosa Springs recently to hear federal drug warriors pitch the program.

"We are not waging a war on drugs; we are waging a war of defense — a defense of the basis of humanity, and that is our brain," said Dr. Bertha Madras, the White House deputy drug czar in charge of reducing demand for drugs.

While research has not found that random testing reduces student drug use, testing is catching on. An estimated 4,155 schools across the country test urine, saliva, hair and even blood of students involved in extracurricular competitive activities — covering students in everything from 4-H to football to the debate team.

But the tests are stirring ire among civil libertarians who see them as a violation of individual rights, a threat to a school's sense of community and a dangerous extension of government power.

"I think the war on drugs is becoming a war on people," said Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. "They are making the school into a watchdog, and that's more disruptive to the educational process than it is protective."

The Denver Post

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pot Smokers Demand Equal Time With Governor

Marijuana supporters want to ask the governor why his young son can have a drinking party inside the governor's mansion while other citizens can't smoke marijuana inside their own homes without the fear of prosecution.

Mason Tvert, who spearheaded the largely symbolic victory in 2005 when Denver voters legalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, held a press conference today outside the mansion at East Eighth Avenue and Logan Street, the same day it was reported in the Denver Post that August Ritter III has been hosting keg parties in the mansion.

"The party was sanctioned by the governor and his wife, who said the only rules were no vomiting and no sexy time," Tvert said. "The governor should grant equal status to marijuana, to allow the partiers to make a rational choice to use a less harmful drug which is legal.

"We're not against drinking. We just want the hypocrisy stopped and allow them to make a safer choice."

In November 2005, Denver voters approved an initiative legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The police department said it would continue to enforce a state law that makes possession of any amount of marijuana a misdemeanor crime.

The Denver Post

Friday, May 16, 2008

Denver Cop Arrested For Severely Beating Teenager

Attorneys for a Hispanic teenager filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing five Denver police officers of brutally beating him and causing severe internal injuries.

The lawyers seek a $1.3 million settlement, claiming 16-year-old Juan Guillermo Vasquez was "unfairly targeted . . . because of his Hispanic race" by the Anglo officers, according to a letter Wednesday declaring their intent to sue the city.

Officer Charles Porter is accused of jumping up and down on Vasquez as he lay in an alley and "cried for him to stop and begged for his life," according to the lawsuit claiming excessive force and violation of the boy's constitutional rights.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Douglas Romero in Denver District Court, names the city, police department and the five officers as defendants.

Police spokeswoman Detective Sharon Hahn said the department does not comment on pending lawsuits.

The suit accuses several unnamed officers of cursing Vas quez while kicking and punching him and striking him with a flashlight so hard that it shattered against his body.

Porter was charged last week with felony assault after two fellow officers confirmed that Porter repeatedly jumped on Vasquez's back, according to criminal court records.

Ex--Addict Outruns His Demons

I love stories like this, and there are thousands of them out there. People often just need a chance and a goal and someone to believe in them to get them to a point where they can be successful in their lives.

Like every runner hoping to endure 26.2 miles in Sunday's Colorado Colfax Marathon, Stephen Scannapieco is asking himself some jittery pre-race questions.

Will the weather be a help or hindrance? Will his feet remain unblistered? Will his knees hold up?

But Scannapieco has no questions about handling the pain. Pain is something he is already outpacing.

"Running this marathon will be hard, but getting sober was harder — the hardest thing I've ever done," he said.

At 36 he's a recovering alcoholic and addict, sober nine months. He's one of 40 teammates from the Denver Rescue Mission and Urban Peak battling similar problems.

The team is the brainchild of Nick Sterner, who outran his own demons and led 15 mission runners in last year's Post-News race. "This group has really been committed to its goals," he said of the team.

Sterner is founder of the AIR Foundation — Activity Inspired Rehabilitation. It's a nonprofit intended to help people like Scannapieco, whose story is at once unique and all-too-familiar.

Twenty years ago he was a schoolboy soccer star in Massachusetts. But in high school, booze and cocaine arrived. "After that, those dreams were over," he said. "Addiction just took over my life."

In August, Scannapieco's wife ordered him out. He boarded a bus bound for Colorado, hoping his mom in Thornton would take him in.

She did, on one condition: He would enter the addiction treatment center run by Denver Rescue Mission. Desperate and despairing, he agreed.

"I had hit rock bottom and figured I'd just drink myself to death because I felt I had nothing to live for," he said. "I didn't know how I could dig myself out of the hole I was in. But they've helped me turn my life around."

Soon after entering the program, Scannapieco faced another challenge. Sterner asked him to train for the marathon.

"I thought, 'No way you're getting me to run a marathon after 20 years of abuse,' " Scannapieco recalled. "But he really inspired me."

The Denver Post

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Man Killed By Parole Officer ID'd

A man shot and killed in a Denver apartment Tuesday after drawing a weapon on a parole officer who recognized him as a wanted felon has been identified.

The dead man is James Stewart, 36, according to the Denver coroner's office. He was wanted in connection with some robberies, said Denver police spokeswoman Sharon Hahn.

The state parole officer, who has not been identified, recognized Stewart when he went to check on a parolee at 1746 Emerson St.

On Wednesday, a witness to the shooting told The Denver Post that the parole officer fired after ordering the man to raise his hands four times and to drop to the floor.

The apartment resident, who identified himself only as John, said he saw a man in the hallway he recognized as his parole officer.

The parole officer — with one foot inside Room 206 and one foot in the hallway — shouted out orders, John said.

"He told him, 'Get your hands up!' four times. He yelled at him to get down on the floor," John said. "I guess he wouldn't obey the order."

Stewart "produced a weapon, and that is when the parole officer shot him," Hahn said.

The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the shooting.

The Denver Post

Colorado Prisoners Returning Home

The Colorado Department of Corrections is returning 120 prisoners who have been at an Oklahoma prison to Colorado prisons today, authorities say.

Many of the inmates had been housed at a private prison in Sayre, Okla., since January 2007 because of a shortage of bed space at Colorado prisons, said Ari Zavaras, executive director of the DOC.

The prisoners will be taken mostly to two private prisons run by Corrections Corporation of America, which also runs the Oklahoma prison.

"There are two ways to solve the issue of the prison-bed shortage: reduce demand and increase capacity," Zavaras said.

Corrections Corp. recently built new facilities to hold a total of 1,440 more prisoners at Kit Carson Correctional Facility in Burlington and Bent County Correctional Facility.

"The state has enacted a plan for reducing recidivism and the demand for bed space, but we are also planning for future increases in bed capacity," Zavaras said.

The 360 Colorado inmates who remain in Oklahoma will be returned to Colorado within four weeks, he said.

Zavaras said the decision to send prisoners out of state was made as a last resort.

"The department and state lawmakers realize the transfer impacted families across the state — families who are a key to reconciliation, which reduces the likelihood the offender will reoffend when returned to the community," he said.

A new 948-bed state prison under construction in Cañon City is scheduled to open in early 2010.

The Denver Post

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Man Shot By Parole Officer In Denver

A state parole officer opened fired on a man in a home on Emerson Street near 17th Avenue Tuesday night.

The circumstances of the 9 p.m. shooting were still sketchy as police swarmed into investigate and find witnesses.

"We're still trying to determine who saw what, who heard what," Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. "It's still early to tell exactly what happened here."

It was not clear whether the man shot was a parolee. Jackson could not immediately release the man's name, but said he was taken to Denver Health Medical Center in critical condition.

He said more details would be released Wednesday morning.

Neighbors lingering behind the crime tape at each of the block were stunned, but said they knew nothing.

"This used to be a rough neighborhood, but it's really bounced back," said Bobbie Smith, who rents part of a home on the block. "I hate to think it's a law officer that pulled the trigger."

Many of the older Victorian-style homes in the neighborhood have been bought and remodeled by young families in recent years, she said. Smith said the home where the man was shot had been cut into apartments, but she heard nothing nor saw anything unusual before police descended on the block.

The Denver Post

April Population Report - Department Of Corrections

April Population Report

Denver Tops Nation In Teen Drug and Alcohol Related Crashes

Denver ranks first in the nation for fatal alcohol- and drug-related car crashes involving teenagers, according to a study released Thursday by Allstate Insurance Co.

When drugs and alcohol aren't factors, however, the city ranks 60th for crashes that kill teens, the survey of the nation's 100 largest metro regions indicated.

The study found that speed is a cause in 42.5 percent of the Denver region's fatal teen crashes, 21.2 percent involve alcohol, and 10.6 percent are drug-related.

Failure to wear a seat belt was a factor in 38.1 percent of the fatalities.

Sixty-five percent of the time, the victims in Colorado fatal teen crashes are boys, the study found.

The Denver Post

Methadone Deaths Spike in Larimer County

Larimer County medical officials are attributing a dramatic increase in the number of deaths caused by methadone abuse to increased use of the drug to fight pain.

In 2007, 10 people in Larimer County died in cases in which methadone was the predominant drug of abuse, according to the Larimer County Coroner's Office annual report. That's up from two methadone-attributed deaths in 2006 and one in 2005.

Eight of the 10 autopsies showed that victims also had numerous other drugs in their bodies. Two died of methadone toxicity, according to the report.

Nationally, methadone poisoning deaths increased 468 percent from 786 to 4,462 between 1999 and 2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Until the late 1990s, methadone primarily was used to wean people off other opioids, said Jeremy Dubin, medical director of North Colorado Behavioral Health, which has a methadone maintenance program.

"(Since) the late '90s, with the emergence of pain specialists, the use of methadone for pain has risen exponentially," Dubin said. He added that Northern Colorado is just

The Coloradoan

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

120 Prisoners Coming Back From Oklahoma

This is an email I just received from a parent who has a son in prison in Oklahoma. We had 480 prisoners who were transferred to Oklahoma about 15 months ago.

There are four pods of Colorado prisoners at North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre Oklahoma.

Each pod houses about 120 prisoners.
They have just packed up one of the pods and are shipping those 120
prisoners to different prisons in Colorado.

We will keep you updated as the moves progress to bring our prisoners back to Colorado

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ticket Fixing In the DA's Office

An Assistant Denver City Attorney has resigned and a Denver Police Officer has been disciplined after the cop admitted "fixing" a speeding ticket for the prosecutor's boyfriend.

The Denver City Attorney's office says Dani Eliscu resigned March 17 after being confronted about the ticket fixing.

"That is not OK, not acceptable and unethical to do anything like that," said Vince DiCroce, director of prosecution for the Denver City Attorney's office.

The incident began Feb. 18, when Denver Police traffic officer James Gates issued a speeding ticket at 6th Avenue and Kalamath to Jeremy Rosenthal, Eliscu's boyfriend.

According to the sworn statement from officer Gates, Rosenthal "told me his wife worked for the City Attorney's Office and she was a prosecutor. He asked if that changed anything." The statement and other information were obtained by CBS4 under a Colorado Open Records Act request.

New Schools For The Poor

Some prominent Denver foundations are working on a plan that could create new schools for thousands of poor children in Colorado in the next few years.

The loose-knit group, called the New Schools Collaborative, includes the Piton Foundation, the Donnell-Kay Foundation and the Daniels Fund, names known for their work in urban education.

The idea is to pool money and knowledge to help jump-start the creation or replication of schools that have proved successful with students from low-income families.

That includes expanding homegrown models such as West Denver Preparatory Charter School on South Federal Boulevard, which Head of School Chris Gibbons wants to grow from a single school to three by 2015.

Rocky Mountain News

Two Dozen Legislators Leaving

There are no respites in politics, just new votes to win.

That is why, only days after the end of the 2008 legislative session, state lawmakers have begun turning their attention to the races this year that will help determine what the legislature looks like and can accomplish next year.

Democrats, who hold a 15-seat majority in the state House and a five-seat majority in the Senate, hope to build on that lead by switching more traditionally Republican districts.

"It will be another challenging year," said Sen. Brandon Shaffer, a Longmont Democrat. "It's never easy. Every year we've got to work hard to win seats, retain incumbent seats and look to pick up seats."

Republicans want to chip away at the majority's seats and have cautious hopes of picking up the three extra seats needed to flip control of the Senate back to their party. Republicans are much less likely to gain control of the House, though House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, said he is playing to win.

"We're going to take back the House," he said with a light-hearted swagger. "That's my official response. . . . If you don't have a plan to get to the majority, then you should get out of the game."

The Denver Post

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Drug Bust Called Ridiculous Waste

Critics of today's major DEA drug bust at a San Diego college campus called the sting operation a "ridiculous, nonsensical waste of DEA resources."

Ninety-six people, including 75 San Diego State University students, were arrested for charges stemming from possession and sales of cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and other drugs.

"It would be different if they picked one or two of the worst offenders, or if there was violence involved, but what is the point of this? Don't they have anything better to do than go after college kids?" asked Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which promotes alternatives to the war on drugs.

Nadelmann said the DEA should prioritize major international violent drug trafficking groups over college students, the vast majority of whom he says do not go on to be drug addicts or dealers. "This bust could have happened at hundreds and hundreds of campuses across the nation."

Nadelmann said the bust will cost taxpayers millions of dollars in court and prosecutorial fees and "will hobble these young people for the rest of their lives, inhibiting them from becoming contributing members of society," he said. "Anyone who has gone to college knows there were always students who would deal drugs and who subsequently went on to prestigious careers in law, law enforcement, medicine and politics."

DEA said the crackdown was in response to two cocaine overdose cases at SDSU since last year.

Nadelmann said that a public health response can prevent overdoses and save lives, not a law enforcement crackdown. "There is no evidence these types of busts help to prevent overdoses," he said.

One student arrested for selling cocaine on campus was one month away from obtaining his master's degree in homeland security and also worked as a student community service officer and reported to the campus police. Another student arrested for possession of 500 grams of cocaine and two guns is a criminal justice major, according to authorities.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Ralph Partridge acknowledged that the bust would "shatter" the lives of those arrested. "This investigation spotlights two tragedies. The tragic drug overdose deaths of two college students, and secondly, the shattered futures of those students who choose to continue to engage in the illicit sale and usage of a myriad of controlled substances," said Partridge, adding that "a drug-free learning environment for our children should be the norm, not the exception."

ABC News

Friday, May 09, 2008

NOW - Prisons For Profit (colorado)

[Streaming video of this program will be available online after broadcast]

Now on PBS
Friday, May 9, 8:30pm
A report on prisons operated by private businesses.

Corporations are running many Americans prisons, but will they put profits before prisoners?

A grim new statistic: One in every hundred Americans is now locked behind bars. As the prison population grows faster than the government can build prisons, private companies see an opportunity for profit.

This week, NOW on PBS investigates the government's trend to outsource prisons and prisoners to the private sector. Critics accuse private prisons of standing in the way of sentencing reform and sacrificing public safety to maximize profits.

"The notion that a corporation making a profit off this practice is more important to us than public safety or the human rights of prisoners is outrageous," Judy Greene, a criminal policy analyst, tells NOW on PBS.

Companies like Corrections Corporation of America say they're doing their part to solve the problem of inmate overflow and a shortage of beds without sacrificing safety.

"You don't cut corners to where it's going to be a safety, security or health issue," Richard Smelser, warden of the Crowley Correctional Facility in Colorado tells NOW. The prison is run by Corrections Corporation, which had revenues of over $1.4 billion last year.

The Crowley prison made headlines back in 2004 after a major prison riot caused overwhelmed staff to run away from the facility. Outside law enforcement had to come in to put down the uprising.

"The problems that were identified in the wake of the riot are typical of the private prison industry and happen over and over again," Green tells NOW.

This week NOW travels to Colorado, where the controversy over private prisons is boiling over. The hot question: should incarceration be incorporated?
Related Links: Groups for Prison Privatization: Groups Against Prison Privatization:


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sentencing Project - Disparity By Geography

This report was published by the Sentencing Project earlier this week. How did Denver fare in the report? Not so well. Not as bad as others, but we still show a tripling of drug arrests and a tripling of drug arrests by race.

The “war on drugs,” beginning in the 1980s, represented a profound shift in
the way in which the United States practiced law enforcement, and ushered
in a new era in American policing. Overall, between 1980 and 2003, the
number of drug offenders in prison or jail increased by 1100% from 41,100 in 1980
to 493,800 in 2003,2 with a remarkable rise in arrests concentrated in African
American communities. This precipitous escalation began as the result of a tangible
shift in law enforcement practices toward aggressively pursuing drug offenses.

This report analyzes the implementation of the drug war on the “ground level,” and
how it has played out in arrest patterns in the nation’s largest cities. Our examination
reveals broad disparity in the use of discretion regarding the scope of drug arrests,
and consequently its effect on the communities most heavily impacted by these
practices. We also look at the consequences of the policy choice made to respond to
drug abuse through mechanisms of law enforcement rather than a public health
model and discuss how this decision has affected American society, particularly
communities of color.

This study represents the first longitudinal analysis of drug arrests by race at the citylevel analyzing data from 43 of the nation’s largest cities between 1980-2003, theperiod during which the “war on drugs” was initiated and expanded.3 A city-level
study offers a number of advantages in helping assess the impact of the “war on drugs"

Racial Disparities Persist As Drug Arrests Rise

More than two decades after President Ronald Reagan escalated the war on drugs, arrests for drug sales or, more often, drug possession are still rising. And despite public debate and limited efforts to reduce them, large disparities persist in the rate at which blacks and whites are arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses, even though the two races use illegal drugs at roughly equal rates.

Two new reports, issued Monday by the Sentencing Project in Washington and by Human Rights Watch in New York, both say the racial disparities reflect, in large part, an overwhelming focus of law enforcement on drug use in low-income urban areas, with arrests and incarceration the main weapon.

But they note that the murderous crack-related urban violence of the 1980s, which spawned the drug war, has largely subsided, reducing the rationale for a strategy that has sowed mistrust in the justice system among many blacks.

In 2006, according to federal data, drug-related arrests climbed to 1.89 million, up from 1.85 million in 2005 and 581,000 in 1980.

More than four in five of the arrests were for possession of banned substances, rather than for their sale or manufacture. Four in 10 of all drug arrests were for marijuana possession, according to the latest F.B.I. data.

New York Times

The Death Penalty Returns

Roughly 15 death row prisoners are scheduled to be put to death between now and October, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. This flood of executions is the result of the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the constitutionality of a troubling form of lethal injection. The next few months, as states put their machinery of death into overdrive, are an ideal time for the nation to rethink its commitment to capital punishment.
New York Times

Inmates Learn Ropes Of Outside Life

Al Parker writes the word "tenacity" in bold letters across a whiteboard.

"You must remember this word," he says to a group of female inmates at the Larimer County Detention Center.


A Wall Street investment banker for 13 years and a businessman for many more, Parker now volunteers two nights a week teaching inmates at the Larimer County Detention Center the most basic of job skills, which for many means surviving successfully outside the correctional system.

"I heard this from another man who started this class (in New York) who started to feel that the prisons generally teach classes in how to get high school diplomas, classes in religion, in drug rehabilitation, but they don't have classes how to acclimate to the business world," Parker said.

LCDC offers GED and other programs, such as substance abuse and character programs.

From teaching inmates how to fill out a resumé with the correct format, phone numbers and references to conducting themselves appropriately in an interview, Parker stresses the importance of employment.

"These people want to lead a better life, but they aren't sure how to," Parker said.

The Coloradoan

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Senator Questions Parole Board Nominee's Judgement

One of Gov. Bill Ritter’s nominees to the state’s parole board drew fire Wednesday as one local lawmaker questioned the judgment of a former Denver county court judge.

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, pressed parole board nominee Celeste C de Baca to explain why the Colorado Commission on Judicial Performance recommended that she not be retained at the polls in 1996.

“Judge C de Baca has established a serious pattern of inappropriate demeanor, lack of courtesy and lack of compassion,” the commission reported in its voter-information booklet.

“Tell us why we shouldn’t be concerned about that,” Penry said, noting a parole board exercises judgment similar to decisions made by a judge.

C de Baca replied that the voters disagreed with the commission’s rare recommendation and kept her on the bench.

Grand Junction Sentinel

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ken Gordon Signs Off With Rules Of Legislative Conduct

I received this email today, thanks to Ken and the years that he put in as a public servant to Colorado.

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Today is the last day of my last session in the Colorado General Assembly. I actually can't find words to describe the experience except to say that it was honor to be chosen by the people of my district to represent them and an honor to be chosen by other Senators to be the Majority Leader. I don't know what I am going to do next. Below is something I passed out to Senators today. If anyone wants to forward these Rules of Legislative Conduct or publish them you have my permission. I will continue to write as events occur. Thanks for all of your support over the years. I am not retiring. I will still be involved in public affairs. I just don't know the form that will take.


Ken Gordon
Majority Leader
Colorado State Senate

Gordon's Rules of Legislative Conduct
(Suggestions for future legislators)

1. Think for yourself. If you don't have any internal values that inform your conduct here, find another occupation.

2. Leadership: You can't always be liked and always do the right thing. If you don't have the courage to sometimes do the right thing even though it will anger some person or support group, you should find another occupation. If you don't have courage, you may be an elected official, but you are not a leader.

3. If you are in the majority and you can't pass a bill that you want to pass without abusing the process, then you shouldn't pass the bill. If you can’t kill a bill that you want to kill without abusing the process, then you shouldn’t kill the bill.

4. If you abuse the process in order to prevent minority party members from accomplishing anything that reflects the values of their constituents, then you create a deep and bitter resentment. This resentment will come back to haunt you in myriad ways. Abuse of the process does not show strength. It shows weakness.

5. Respect the minority party members. There are a large number of people who voted for them. When you disrespect the minority party members you disrespect many of the people of Colorado. And their ideas are not always wrong.

6. Think of the other members of the Senate as team members--even members of the other party. The goal is not to be in the majority. If that were the goal, then the other party would be the enemy. The goal is to make Colorado the best state in the country, or in any country for that matter. To do this we need everyone's help. If we don't do this we will be at a competitive disadvantage with states or countries that learn how to work better together.

7. Some people think there is a distinction between how you act in a campaign and how you act at the legislature. If you lie during a political campaign, that makes you a liar, and you will be treated that way in the legislature as well.

8. Respect the people who put you in office. You might think that you do that, but every time you commit your vote to a lobbyist or even another member before you have heard committee testimony or debate, you have disrespected the people who wish to voice their opinion.

9. Don't let conflict escalate. Be the one who deescalates. Be the bigger person. Be the person who acknowledges error. If you have to, go outside and take a walk.

10. Have pride in what you are doing. You stand on the shoulders of many thousands who have worked or shed blood for our rights and our democracy. Fewer than 2% of the people who have ever lived have lived in a democracy. Don't take it for granted. By your conduct here, honor those people who fought for this democracy.