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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Prison Reforming Dogs Too

STERLING — Among the 2,550 inmates housed in the multi-security level Sterling Correctional Facility are 21 rather furry, four-legged residents, who, like their taller two-legged companions, are getting a second chance at life through an unlikely partnership.

It’s a sunny Friday morning in the prison yard. Inmate Julian Whalen beams with pride as his training dog, Duchess Lady, shakes his hand, sits, lays down, stays and rolls over on command. Whalen’s gentle demeanor with the dog disguises the fact that he’s serving time in the Sterling Correctional Facility for aggravated robbery.

“She calms me, keeps me out of trouble,” Whalen said.

It was that line of thinking — giving inmates an outlet, a chance to turn their lives around when they’re released — that started the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program back in 2002.

Debi Stevens, now supervisor of the program, remembers being approached by a major working in the CaƱon City prison after one of her dog training classes.

“He asked if I would be interested in starting a dog program at the prison, and I said, ‘You bet I would,’” Stevens said with a laugh.

The program, started with five dogs in 2002, is now in nine correctional facilities in the state with 138 inmate handlers and 150 dogs.

Inmates from PTKCP have tended to stay out of trouble upon release. Recidivism rate is between 10 to 15 percent, according to Stevens, which is far less than 50 percent rate for inmates who leave prison without vocational training and 25 percent of inmates who leave the prison with training through the Colorado Correctional Industries.

Journal Advocate

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Felon Voting Rights

Many people with a criminal conviction aren't sure about their voting rights. It's a confusing topic, mainly because the laws to disenfranchise voters vary from state to state. Even the people who should know sometimes get confused.

If you're not sure about your eligibility to vote in Colorado due to a criminal conviction, read on. We want you to know your voting rights.

First things first. In order to be eligible to vote, you must be 18 years of age on or before the date of the election in which you want to vote, be a citizen of the United States, and live in Colorado at your present address at least 30 days prior to the election.

Next, the key to knowing who is eligible to vote in Colorado is to understand who is not eligible. Here's what the statute says: No person while serving a sentence of detention or confinement in a correctional facility, jail, or other location for a felony conviction or while serving a sentence of parole shall be eligible to register to vote or to vote in any election; however, a confined prisoner who is awaiting trial but has not been tried shall be certified by the institutional administrator and shall be permitted to register to vote by mail registration pursuant to part 5 of this article. Colorado Revised Statutes §1-2-103(4). This means the people who are not eligible to vote in Colorado are those who have been convicted of a felony and have not yet completed the sentence for that felony, including parole.
This also means the following people are eligible to vote in Colorado.
1. People with a criminal conviction who have served their sentence, including parole if required
2. People who are in jail as a pretrial detainee who have not yet been convicted
3. People currently on probation for either a misdemeanor or felony
4. People currently in jail serving a sentence for a misdemeanor sentence only

If you're eligible to vote in Colorado, we hope you will register to vote and vote. Your vote is your voice on the issues you care about, and it's how you get heard by politicians.

If you're not eligible to vote, we hope you will encourage your family and friends to vote.

Identification Documents

When you register to vote, you probably will have to provide identification documents. If you are registering to vote in person, you must provide your Colorado driver's license or Department of Revenue number (state ID). It is not necessary to present the ID; it is sufficient to provide the number.

If you do not have either a valid driver's license number or Dept. of Revenue number, you must provide at least the last four digits of your Social Security number.

If your identification can not be established, you may also be required to provide a copy of an acceptable form of identification.

For more information about identification documents, call your county’s office of the Clerk and Recorder or the Secretary of State’s office at (303) 894-2200. If you have access to a computer, you can also check online at www.sos.state.co.us. Click on Election Center and then click on Election FAQs.

Where to Get Help
If you think you are eligible to vote and are told you may not by an election clerk, please contact the Secretary of State's office for help. Their telephone number is (303) 894-2200. You may also contact CCJRC at (303) 825-0122 for assistance

CCJRC has written and distributed a voter education brochure titled CAN I VOTE? The following questions and answers from the brochure are to help people understand how a criminal conviction may or may not affect their current right to vote.

I have a criminal conviction in my past. Can I vote?
In Colorado, you have the right to vote after you have served your sentence. Remember, if you were incarcerated for a felony, any period of parole is considered to be part of your sentence. The day you complete your sentence is the day you become eligible to register and vote.

Will I be notified when I'm eligible to vote?
No. The right to vote is automatically restored, but you will not be notified.

Do I have to prove I have completed my sentence (including parole) in order to register to vote or to vote?
If your name still appears on the database as an incarcerated person, the voting official may ask you for proof that you have completed your sentence, including any parole. It's a good idea to bring your sentence or parole discharge document with you when you register to vote.

What if I was convicted of a crime in another state?
Election law varies from state to state, and your right to vote is determined by the state in which you live. If you are a resident of Colorado and you have completed your sentence, including parole, you can vote.

If I was convicted of a federal crime, do I have the right to vote in a federal election?
It does not matter if you were convicted in a state or federal court. Once you are eligible to vote in Colorado, you are eligible to vote in both state and federal elections.

Do I have to pay off all of my restitution before I can vote?
No. Payment of restitution is not a condition of voting eligibility.

Do I have the right to vote if I am currently on probation?
Yes. If you are on probation for either a misdemeanor or felony you may register to vote and cast your vote in any election.

Do I have the right to vote if I am on bond and the criminal case is pending?
Yes. You are eligible to vote if you are on bond as long as you are not convicted and serving a sentence in jail or prison for a felony at the time of the election.

Do I have the right to vote if I am in jail?
If you are serving a misdemeanor sentence in jail, you have the right to register to vote and vote in any election. This is true if on the date of the election you are in jail as a pretrial detainee and have not yet been convicted.

In order to vote, you will need to contact the clerk and recorder in the county of your legal residence and ask for a Colorado--Combination Voter Registration and Mail-in Ballot Application. (You can do this on your own or you may be able to get the form through jail personnel. If you are a pretrial detainee, an administrator in the jail where you are detained will also have to certify your eligibility.)

If you are not registered to vote, you will need to register before July 14, 2008, to vote in the primary election and October 6, 2008, to vote in the general election.

CCJRC has also been working on an educational campaign titled CAN I VOTE FROM JAIL? to help people incarcerated in jail, jail personnel, and election personnel understand who is eligible to vote while incarcerated in jail.

First, it is important to understand who is eligible to vote from jail in Colorado. This group includes people who are currently being held as pretrial detainees and people who are currently serving a sentence for a misdemeanor sentence only.

Second, people who believe they are eligible to vote from jail must meet the voting eligibility criteria for anyone who registers to vote. They must be 18 years of age or older at the time of the election in which they wish to vote, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Colorado for at least 30 days prior to the date of incarceration.

People who believe they are eligible to vote will need to register to vote, or re-register to vote, and request a mail-in (absentee) ballot through the Office of the Clerk and Recorder in the county of their legal residence.

It is important to remember that people who have already been convicted of a felony and have not yet completed the sentence for that felony, including parole, are NOT eligible to vote.

Contact CCJRC for more information about jail-based voting. A free brochure that explains the process in detail is available upon request.

Colorado Commission Creates Task Forces

Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Creates Task Forces

The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) was created by HB 1358 during the 2007 legislative session. The first meeting with all 26 members was held in January 2008, at which the commission presented its stated mission: to enhance public safety, to ensure justice, and to ensure protection of the rights of victims through the cost-effective use of public resources. The work of the commission will focus on evidence-based recidivism reduction initiatives and cost-effective spending necessary to bring those ideas to fruition.

After that January meeting, Executive Director Peter Weir determined that the first order of business was to educate the members of the commission about the realities of the criminal justice system in Colorado. He understood that most people who don’t work in the system don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of such topics as bonding, sentencing, parole, and incarceration practices. Thus, experts from across the nation and from within Colorado provided evidence-based research materials about the criminal justice arena in Colorado and other states, as well.

After several months of meetings, the commission formed the Re-Entry Oversight Committee. Under that umbrella, four separate task forces were put together to look at different aspects of the system and to consider how the systems may be strengthened through legislative or policy reform. Each task force has incorporated voices from the community in leadership roles and as task force members. CCJRC is represented on the Re- Entry Oversight Committee as well as on three of the four task forces.

The task force recommendations will focus on statutes, policies, regulations, and practices that to reduce barriers to successful reintegration into society so that the recidivism rates are significantly reduces. The Commission is also required to report on recommendations to reduce racial disparity in the criminal justice system. CCJRC would like to invite comments from our members in regards to any recommendations that you might wish to suggest to any committee.

Probation Task Force: will work to develop policy recommendations that will reduce the barriers for people on probation and increase the success rate on probation.

Transition Task Force: will look at the systemic and personal challenges that people face six months prior to and six months following release from jail or prison and the changes that could be implemented in order to reduce recidivism.

Incarceration Task Force: charged with making specific recommendations related to the governance of jails, prisons, and community corrections facilities in order to reduce recidivism.

Post-Supervision Task Force: will examine changes that could be made to current parole laws, the parole board, and the parole system in order to reduce recidivism.

The work of the Oversight Committee on Re-Entry will be conducted in three phases. In each phase, barriers to implementing evidence-based correctional practice will be identified along with strategies to remove the barriers. The Oversight Committee on Re-Entry will propose Phase 1 recommendations to the Colorado CCJJ by October 2008, in time for the commission’s November 2008 report to the General Assembly.

Additional information about the Colorado CCJJ may be found at http://cdpsweb.state.co.us/cccjj/

Oversight Committee on Re-Entry

Regina Huerter, Chair

Jeaneene Miller

David Kaplan

Mike Riede

Regis Groff

Tom Quinn

Jeanne Smith

Grayson Robinson

Louise Boris

Peter Weir

Gil Martinez

Michelle Sykes

Christie Donner

Staff: Kim English

It's A Wrap! 2008 Legislative Session

It’s a Wrap Under the Gold Dome: 2008 Legislative Session

This legislative session was surprisingly active around criminal justice issues. The two biggest victories for CCJRC was the passage of HB 1082, the record sealing bill that Governor Ritter vetoed in 2007. The second was the passage of HB 1382, which will restore the possibility for all people paroled on or after 1/1/09 to be awarded earned time. Both bills are further described below.

The biggest disappointment was the veto by Governor Ritter of HB 1208, which would have made important changes to the process by which juveniles can be charged as adults. Under current Colorado law, a district attorney has the power to charge a juvenile as young as 14 years old as an adult for certain crimes. This is known as “direct file.” HB 1208 would have raised the minimum age to 16 and would have permitted a “reverse transfer hearing” to allow the adult criminal court to consider whether the case should be transferred back to juvenile court. In his veto, Governor Ritter said he did not think the current process was being abused by district attorneys.

The Department of Corrections received a $759.5 million budget, an increase of $55.5 million (8%) over last year’s budget of $704 million. There was also significant discussion about Director Zavaras’ projections that the state will need to invest over $800 million over the next five years to build more prisons.

The pressure is on the legislature, the governor, and the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice to enact reforms that will eliminate or greatly reduce the need for prison construction. CCJRC believes that reducing the need for more prisons does not always call for dramatic reform. For example, the restoration of earned time in HB 1382 is estimated to reduce the need for 1700 prison beds and could save over $26 million in the next 5 years.

The Senate confirmed David Michaud as the new chairman of the parole board and two new parole board members, Celeste C de Baca and Rebecca Oakes. In mid-June 2008, the Legislative Audit Committee requested the State Auditor to conduct a limited audit of release decisions by the parole board. According to the State Auditor’s office, the audit will be limited in scope and the specifics will not be released to the public. The audit won’t likely be completed until the end of the year.

Bills Passed and Signed into Law

HB 1082 Record sealing (CCJRC priority/support): Allows people convicted of certain drug crimes to petition the court to seal the criminal record after 10 years from successfully completing any sentence, including any term of parole. (See article in this issue for more detail)

HB 1382 Criminal procedure omnibus (CCJRC priority/support): Restores earned time to everyone paroled or re-paroled on or after January 1, 2009. Right now, for people convicted after 1993, only people convicted of a nonviolent offense are eligible for earned time on parole. With the passage of HB 1382, people paroled after 1/1/09 who were convicted of a violent offense and people re-paroled following a parole revocation will also be eligible for earned time. Unfortunately, this change will not apply to people currently on parole or people who will be paroled between now and 1/1/09.

HB 1382 also made some important procedural changes to better provide due process when the DOC wants to classify someone as a sex offender if the court makes a specific finding that there is no factual basis of a sex offense in the case. In the past, DOC overrode these findings by the court. HB 1382 allows the DOC to classify someone as a sex offender if there is concern about sexual misconduct (either historically or while incarcerated), but if there is no criminal conviction or if the court has not made a specific finding of a sex offense, this designation can only happen following an administrative hearing where the person is given notice and the hearing is conducted by a licensed attorney.

HB 1119 Reducing racial disparity in criminal justice system (CCJRC priority/support): Requires the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to study and make recommendations for the reduction of racial and ethnic disparity in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

HB 1046 Applying for benefits while in Division of Youth Corrections (CCJRC support): Would require the Division of Youth Corrections to submit applications for public benefits for eligible juveniles at least 120 days prior to release from custody.

SB 07 Applying for benefits while in jail (CCJRC support): Requires county jails to submit applications for public benefits for those eligible at least 120 days prior to release from custody.

SB 06 Allows Medicaid benefits to be suspended, rather than terminated, if someone is incarcerated (CCJRC support): Allows for Medicaid benefits to be suspended while someone is incarcerated, rather than terminated.

HB 1363 Cap on private prison provider rate (CCJRC support): Allows the DOC to negotiate a contract rate for private prisons but prohibits a contract rate from exceeding the maximum rate provided in the annual general appropriations bill.

Bills passed but vetoed by Governor Ritter

HB 1208 Changes to juvenile criminal law regarding direct file (CCJRC support): Would have raised the minimum age from 14 to 16 for direct filing on a juvenile in adult court. It would allow the adult court to conduct a “reverse transfer hearing” to determine whether the case should be transferred back to juvenile court.

Bills that did not pass either the House or Senate

HB 1004 Truancy (CCJRC priority/oppose): Would have allowed police to take kids into “temporary custody” if they think they are truant. HB 1004 died in the House Judiciary Committee in February. Many thanks to Padres Unidos, Colorado Progressive Coalition, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, and La Academia/Denver Inner City Parish for working with CCJRC to defeat this bill.

HB 1022 Change to the escape law (CCJRC priority/support): Would have repealed the mandatory consecutive sentence for escape convictions unless the escape is from a level III, IV or V security prison.

Representative Terrance Carroll, the bill’s sponsor, pulled this bill before it went to committee so it did not proceed. It is our understanding that he wanted to give the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice the opportunity to weigh in on changes to the escape bill but that he is interested in running similar legislation in 2009.

Other bills of interest signed into law

SB 171 Parolees - biological substance testing: Expands the kind of biological substance tests that can be required of people on parole. DOC would not be limited to just urine tests. For example, there is new technology that can drug-test using perspiration.

HB 1067 Parole hearing officers – immunity: Grants a parole administrative hearing officer protection by governmental immunity so long as he/she is acting within the scope of his or her duties as a public employee.

HB 1192 Inmate co-pay: Requires the DOC to establish written procedures outlining when inmates are required to pay a co-payment, not to exceed five dollars, for inmate-initiated medical, mental health, dental and optometric visits. Allows the DOC to specify services for which a co-payment will not be assessed and when a co-payment may be reduced or waived including, but not limited to, the inmate's ability to pay, the health needs of the inmate, and the public health and safety needs of the institution.

HB 1352 Parole revocation placement - return to custody facility - technical parole revocation: Makes a parolee with an active felony warrant, felony detainer, or new felony charges ineligible for placement in a community return-to-custody facility after revocation based on a technical violation.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Beaten Teen Suing For $3 Million

The lawyers for a teenager who claims he was severely beaten by Denver police officers after a foot chase are asking for damages of at least $3 million.

Attorneys for Juan G. Vasquez initially made a settlement offer of $1.3 million to the city. However, the lawyers filed an amendment to their complaint on Friday in U.S. District Court demanding at least $3 million.

Andrew J. O'Conner, a law clerk for the Colorado Christian Defense Counsel firm representing Vasquez, said the amended amount is to cover treatment for their client's kidneys that they claim were injured by the officers.

"Juan Vasquez may have to be on dialysis," O'Conner said Friday referring to a treatment for patients who lose the function of their kidneys. "It looks like he may lose his kidney."

The amended lawsuit also lists Veronica Gonzalez as a plaintiff and the guardian for Vasquez, who is a minor. Gonzalez is the teen's cousin.

Thomas G. Bigler, an assistant city attorney, said he was served with the amended version Friday and had not had an opportunity to review the document.

In addition to his kidney injuries Vasquez suffered suffered a lacerated liver and fractured ribs, according to the attorneys.

The suit alleges that Officer Charles Porter held the top of a fence with both hands and then jumped up and down on the teen's back when other officers had Vasquez on the ground and were trying to arrest him. Also listed as defendants are four "unnamed Denver police officers," the police department, and the city.

The city's initial answer to the suit said Porter acted in self-defense and used reasonable force to subdue Vasquez.

Rocky Mountain News

Sen. Jim Webb Tackles Drug Policy

The Nation -- Yesterday Senator Jim Webb--who seems to be on many people's shortlist as a possible running mate for Senator Barack Obama--chaired the Joint Economic Committee's hearing on "Illegal Drugs: Economic Impact, Societal Costs, Policy Reponses". It was the second hearing on drug policy that Senator Webb has convened, the first focused on the steep increase in the US prison population.

In his two years in Congress, Senator Webb has established himself as a leader in fighting for economic populism, an end to the War in Iraq and a new GI Bill. Yesterday we saw that his interest in revamping our approach to drug policy is strong as well.

In his opening statement Senator Webb noted that we have 5 percent of the world's population and 20 percent of the world's prison population--"either we have the most evil people in the world or we are doing something wrong with the way we handle our criminal justice system, and I choose the latter. The central role of drug policy in filling our nation's prisons makes clear that our approach to curbing illegal drug use is broken."

The Nation

18th Wrongfully Convicted Person Exonerated

Read Grits coverage here of the most recent exoneration in Dallas County...

Are Anti-Meth Laws Driving Up Cocaine Use?

Mike Connelly, formerly of Corrections Sentencing, sent this over today...Interesting that one law just pushes people to something else.

Study: Is anti-meth law driving up cocaine use?


LITTLE ROCK - A three-state study led by Arkansas researchers suggests that laws intended to drive down the manufacture and use of methamphetamine in rural areas may be driving up the use of cocaine.

While findings from the $6.1 million study involving counties in Arkansas, Kentucky and Ohio were not conclusive, they did cause concern that anti-meth laws may be having unwanted side effects.

"We're really cautious in talking about this because we don't want to say that the law causes people to use cocaine, but it definitely raises the possibility that people are switching from one drug to another," said Tyrone F. Borders, lead author of the research report in the journal Addiction.

Borders said meth users who participated in the two-year study began reducing their use of the drug regardless of state laws that restricted access to drug store medicines used to make methamphetamine, such as cold medications.

"The meth laws, at least among these persons, didn't have much of an impact," said Borders, an associate professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "However, it was associated in our statistical analysis with a slight increase in cocaine use."

With a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers in the three states were promised by the federal government that information obtained in the study would not be used toward criminal prosecution.

With the help of former drug users, the researchers recruited 706 people, men and women, who used meth or cocaine but who had not gotten substance-abuse treatment for at least six months prior to the study.

Participants came from Lee, Phillips and St. Francis counties in Arkansas; Barren, Edmondson, and Logan counties in Kentucky, and Darke, Logan and Shelby counties in Ohio. They were given minimal fees of $50 for the initial interview and $10 for each referral who was found eligible for the research.

Primarily from interviews and urine tests, the researchers collected data on changes in the use of meth or cocaine among black and white residents in rural areas. By the end of the study, 559 participants had still not received formal treatment and drug use was down among both meth and cocaine users.

Arkansas and Kentucky laws aimed at restricting access to meth ingredients went into effect during the study, while a similar law in Ohio was enacted afterward. The numbers who said they used cocaine went up 9 percent after the anti-meth laws went into effect. At the same time, meth use declined in those areas.

"The implementation of these laws was associated with a slight increase in cocaine use. It's possible that some persons were switching from methamphetamine to cocaine," Borders said. "Perhaps, it was a little bit more difficult to make or obtain methamphetamine."

Overall, the rate of meth use dropped from 48 percent to about 19 percent _ from 268 participants to 106. The rate of cocaine use decreased from 86 percent to about 60 percent _ from 480 people to 335. Almost 33.2 percent _ or 185 of the 559 untreated participants _ were not using meth or cocaine by the end of the two years.

"This is what we still don't really understand very well," Borders said. "It's what's called spontaneous remission. We don't really understand why people just stop using drugs over time."

Some people may start using other drugs or some may "simply get burned out," he said.

Brenda Booth, the lead investigator and a UAMS professor of psychiatry, said some may have quit because of difficulties related to their use, such as family, law enforcement or financial problems.

Constitutional Self-Defense

Doc Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy
begins to dissect the opinion on gun rights and how it applies to felons, if indeed they are included in "all Americans" . As usual it is excellent reading:

It starts with

Here are sets of quotes from the majority opinion in Heller that I have a hard time adding up:

We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans. (Slip op. at 10, emphasis added.)

It was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense. (Slip op. at 44, emphasis added.)

Inmates See The Forest For The Keys

They work hard all day, make enough money to save something for when they are released and the recidivism rate is 50 percent less than the rest of the state.

Colorado convicts armed with chain saws are cutting lodgepole in beetle-decimated forests and, in doing so, shaving time from their sentences under a new alliance between state prisons and federal forest officials.

"The last 10 years, I've been behind razor wire," said Daniel Martinez, 29, who is serving a prison term for menacing. "Now I'm able to enjoy nature, and it's going to get me back to my family faster."

Martinez is one of two dozen minimum-security prisoners from Buena Vista Correctional Facility who for several weeks have been sleeping in tents in the Arapaho National Forest north of Silverthorne while clearing pines whose needles have turned red under the assault of bark beetles.

In the wake of a seven-year drought

pines in three national forests in Colorado, the beetles have destroyed 1.5 million acres of lodgepole, said Jim Krugman of the U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service closed 38 camping areas in Colorado over the past several years because groves of dead trees are a safety hazard, said Clint Kyle, bark-beetle incident commander for the agency.

"There's a great risk that a wind will blow them down," Krugman said. "Our concern is for safety."

Colorado Department of Corrections officials this year offered the services of the State Wildland Inmate Fire Team for a fee that covers the expense of guarding, feeding, paying and equipping the inmates, said Jack Laughlin, service division manager of Colorado Correctional Industries, which runs the program.

"It's a win-win-win type of thing," Laughlin said.

Colorado pays inmates up to $3 a day, and they can earn a portion of a monthly bonus paid by the Forest Service, he said.

Krugman said federal officials get services at half what it would cost privately.

It's not easy work, Laughlin said.

The crews work up to 14 hours a day, cutting logs with chain saws, carrying the wood to trucks and stacking branches into huge piles.

Two staff members supervise 24 inmates, Laughlin said.

But Martinez said there is no incentive to escape, though it would be easy enough to do.

"If you get caught, you can do 12 years," he said.

In six years, not one of the 300 members of the inmate firefighting crews has escaped, Laughlin said.

Only 25 percent of the offenders who have since been released have violated their parole terms or committed new crimes, Laughlin said.

Martinez heard about the program when he was in a prison on the Eastern Plains. He asked to be transferred to Buena Vista to join and had to go six months without a disciplinary action before he could be considered.

"The rules are strict," Martinez said. "You can get written up for not tucking in your shirt. But it's a privilege to be in this program."

For every day they participate, they are credited for an extra day off their sentence, Laughlin said.

"At the end of the day," Martinez said, "I feel like I've accomplished something."

The Denver Post

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Second Chance Act Appropriations

This just in from the Justice Center Council of State Governments:

June 26, 2008

House includes $45 million for the Second Chance Act in pending appropriations bill

On June 25, the House Appropriations Committee completed the mark-up of the 2009 appropriations bill, which reserves $45 million for programs under the Second Chance Act, $35 million for state and local reentry demonstration projects and $10 million for nonprofit grants for mentoring and transitional services. Last week the Senate Appropriations subcommittee reserved $20 million for Second Chance programs.

Congressmen Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Howard Coble (R-NC) worked closely with colleagues to ensure funding for the program in FY 2009.

Criminal Justice Programs Appropriations Comparison Chart:
(in millions)


FY09 House Mark-Up

FY09 Senate Mark-Up

Second Chance Act



Mentally Ill Offender Program



Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants



COPS Program



Drug Courts Program



Residential Substance Abuse Treatment



State Criminal Alien Assistance Program



Mark-up of the appropriations bills is only a first step in the appropriations process this year. Both the House and Senate CJS bills will be sent to the floor for consideration. If Congress is unable to pass the spending bills, it will likely pass a continuing resolution (CR), which provides funding for existing federal programs at current or reduced levels. A CR would not include funding for any new programs, including the Second Chance Act. Hill staff report that it is too early to determine if the Committees will pass the spending bills or a continuing resolution.

For more information on the Second Chance Act please click here or contact Elizabeth Dodd.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies-informed by available evidence-to increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more resources on reentry, please visit the Justice Center Reentry Policy Council website- http://www.reentrypolicy.org/.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some Lawmakers Angered Over Death Penalty Ruling

The efforts of nearly a dozen states to execute child rapists were derailed Wednesday by a Supreme Court decision that incensed supporters of such punishment. Officials in at least two states said they weren't ready to give up.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called the ruling "a clear abuse of judicial authority" and vowed state officials will "evaluate ways to amend our statute to maintain death as a penalty for this horrific crime." In Oklahoma, state senator Jay Paul Gumm promised similar efforts. "We will certainly look at what options we have," Gumm said. "I think the people of Oklahoma have spoken loudly that this is one of the most heinous of crimes."

Five states have laws that explicitly permit such executions. At issue before the high court was a Louisiana case involving Patrick Kennedy, sentenced to die for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in her bed in 1998, an assault so severe she required surgery.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the death penalty a disproportionate punishment for raping children under the age of 12, despite the horrendous nature of such acts.

Justices made a similar ruling in 1977, when they said the death penalty was unconstitutional punishment for a Georgia man convicted of raping a teenager who was an adult under the law.

Louisiana's law, passed in 1995, is the broadest in the country. It also makes first-time offenders eligible for the death penalty, unlike Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Montana - which required at least one previous conviction for child rape. Following Wednesday's ruling, all become unconstitutional.

Nationwide, only two men

Villa Residents Relocating to Jail

Avalon owns the actual building at the Villa, Weld County has pulled the community corrections contract from them after allegations of misconduct earlier this year. ICCS and the county are looking to build a new facility for residents leaving Avalon with an empty facility.

Residents of Greeley's halfway house, The Villa, will move to the jail Monday with Intervention Inc. taking control of the community corrections services.

Kevin Strobel, chairman of the Weld County Board of Community Corrections, said Intervention Inc. was awarded the request for proposal on June 4 in light of a reports detailing several problems in the operation of The Villa including sexual liaisons in what became known as the "Boom-Boom Room," and a tunnel that held weapons and drug paraphernalia.

Community Education Centers, Inc. of New Jersey entered an agreement in May with The Villa's owners Avalon Correctional Services Inc. of Oklahoma to provide services until the end of the fiscal year on July 1.

The Greeley Tribune

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mothers Rocking The Prison Cradle

by Marian Wright Edelman
NNPA Columnist
Originally posted 6/24/2008

Many mothers who experience childbirth are coached through labor in a hospital maternity ward with supportive doctors and nurses. Their husbands may capture the birth with a video camera. After the baby’s bawling first breaths, mother and child bond in a joyous embrace.

Childbirth is not so joyous for the growing number of women who give birth behind bars. It is a time of humiliation, sadness and separation. Before, during, and after delivery, prison mothers are commonly shackled. No one is there to take those first baby pictures. And the infant may be whisked away by a social worker to be given to a family member to raise, or if they are less fortunate, the child goes to foster care. The mother returns to an eight foot by 12 foot prison cell to grieve. The bond between mother and child is broken at the moment of delivery.

There are about 1.2 million parents incarcerated in federal or state prisons or local jails in the United States. The number of mothers in prison grew 88 percent from 1991 to 2002. While relatively few women who are incarcerated give birth behind bars, about two-thirds of female inmates are mothers of minor children. Most women are in prison for non-violent offenses, many of them drug related.

Almost 60 percent of mothers in state prisons lived with their children at the time they entered prison. With few procedures or policies that require or facilitate maintaining relationships between mothers and their children, the criminal justice system often breaks families apart.....Steps to institute alternatives to incarcerating mothers will go a long way toward staunching the flow of future generations of young people into the pipeline to prison. Each step we take in that direction will not only be beneficial tomorrow, it will begin to change our society for the better today. Learn about CDF's Cradle to Prison Pipeline® Campaign at: www.childrensdefense.org/cradletoprison
Seattle Medium

Pot Smoking Lounges?

You gotta love Mason for trying...

Attention: You are now free to float about the cabin.

Well, not yet, but maybe someday — that is, if Mason Tvert has anything to say about.

Tvert, the voluble crusader for legalizing marijuana, has called for pot-smoking lounges in the nation's airports. His reason for doing goes beyond his cannabis liberation mission: He wants to help make flying safer.

"There's been this growing trend of alcohol-related air rage," he said Tuesday, alluding to episodes of drunken passengers creating in-flight disturbances.

Just last week, Christina E. Szele, 35, an inebriated New York woman, was accused of disrupting a JetBlue flight, punching a flight attendant and screaming curses and racial slurs after she she was prevented from smoking. A cigarette, that is.

Szele's outbursts wouldn't have happened if she'd been inhaling instead of imbibing, says Tvert, whose two pro-pot ballot measures have won voter approval in Denver.

"The studies I've seen say that alcohol ... contributes to violent and aggressive behavior," he says. Ergo, "The simple thing is to let people make the safer choice to use marijuana, which doesn't contribute to violent behavior."

Leaving that issue aside for the moment, there is still the sticky problem that marijuana is, sort of illegal — federally speaking, anyway. Chances are slim that Denver International Airport passengers will be high on the ground before they're high in the sky.

"I can safely say we have no plans to open any marijuana lounges at DIA," says airport spokesman Jeff Green. "We're not paying attention to this."

Would you support a pot lounge at DIA? Go to the Rocky and take the poll.

Ritter Fills Four Slots On Parole Board

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed one new person and reappointed three others to the state parole board.

Margaret M. Heckenbach of Highlands Ranch will fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Maximino A. Atencio of Pueblo.

Her term will expire July 1, 2010.

Heckenbach served as a Colorado Department of Corrections parole officer from 1994 to 1999. Since 1999, she has been a team leader for the DOC's community parole division, supervising community parole officers.

Three current parole board members were reappointed for a three-year term, ending July 1, 2011. They are: Deborah C. Allen, of Aurora, Celeste M. C de Baca, of Denver, and Leslee V. Waggener, of Centennial.

Allen and Waggener were appointed by Gov. Bill Owens in 2005, while deBaca was appointed last year to fill a vacancy.

All four appointments will require Colorado Senate confirmation.

The Rocky Mountain News

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weld County: New Hope For Addicts

Ken Buck’s goal for starting an alternative program for drug addicts was a simple one: He wanted to stop stuffing the already overcrowded Weld County Jail with accused lawbreakers who really didn’t need to be there.

He didn’t want to go soft on them. But he knew there were people who probably wouldn’t be criminals if it wasn’t for their gnawing desire for their drug of choice. Those people needed treatment, not a bed in a jail that is desperately in want of empty beds for more dangerous criminals.

So Buck started working on something he called the In-Custody Alternative Placement Program. The program combined the efforts of police departments, Buck’s office and treatment centers.

Six months later, Buck had who he thought was an ideal first candidate: Jennifer Henessee.

Henessee worked, he thought, because she was pregnant and wanted to be a mother. She was not a violent criminal. In fact, she refused to pack a gun in her robbery of Western Sizzlin’. And they had a victim, Bob Boswell, who initially called to drop the charges, so if it didn’t work out, he wouldn’t necessarily be upset.

“I just asked Buck if he could find out if this person, if given this chance, would likely run with it and maybe do something positive,” Boswell said, “and that I wasn’t just being some liberal schmuck.”

Despite all that, there was no guarantee the program would work.

“We were taking a huge risk,” Buck said. “We had to learn to trust everyone a little bit, and everyone participating gave up a little bit as well.”

Part of the risk was, of course, that treatment centers aren’t jails. If those in the program wanted to escape, chances are they could. The other part was that any drug program is unpredictable and filled with failure. Addiction is incredibly hard to kick.

Greeley Tribune

Virtual Therapy For Addicts

Interesting concept...
Patients in therapy to overcome addictions have a new arena to test their coping skills--the virtual world. A new study by University of Houston Associate Professor Patrick Bordnick found that a virtual reality (VR) environment can provide the climate necessary to spark an alcohol craving so that patients can practice how to say "no" in a realistic and safe setting.

"As a therapist, I can tell you to pretend my office is a bar, and I can ask you to close your eyes and imagine the environment, but you'll know that it's not real," Bordnick said. "In this virtual environment you are at a bar or at a party or in a real-life situation. What we found was that participants had real-life responses."

Science Daily

Shining Light On "Broken Windows"

The intense "Broken Windows" crime-fighting effort began in Denver's Westwood neighborhood in February 2006 and ended in August. The result: Crime dropped 16 percent from the same period in 2005.

Even better results were recorded in the Mar Lee and Harvey Park neighborhoods after Broken Windows moved there. Now, police are targeting Athmar Park, also in southwest Denver, where major crimes are down 16 percent from January through May, police report.

Broken Windows was adopted in 2005 as part of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's plan to revamp city policing amid rising crime and declining arrests.

The tactic involves heightened police attention to more minor crimes, decentralized enforcement and the better use of crime data to spot trends and needs. It was rolled out in police District 4 and has been used in varying degrees elsewhere in the city.

"You can't argue with the statistics," said District 4 police officer Les Tucker, a member of one of two seven-person Special Crime Attack Teams (SCAT) now blanketing Athmar Park. "It's effective."

Still, crime has declined citywide over the last two years, not just in Broken Windows neighborhoods. Studies are split on how well it works. And despite the popularity of Broken Windows, there is concern about what happens when the program moves out and about where the crime goes when a neighborhood is targeted.

"One of the complaints I heard was that when Broken Windows was in Westwood, the crime moved to Athmar," Denver City Councilman Chris Nevitt said. "That's a fair complaint, but I don't think it's something that undermines its value. When you start to mop up a spill, the spill is going to move away from the mop, but you're still mopping it up."

Rocky Mountain News

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Inmates Seeking Rehabilitation: Face To Faith

I've seen how a spiritual connection can change people, sometimes it's just because they have someone to reach out to who will never judge them. Sometimes it's the ability to hook into a community where they can be received and learn to grow through positive relationships for the first time in their lives. It doesn't always work, but it makes a difference more often than not. The volunteers who spend countless hours working with people need to be honored, and they should be paid for their time. Some folks drive hundreds of miles every week to reach people, and they do it for years.

Denver Post - Like countless others before him, Jonathan Willis rediscovered God in the inescapable solitude of a jail cell, 10 months after he had been thrown into Adams County lockup to await trial for murder.

The blur of the events crystallized: the coke binge, coming down, the break-in. The brutal beating. Then desperation, arrest and, once in jail, the hell-raising that landed him in solitary.

"It went from dream to reality," recalls Willis, 25. "When you reflect, with all the distraction cut away, you're left with the core of life — what matters."

You already know what happened next: He cried out to God, who answered with a challenge to get serious about his faith. He read the Bible. The words spoke to him anew. His heart changed.It's natural to reach out to God in a period of duress," says Michael Spotts, a volunteer assistant chaplain at the Adams County facility who witnessed the change in Willis. "The thing that tinges the jailhouse conversion with cynicism is that people like Jonathan killed someone. It's inexcusable — horrible. But the genuineness of conversion can be found in absolute confession of what was done wrong, a seeking of repentance."

It's here where Willis' story gives a twist to the corrections cliche: Against the advice of his attorney, he pleaded guilty — knowing that he was essentially sentencing himself to life without possibility of parole.

His spiritual transformation began a chain reaction that already has touched others locked up around him. And, in a broader sense, it touched on a concept of faith-based rehabilitation that's gaining traction as a burgeoning prison population now boomerangs back to the community.

Bolstered by President Bush's recent signing of the Second Chance Act, which promises more money for faith-based programs to help rehabilitate prisoners, corrections officials and religious volunteers are testing the still largely unproven theory that faith can not only salvage criminals, but — in the long run — make the rest of us safer, too.

Nearly 700,000 inmates return to the community each year nationwide — about 9,000 in Colorado — as the get-tough sentencing policies of the 1990s literally come home to roost.

Faith and prisons have been intertwined since the dawn of corrections, with criminal behavior often addressed as a moral issue. But church-and-state legal concerns temper the search for new faith-based ways to attack recidivism — approaching 70 percent, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.

Colorado spends no taxpayer money on faith-based efforts, with the DOC's Office of Faith and Citizen Programs receiving its funding through inmate purchases at the prison canteen. Volunteers also have picked up the slack since the legislature cut chaplains out of the budget in the 1990s. Through that volunteer network, Colorado's DOC offers 216 programs and recognizes 36 faiths. Although those traditions range from Asatru, a polytheistic Norse religion, to American Indian rituals to nature-based Wicca, the vast majority of volunteers represent Christian denominations.

Credible research on the effectiveness of faith-based programs remains sparse and inconclusive. Still, both corrections experts and volunteers agree that such efforts, coupled with education, counseling and other therapies, could be part of the solution.

The Denver Post

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's Official - NORA Makes the Ballot In California

From our friends at DPA:
Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA’s partner organization) and the 760,000 voters who signed petitions have been working to get the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA), the most ambitious sentencing and prison reform in U.S. history, on the California ballot in November.

Now it’s official! Last week, the Secretary of State announced that enough signatures had been collected (and verified) and that NORA had officially qualified for the November state ballot.

When NORA goes before voters in November, Californians will have the opportunity to take reform into their own hands and implement common-sense solutions to prison overcrowding. NORA will protect public safety and save taxpayers billions of dollars, by safely shrinking the size of the nonviolent prison population by tens of thousands within just a few years.

NORA gives us the opportunity to stop letting addiction drive incarceration in California. NORA would give tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders access to treatment-instead-of-incarceration and rehabilitation programs—a change that would dramatically improve people’s lives, reduce the number of people locked up unnecessarily and decrease the likelihood of recidivism.

NORA would make treatment accessible to young people for the first time in the state. And the measure would make low-level marijuana possession an infraction—like a traffic ticket—rather than a misdemeanor, a sentencing change that could affect 40,000 people a year and conserve millions of dollars in court resources for other, more serious cases.

As the state’s budget deficit continues to rise, NORA gives voters the opportunity to stop letting the prison system soak up an ever-increasing portion of state spending. Instead, NORA presents the state with an option for more effective—and less costly—policies to protect public safety and make sure there are sufficient resources to go around. The nonpartisan legislative analyst projects that NORA will save at least $2.5 billion in prison construction savings because new facilities will not need to be built.

Now that NORA is officially qualified for the ballot, we are ramping up the campaign. If you would like to get involved, check out our website and/or email the campaign.

Learn more about NORA by visiting www.NORAyes.com, by emailing us or by joining our group on Facebook (End Overcrowding in California Prisons!).

ACLU Settles With City Jail

DENVER POST - Denver jailers have agreed to hand over a policy-and-procedures manual that deals with the processing and treatment of detainees at the downtown jail to the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the ACLU announced Wednesday.

The handover of the manualis part of an agreement in which the city pays the ACLU's legal fees, up to $5,000, but admits no wrongdoing, the ACLU said.

The handover — due by June 25 — still could contain redacted, or blacked-out, sections, the ACLU said, which could send the matter back to court.

The Denver Sheriff's Department did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Undersheriff Bill Lovingier, who directs the jail, was in meetings.

The first court hearing on the matter was to be Thursday.

The ACLU wants to review the policies in anticipation of the Democratic National Convention "because of the possibility of mass arrests in connection with protests."

Lovingier told The Denver Post last month that several additional processing facilities would be in place during the convention to handle as many as 3,000 arrests quickly.

The Denver Post

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MA _Cheap Trick - Reform Imminent Because Of Budget Woes

AFTER MORE THAN a decade of tough-on-crime policies — fueled by 13 years of Republican administrations committed to re-introducing prisoners to the joys of lethal injection — the law-and-order atmosphere at the Massachusetts State House has begun to dissipate. A case in point: two bills recently filed on Beacon Hill that take aim at the state’s draconian mandatory-minimum-sentence drug laws.

The first measure, known as Senate Bill 167, would make drug offenders who have already served two-thirds of mandatory-minimum sentences eligible for parole — something that they currently cannot seek, unlike rapists, armed robbers, and child molesters, who are not subject to mandatory minimums. Sponsored by State Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), Senate Bill 167 constitutes a kind of baby step toward reform. The proposal does not repeal mandatory minimums for drug convictions. Nor does it offer a get-out-of-jail-free card for the thousands of drug offenders who’re now languishing in the state’s 22 correctional facilities. It simply tries to ease the impact of these sentences for those who’ve done substantial time.

Senate Bill 167 also dovetails with a much larger reform effort that would moderate the mandatory-sentencing drug laws. That bill, known as House Bill 3302, would institute a comprehensive set of sentencing guidelines for all the state’s 1922 statutory crimes. Under the guidelines, judges would be allowed to depart from the rigid penalties dictated by the mandatory-sentencing drug laws and instead sentence addicts to treatment and intense supervision. The bill, sponsored by State Representative David Linsky (D-Natick), mirrors legislation first drafted seven years ago by the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, a state agency dedicated to overhauling the criminal-justice system — legislation that has died at the State House every single session since.

But in these tough fiscal times, such sentencing reforms are gaining ground. Senate Bill 167, in fact, has extra appeal. According to the Sentencing Commission, approximately 2000 prisoners are currently serving mandatory minimums — out of close to 20,000 county and state prisoners. Of those, 650 people would be eligible for parole immediately if Senate Bill 167 were to pass. The commission estimates that up to 325 of these drug offenders would receive parole in the first wave. Given that it costs $36,000 per year to house one prisoner, the measure could save as much as $11.7 million almost instantly. These savings were highlighted at a packed, 100-strong May 21 hearing on the two bills before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Criminal Justice — which is expected to recommend the bills in upcoming weeks. Numerous organizations, including the Sentencing Commission, the Supreme Judicial Court, and local and state bar associations, spoke in favor of the proposed legislation.

Boston Phoenix

Brutal Murder, Wrong Sentence

The decision of an Arapahoe County jury to sentence Sir Mario Owens to death for the premeditated murder of two witnesses should send a message to other sociopaths that the justice system cannot be thwarted by violence.

The Denver Post has historically opposed the death penalty on principle, and the Owens case is no exception. But we also commend the jurors in this case for following their own consciences and doing their duty in the face of the enormous pressure that falls upon ordinary citizens who must decide whether someone lives or dies.

The Denver Post

Work Release Facility Opens In El Paso County

With 350 beds available Terry Maketa needs to make this work release facility a transition point for people returning from prison homeless to El Paso County. DOC could pay for their bed space until they can get established in the community and then begin to pay their way.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office was able to kill two birds with one stone. They were able to open up a new jail and have it pay for itself.

The new jail is located in the downtown Colorado Springs area on Tejon St.

The building used to be a maximum facility prison. Three years ago, it was shut down for safety reasons. It has now been converted into a minimum security prison for work release inmates.

Tuesday was the grand opening.

"We really just pumped new life into an old building," said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

Since the building was a jail, there was already a lot of material like beds, showers and steel bars that came into good use.

"Beds were pulled out saved and refurbished. We saved all the stainless steel shower units too," said Commander Mitch Lincoln with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The county was also able to gather more than two-million pounds of steel which was sold for about $68,000. All of that money was put back into the project.

"Jail overcrowding is a serious issue here in El Paso County," said Jim Bensberg, El Paso County Commissioner for the 5Th District.

The work release prison will be able to hold 350 inmates. A huge help for the county's swelling cells. "We saved probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor," said Sheriff Maketa. That's because inmates did most of the work. They helped construct a jail many of them will be serving time in.

It saved the county a total of a quarter of a million dollars.

"They're still functioning members of society, paying their taxes and keeping their families afloat. So, it's a win, win for the whole community," said Commissioner Bensberg.

Inmates will be allowed to come and go for work. Even though the inmates are low risk inmates, they'll still be under constant surveillance.

"They want to see these inmates put to good use, instead of being warehoused," said Commissioner Bensberg.

The project cost 4-million dollars. But each inmate pays 22-dollars a day. County officials say they'll make 2-million dollars a year which covers the cost to run it plus a little extra.

Colorado Springs Gazette

Voting Rights Restored To 115,000 Felons in Florida

More than 115,000 former felons who completed their sentences have had their civil rights restored since a new state rule went into effect 14 months ago, Gov. Charlie Crist said.

The rule by the Board of Executive Clemency, which Crist chairs, restored rights almost automatically, ending a policy of requiring the panel to act individually on every restoration of rights request. The rights include voting and the ability to get state and local licenses for certain types of jobs.

"Once somebody has truly paid their debt to society, we should recognize it," Crist said Tuesday. "We should welcome them back into society and give them that second chance. Who doesn't deserve a second chance?"

The 115,000 former felons Crist cited account for more than half of all former felons in the state who have had their rights restored during the last 14 years, according to the governo
Rocky Mountain News

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Maketa Makes His Case For Expansion

The toilets alone will cost more than $1,500 apiece.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, whose office runs the county jail, said he winces at the estimated $75.5 million cost of adding 864 beds for inmates. The expansion is the largest single cost in a possible 1 percent sales tax increase that is likely to be on the November ballot to raise funding for law enforcement and health agencies.

Half the new beds would be for maximum-security inmates, and that's where the $1,500 toilets come in. The price doesn't mean they'll be gold-plated with heated seats, Maketa said.

The toilets would be made of stainless steel and have wider pipes to prevent intentional plugging that can flood a jail ward. They'd have built-in timers to prevent rapid-fire flushes, among other features. A porcelain toilet isn't an option, Maketa said. Inmates could break a cheaper toilet and use the shards to hurt themselves or others.

"Everything in a building can be used as a weapon, and they have to be designed to not be used as a weapon," he said.

There are other requirements, too. The jail must have a minimum amount of living space, sleeping space and air space for each inmate. Showers automatically mix the water temperature to prevent burns. Windows made of unbreakable glass. Protective covers for fire sprinkler heads. Steel doors.

It adds up to the largest cost for an El Paso County government building and would amount to 12.5 percent of the new sales tax revenues. The jail expansion is No. 1 on a list of nine building projects tied to the tax totaling an estimated $153 million. A citizens group pushing for the tax increase estimates the first year's income for building projects at $8.6 million. Maketa said that's optimistic, but even if it's accurate it means the county would have to save for nearly nine years to pay for the jail expansion without going into debt even if there's no inflation on construction materials and labor.

Maketa has been lobbying for a new jail for years, reporting regularly that the inmate population is near or at capacity.

Not everyone is convinced, though, that the county has done everything it can before considering going to the voters for a costly solution to a problem that won't go away even if the jail is expanded.

"This is a challenge that a lot of communities are facing, but what people are finding is that building more jails just doesn't solve the problem," said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

A range of options can keep people out of jail, Donner said, including programs that help judges decide if suspects can be released without posting bail.

"That's where you get penny-wise and pound-foolish," Donner said. "We don't have a notion of a debtor's prison in this country, but the reality is if you can't afford to pay the bond, then you sit in jail until your case is resolved."

Maketa said he's taken several steps to keep the population manageable: the jail quit accepting inmates accused of misdemeanors in July 2006, and Maketa said he's working with federal officials to get illegal immigrants moved out of the jail quicker.

Colorado Springs Gazette

The High Cost Of Patrol

The cost of fuel has become so prohibitive that El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has asked his officers working the graveyard shift to stop routine patrols, shut their cars off and respond only to emergency calls.

"We have told them to cease all routine or random patrols — which means that residents won't see marked units driving through their neighborhoods being proactive," Maketa said. "We've essentially had to turn back to being reactive, primarily because the county doesn't have the revenue to keep our fleet being fueled."

Other departments across the state are caught in the budget pinch, but the full brunt of the problem may not hit until next year.

The sputtering economy and soaring cost of fuel will force sheriff's departments to make fundamental changes in the way they conduct business, said Don Christensen, executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado.

"They have hard decisions to make. They are trying to figure out where the hard cuts are," Christensen said.

Maketa said that in 2003, the El Paso department's fuel bill was $160,000. By the end of 2004, it was $300,000, and it is now $700,000. By the end of next year, he said, it will be more than a million.

The Denver Post

Monday, June 16, 2008

Death Sentence In Colorado

I had hoped that we were done with death sentences in Colorado. Apparently I didn't hope hard enough.

Owens was found guilty in May on two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, who had graduated from Colorado State University only weeks before they were killed.

Prosecutors said the deaths were particularly heinous because they were carried out only days before Marshall-Fields was slated to testify against Owens in connection with the death of his friend, Gregory Vann, at an Aurora park.

Owens is serving a life-without-parole sentence in connection with the death of Vann. Members of Vann's family attended the reading of the verdicts.

"This is not something we celebrate or take great joy in," said Arapahoe County Assistant District Attorney John Hower, who delivered the final arguments in the penalty phase of the trial on Friday. "But it is a just verdict."

Rocky Mountain News

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ending The Cycle Of Crime: Ex-Cons Get A Hand

Changing the culture of how people are supervised is more effective than punitive supervision in Arizona.

A new approach to parole in Arizona began with thousands of colored pushpins and a large state map.

In 2003, prison officials set out to find new ways to keep released inmates from going back behind bars. So they began to map where the more than 30,000 Arizona inmates had lived before they were locked up and where they might return.

What they found were a handful of hot spots around the state, including south Phoenix - home to about 1 percent of the state's population but nearly 6.5 percent of state prisoners....

Together, the programs, similar to changes being made in several other states, move community supervision away from the zero-tolerance approach of recent years - when missed parole meetings, poor work habits or socializing with other former inmates could quickly land a person back behind bars. Instead, officers take a more comprehensive approach that seeks to address underlying problems, such as poverty, unemployment, substance abuse and mental illness.

While it's too early to say whether the program will help break the cycle of crime, officials are optimistic about cutting crime and prison costs.

Among the changes:

• Parole officers team up with state social workers, working out of the same offices, to make it easier for former inmates and their families to get services such as health insurance, unemployment or disability benefits and food stamps.

• Barriers that tended to frustrate former inmates have been lifted. Parole officers now meet with inmates in prison and then go to their homes, instead of making parolees come to them. Rules that are particularly difficult to follow, such as not socializing with other former inmates, have been softened.

• Instead of waiting for people to make mistakes, officers offer help more consistently: rehab for drug addicts, job training for someone who can't find employment, counseling to conquer issues with violence.

• Churches, schools and other community groups are brought into the mix in recognition that the cycle of crime and incarceration takes a toll on the health of an entire community.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

NY Times Op Ed: Why Is Mom In Rehab?

The actress Tatum O’Neal was arrested recently on charges of buying crack cocaine from a man on the street near her New York City home. She is a 44-year-old mother of three. She has spent years in and out of drug abuse treatment (which she chronicled in her 2004 memoir), and according to her publicist she will continue to “attend meetings” for drug and alcohol abuse.

Ms. O’Neal illustrates a disturbing trend among those being admitted to substance abuse treatment services: a growing percentage of older women are being treated for harder drugs.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that the total number of admissions to treatment services from 1996 to 2005 (the last year for which detailed data are available) stayed about the same among people under 40, but jumped 52 percent among those 40 and older. Of the 40 and older group, the rise in admissions among men was 44 percent. Among women, it was 82 percent.

(During the same span, the population in the United States age 40 and older grew by only 19 percent.)

Of these women, admissions for nonsmoked cocaine have doubled; admissions for crack cocaine have tripled; admissions for opiates other than heroin have nearly quadrupled; and admissions for methamphetamines have increased sevenfold.

NY Times

New Record: 7.2 Million Behind Bars

Another milestone we can be proud of...

Nation's Justice System Strains to Keep Pace With Convictions

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 12, 2008; A09

The number of people under supervision in the nation's criminal justice system rose to 7.2 million in 2006, the highest ever, costing states tens of billions of dollars to house and monitor offenders as they go in and out of jails and prisons.

According to a recently released report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 2 million offenders were either in jail or prison in 2006, the most recent year studied in an annual survey. Another 4.2 million were on probation, and nearly 800,000 were on parole.

The cost to taxpayers, about $45 billion, is causing states such as California to reconsider harsh criminal penalties. In an attempt to relieve overcrowding, California is now exporting some of its 170,000 inmates to privately run corrections facilities as far away as Tennessee.

"There are a number of states that have talked about an early release of prisoners deemed non-threatening," said Rebecca Blank, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank. "The problem just keeps getting bigger and bigger. You're paying a lot of money here. You have to ask if some of these high mandatory minimum sentences make sense."

The bureau's report comes on the heels of a Pew Center on the States report showing 1 percent of U.S. adults behind bars, a historic high. The United States has the largest number of people behind bars in the world, according to the Pew report.

Black men, about one in 15, were most affected, and Hispanics, one in 35, were well represented among offenders. The number of women in prison "rose faster in 2006 than over the previous five years," mostly in Hawaii, North Dakota, Wyoming and Oklahoma, the Bureau of Justice Statistics report said.

The Washington Post