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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Demand Up For Mental Health Care

During tough economic times and the added stress of the holidays people start to exhibit more signs of mental health issues as stress starts to wear away their defenses. Drinking and drugs become more of a problem especially when low cost mental health care is unavailable.

They come in for counseling related to a DUI, but it turns out the alcohol was meant to kill the depression of a lost job, a lost house, a lost spouse — or maybe all three.

They ask for help with gas money or car repairs so they can make their therapy appointment.

They struggle to make co-payments.

They rush to take advantage of employee assistance programs — sometimes fearful they might lose their job, sometimes trying to grapple with their job loss before employee benefits expire.

Layoffs, corporate cutbacks, a tumbling stock market and the credit crunch have ratcheted stress to new levels, prompting many experts to connect the economic downturn to a recent uptick in requests for mental health services —

even as some patients can hardly afford them.

Although most say it's too early to pinpoint the precise cause of the jump, anecdotal evidence from both caregivers and consumers suggests the failing economy has pushed more people toward therapeutic relief.

Variations on the theme have emerged all across the country — muted only slightly in Colorado, said George DelGrosso, executive director of the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, a statewide association of community mental health centers.

"We're at the beginning stages of it," DelGrosso said. "As people are losing their jobs and health-insurance coverage is going away, they're experiencing depression or frustration at not making ends meet. You reach back to get the help you need, but often you find that your health-insurance coverage is not comprehensive enough."

First-timers seeking help

Tucked away in a maze of hallways at The Rainbow Center, a mental health drop-in facility in Thornton, the food bank and Santa Shop, where clients can find free gifts for their kids, do a brisker-than-usual business.

Group discussions veer into a tangle of troubling what-ifs about jobs, housing and Medicaid. Calls to the crisis team have spiked — including a couple of suicide threats.

Program director Gloria Anderson has taken at least eight calls this month from people who've never before asked for help.

"They're at the end of their rope — they don't know what to do," said the 62-year-old Anderson, whose own diagnosis of depression, post-traumatic stress and personality disorder helps her empathize with the callers' plight.

Effects of long-term economic trouble could reach deep into family life, said Mitchell Berdie, psychologist and product director of Anthem EAP, which handles employee assistance programs for 3 million members nationwide, including many in Colorado.

"If this is the early stage, what happens next year, if it drags on?" Berdie said. "The longer stress goes on within a family, the more likely it is to impact all members of that family."

The Denver Post

Saturday, November 29, 2008

California Executions On Hold

By Denny Walsh / McClatchy Newspapers | Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | http://www.bostonherald.com | West

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — There will be no executions by California in the near future.

An appellate court has ruled the state failed to follow required procedures in fashioning a revised protocol for administering lethal injections.

The revised protocol was not vetted through a period of public notice and comment, as required by the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled Friday.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s failure to comply invalidated the protocol, the panel concluded.

The ruling leaves the state with two options: send the protocol through the notice and comment process or appeal to the California Supreme Court, which may or may not agree to review the matter.

The APA requires notification of a proposed regulation and the reasons behind it, a period for feedback from the public, and written replies to the public comments. The entire package is then submitted to a state agency that reviews it for consistency with the law, clarity and necessity. Even without revisions that may have to be made, the process could take months, if not more than a year.

An appeal to the state high court could likewise take at least several months.

Corrections spokesman Seth Unger said Monday the department has not decided whether to appeal.

"If we decide to submit the matter to public comment, we will do so as expeditiously as possible," Unger said. "The ruling keeps us from carrying out the will of the people by lifting the moratorium on capital punishment."

The state’s voters have endorsed the death penalty at the ballot box.

Brad Phillips, an attorney representing two condemned inmates challenging the protocol on APA grounds, said Monday he is hopeful prison officials will elect to seek public comment rather than pursue an appeal.

"Had they simply done the correct legal analysis to begin with and certainly no later than April 2006 when we filed our lawsuit they wouldn’t have this problem," Phillips said. "If there is an appeal and the Supreme Court accepts review, I’m confident it would uphold the lower courts."

The Boston Globe

Friday, November 28, 2008

No Wrongdoing At Greeley DYC?

Whenever you have staff talking off the record for fear of retaliation it's a problem. We should look back to when DYC was running the High Plains Facility and why they had to close down.
On a June afternoon at about 3 p.m., a girl at a Greeley youth detention facility had her wrist broken in two places by a security guard who used thumb restraints to calm her down.

A day later, a developmentally disabled youth at the same facility claimed he was injured when he was handcuffed for refusing to obey orders. Witnesses said a security guard sat on him for 20 minutes.

Both incidents may have violated state policy, employees at the Platte Valley Youth Services Center reported. Neither youth was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment — another possible violation of state policy. Neither incident was reported to Greeley police because state policy allows state agencies to choose whether to call authorities.

An investigation by the Division of Youth Corrections, which runs the center, found no wrongdoing by its security guards. But the agency did commission an outside firm to look into the credibility of staffers who complained about the incidents — and other problems at the facility — to colleagues, supervisors and the news media.

George Kennedy, deputy executive director of the Department of Human Services, which oversees the Division of Youth Corrections, defended the department’s response to each incident at Platte Valley, which houses 130 youths convicted of crimes or detained for court hearings.

“In the first (incident), it was clear there was a need for a staff intervention,” Kennedy said. “Action was taken. From that action there was a break (of the girl’s arm). It was tended to medically. It was only one arm.”

According to counselors who asked that they not be identified, saying they feared retaliation by supervisors, the girl was forced to the floor after she refused to follow orders and began cursing. She returned to her cell, and counselors said the girl complained of pain in both her arms. The medical office was called. Counselors said medical staff gave her pain medication and splints for both arms.

The next day, the girl complained of pain, and she was taken to a Greeley hospital where it was determined she had fractures to her right wrist.

Kennedy said the boy who was handcuffed suffered no serious injuries, and administrators disputed a counselor’s claims that a security guard sat on the boy while he was handcuffed after he became aggressive.

A state official also found no wrongdoing in a third incident in which a boy nearly lost an eye.

In May, the boy told counselors he was afraid of being attacked by other youths because they believed he was a snitch. Instead of being taken into protective custody, he was allowed to remain with the general camp population. He later was attacked by other inmates.

The boy’s father said his son told him he believes he was set up by a staff member who tipped off gang members. He said his son asked counselors for protection, but they couldn’t prevent the attack.

“He said this was all instigated by a staff member,” the father said.

State officials say they found no evidence the youth was set up.

“We don’t dispute that there was an incident that occurred. We have not been able to locate any evidence from anyone who investigated, including people from outside the facility, that this was a setup by a staff member,” said Karen Beye, director of the Department of Human Services.

The Greeley Tribune

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Education Frustration From Canon City

As I sit in my home, a Colorado State Prison cell, and read an article by Marcia Darnell that was in the Perspective section on Sunday, Sept. 28, I cannot believe the ignorance and lack of knowledge in these words.

First of all, the article says that, "Education is a high priority of the prison system, too. Inmates who lack a high school diploma or GED are required to go to class."

Well, of course the corrections department requires an inmate to go to class if they don't have a diploma or GED!

It would conflict with laws and policy they have requiring an inmate to have such a diploma or GED before they can put them to work!

How come it is that where I am at, in solitary confinement, unable to work, they don't require no such participation?

The article also goes on to say, "For those with more education, like my brother, educational and vocational programs are tied into the community college system, meaning prisoners can leave the facility and slide right into a classroom."

OK, educational and vocational programs are absolutely not tied in to the community college system!

And the idea that "prisoners can leave the facility and slide right into a classroom" is absolutely ludicrous! Such activity might be possible for no more than 2 percent of the prison population at best.

I had my diploma upon arrival in the Department of Corrections nearly two years ago and since then have made repeated attempts to receive any kind of information that could get me started in post-secondary education courses.

I have tried to find out if the system provides any educational opportunity I could participate in to receive a college degree but to no avail.

For two years, "the buck has been passed." I have exhausted the only available grievance process. I am now housed in a maximum security prison.

What better time than 24-hour lock down could there be for an inmate to occupy his time with college correspondence?

How come here, out of the general population, they do not require an inmate to participate in getting their diplomas or GED's?

I have even made attempts at participating in an outside college for correspondence courses I could participate in at my own expense. Of course, I was denied that opportunity also!

Darnell wrote: "Prisons today offer many resources to help inmates refocus and prepare for a positive future," and that these days it is "easier than it used to be" for a prisoner to refocus and prepare for this more positive future.

The "old-timers" that were in the system then and are in the system with me now beg to differ.

Let me first say that there is a very disruptive factor for any inmate to even consider focusing on anything at all.

The fact is that inside prisons, hearing committees are only required to prove a preponderance of evidence against an offender accused of violating the code of penal discipline.

Basically all they have to do is have a correctional officer say that they "pondered" and that they "believe" that you violated the COPD and you are guilty.

No real evidence or any evidence at all for that matter. What I'm getting at is that this process is a major disruption in the positive progression of all offenders.

You could say that 25 percent of the population at any given facility is the segregation unit, where inmates are continually "shuffled" to and from the "hole" to the "yard" and back again for minor incidents and no justification.

Last year, I spent just about every other month in the hole, punished for things I didn't do, provided a preponderance of evidence, with basically no evidence.

The Denver Post

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

48 Hours To Air Tim Masters On Saturday

fter spending nearly a decade in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Timothy Masters walked out of the Larimer County courtroom a free man on Jan. 22, 2008. It’s a story that many in Northern Colorado have become quite familiar with.

On Saturday, the CBS news magazine "48 Hours" will air a special program on the Masters case.

Now, 10 months later, Masters has adjusted to his new life in Greeley. But pieces of his case are still being untangled in Larimer County. Civil suits against current and former Fort Collins police officers and Larimer County prosecutors for wrongful arrest, conviction and imprisonment are pending.

After Masters’ conviction was thrown out, several investigations, including a special investigation by Weld District Attorney Ken Buck, were launched. Most recently, an internal investigation by Fort Collins police cleared Lt. Jim Broderick, the lead investigator on the case, of violating any policies or procedures.

Peggy Hettrick, 37, was stabbed and dumped in a south Fort Collins field on Feb. 11, 1987.

Within hours, police investigators focused on Masters, a 15-year-old high school student who lived in a mobile home next to the field. But it wasn't until 1998 that police arrested him—relying largely on a forensic psychologist's interpretations of his drawings and writings.

The case went to a jury in 1999, and Masters was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. But attorneys David Wymore and Maria Liu, in a series of hearings in 2007 and early 2008, unearthed documents that were never turned over to the attorneys who defended Masters at his trial. Those included reports that showed problems with the circumstantial case against Masters.

Those hearings led to the eventual release of Masters.

To Watch
"48 Hours" airs at 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29 on Denver channel CBS4.

Fort Collins Now

More People Being Their Own Lawyers

OMAHA — When Danielle Nitzel found her 3-year-old marriage drawing its last breath in 2004, she couldn't afford the minimum of $1,000 she was told she would need to hire a divorce lawyer.

So she did what more and more Americans are doing: She represented herself in court.

"I looked online and just tried to figure out how to write out the paperwork," said Nitzel, a nursing student who at the time had little money and a pile of education loans. "I think it cost us $100 to file it ourselves."

The number of people serving as their own lawyers is on the rise across the country, and the cases are no longer limited to uncontested divorces and small claims. Even people embroiled in child-custody cases, potentially devastating lawsuits and bankruptcies are representing themselves, legal experts say.

"It's not just that poor people can't afford lawyers. This is really a middle-class phenomenon," said Sue Talia, a judge from Danville, Calif., and author of "Unbund ling Your Divorce: How to Find a Lawyer to Help You Help Yourself."

The trend has resulted in court systems clogged with filings from people unfamiliar with legal procedure.

Moreover, some of these pro se litigants, as they are known, are making mistakes with expensive and long-lasting consequences — perhaps confirming the old saying that he who represents himself has a fool for a client.

Paul Merritt, a district judge in Lancaster County, Neb., said he knows of cases in which parents lost custody disputes because they were too unfamiliar with such legal standards as burden of proof.

"Courts are absolutely inundated with people who do not understand the procedures," Talia said. "It is a disaster for high-volume courts because an inordinate amount of their clerks' time is spent trying to make sure that the procedures are correctly followed."

The Denver Post

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fourteen Pardons and Two Commutes -From Bush

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President George W. Bush has granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others convicted of misdeeds including drug offenses, tax evasion, wildlife violations and bank embezzlement.

The new round of White House pardons announced Monday are Bush's first since March and come less than two months before he will end his presidency. The crimes committed by those on the list also include offenses involving hazardous waste, food stamps, and the theft of government property.

Bush has been stingy during his time in office about granting clemency, but more grants are expected.

Including these actions, he has granted a total of 171 pardons and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Reagan issued during their time in office. Both were two-term presidents, like Bush.

AP Story

Prison Babies

Columbia University Researcher First To Study Life Of Mothers And Babies Behind Bars

Nurse researcher Mary Byrne, CPNP, PhD, FAAN, says the incarcerated women and their babies she has studied behind bars at the Bedford and Taconic correctional facilities during the past eight years are imprinted in her mind.

"Many of the children are now 7 or 8 years old. I think about them often. They have affected me, as has the entire prison system," she says.

Byrne is the first researcher outside the New York correctional system to study incarcerated women and their babies living in a prison nursery. Her research began in 2000 at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and Taconic Correctional Facility, maximum- and medium-security women's prisons, respectively, about an hour's drive north of Manhattan. Prior to Byrne's research, no one had formally studied the impact of the prison nursery on an infant's development.

Byrne says so far her data shows that "the [co-habitation] of inmate mothers [and] their newborns can provide a positive environment that supports parenting and child development. However, the implications of our research show that mothers need supportive resources." These include treatment for depression, enhancement of self-esteem, and a sense of self as parent, as well as parenting guidance, she says.

Bedford Hills has the longest-running prison nursery in the country, since 1901. Women who are pregnant when they are incarcerated and have no serious disciplinary problems in prison may keep their babies with them for up to one year after birth, and sometimes longer, if parole is pending. The goal of the prison nursery is for mother and child to develop a secure attachment, which encourages healthy social, physical, and emotional development, Byrne says.

Becoming Parents

The typical day for a nursery mom at Bedford Correctional Facility is to wake up at 6 a.m., have breakfast, clean her room, and prepare baby for day care. By 9:30 a.m. mothers have dropped their babies off at infant day care — staffed by civilians and long-term inmates who have been trained as caregivers — and attend vocational, educational, and anti-crime-related programs. They join their babies at lunch and then return them to day care, as they attend an afternoon educational program. They pick their babies up at 4:30 p.m. and are responsible for their care for the rest of the evening. Recreation, college courses, and classes on domestic violence or 12-step meetings are offered, and the mothers often trade babysitting for attendance.

New York's Department of Correctional Services and those in other states are particularly interested in how the prison nursery affects the mother's recidivism.

"The Department of Correctional Services welcomed Dr. Byrne's research because we believe in the nursery program and felt reliable data from a recognized researcher would help document the program's effectiveness and success," said spokesman Erik Kriss.

"The mothers who participated in Dr. Byrne's study enjoyed their work with her and her research assistants and perceived the process as an intervention on their own behalf. They were more attentive to their children and their own parenting as a result."


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Drug War Chronicle- Activists At Marijuana Boot Camp

This month's national elections are over, but marijuana reformers in Colorado are taking no breaks. Just 11 days after red state Colorado turned dramatically blue, nearly 300 activists and would-be activists gathered last Saturday morning at Regis University in Denver for the 2008 Colorado Marijuana Reform Seminar and Activist Boot Camp, designed to make them more effective and to pave the way for more marijuana law reform in the Rocky Mountain State.

There is plenty to build on. Colorado has been a medical marijuana state since 2001 and a decrim state since the 1970s. In the past few years, activists like Mason Tvert of SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation) and Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado have been building an impressive movement for a new set of reforms. In 2005, SAFER won a Denver vote to legalize marijuana possession, and after that was ignored, came back in 2007 with a winning lowest law enforcement priority initiative in Denver.

But while Denver appears ready to embrace legal weed, the rest of the state is not quite there yet, and a 2006 statewide legalization initiative ultimately came up short with 41% of the vote. A big part of the focus of the boot camp was to ensure that next time a legalization initiative appears on the ballot, it goes over the top.

To that end, SAFER and Sensible Colorado assembled a series of panel for the day-long seminar. Beginning with "Colorado's Marijuana Laws: Past, Present & Future," and "Everyone Can Agree: Colorado Needs Reform," "Citizen Lobbying: Reaching & Influencing Elected Officials," "The Media: How It Works, How We Can Use It, & Why It Matters," and culminating with "Taking Action: Building Support & Maintaining Momentum," organizers created a very full plate indeed for the assembled activists. The panels featured scientists, liberal and conservative public policy analysts, media representatives, and seasoned activists.

One big catch for the boot camp was House Majority Leader Paul Weissman (D-Louisville), who explained the necessity and the how-to of lobbying elected officials to bring change. "We frankly just listen to each other unless there's an effort for people to get a hold of us," Weissmann said. It is more effective to build long-term relationships with elected officials than to make a campaign donation, he said. "The people who I remember more aren't folks who wrote a check, but the people who went door-knocking," he said.

"The 2008 campaign season only just ended for most people," said SAFER executive director Mason Tvert. "But for the growing number of Coloradans committed to reforming state and local marijuana laws, the 2009 campaign season has already begun. Our first goal -- to disprove the myth that marijuana makes people less motivated -- has clearly already been accomplished."

The boot camp filled an identifiable need among Colorado activists, said Tvert. As groups who had led campaigns and garnered considerable notoriety, it fell on SAFER and Sensible Colorado to address that need, he said.

"Because of all the work we've done around the state and all the media coverage we've received, we frequently hear from people who want to get involved; there are some every week," Tvert explained. "We wanted to find productive things for these people to do and we wanted to create a more supportive environment for ballot measures, so we identified areas where people can make a difference and developed materials so they can do things more effectively and understand the whys and wherefores," he explained. "The boot camp brought everyone together to provide them with the materials and some training. The point of the panels was to give them first-hand information that will help them be better, more effective activists," he added.

Drug War Chronicle

Friday, November 21, 2008

Alderden: Can't Uphold Law By Keeping Pot Alive

NateTaylor @coloradoan.com

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden says his office can't uphold the requirements of a state constitutional amendment regarding medical marijuana.

Amendment 20, passed by voters in November 2000, requires law enforcement agencies that seize medical marijuana plants to maintain their health while they are being held as evidence.

Alderden said in his "Bulls-eye" blog that maintaining the health of the plants is an impossible task.

"How in the world are we supposed to fertilize, water and grow thousands of plants?" Alderden said in his blog. "We don't have the personnel, space, resources or time to operate a full-blown greenhouse."

Alderden said there are currently no medical marijuana plants being held as evidence by the Sheriff's Office. He said large amounts of plants held as evidence in the future will not be maintained.

"Plants won't be maintained if it appears obvious to us they are in violation of the amendment," Alderden said Thursday in a phone interview.

The amendment allows patients who have the OK from doctors to use the drug, along with designated caregivers, to possess it and grow it. Alderden said the spirit of the amendment is often violated by the caregivers who use the amendment to sell marijuana and make "millions of dollars."

"I really don't have a problem if they have their six plants," Alderden said referring to medical marijuana patients. "But when you have people who are doing major-league drug dealing, you've got problems."

He also said there aren't enough resources at the county's disposal to maintain the health of seized plants. He said to maintain large amounts of the plants would require a warehouse-sized space, a sophisticated lighting and watering system, a staff to keep the plants healthy and security for the facility.

The Coloradoan

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Denver Police Bias Probed

Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman has enlisted a social psychologist to conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of whether the department is doing everything it can to rid the force of racial and gender bias.

The review, underway in Denver for more than a year, has already led to the creation of a mentoring program for female police recruits that reduced the dropout rate. It is also still probing the department's policies on recruiting, training, retention and how officers interact with the community.

Whitman has asked Tracie Keesee, division chief of Research, Training and Technology Division, to head up the initiative in Denver.

Keesee said that, among other things, the review will try to determine whether the military boot-camp style of training in which police cadets are yelled at to prepare them for street work is effective.

"This will get to the bottom of burning issues we've been looking at for decades," Keesee said.

The department enlisted Phillip Goff, a social psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has become a leader in studying what scholars dub "racism without racists," to conduct the review.

"They wanted to make sure they were getting people on the force who were the most likely to engage in equitable and non-bias policing," Goff said.

The review follows a series of controversies involving Denver police in recent years that have touched off racial controversies. In 2003 and 2004, community outrage developed after white police officers were accused of using excessive force when they fatally shot blacks and Latinos, and the U.S. Department of Justice warned in 2004 that "patterns and practices" at the department could require federal scrutiny.

Last month, the city agreed to pay $885,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a 16-year-old Latino who alleged he suffered massive internal injuries when a white gang-unit officer repeatedly jumped on his back.

"What we're looking at is all the things that create disparate outcomes in policing," Goff said.

Goff said the department offered to pay him for his review, but he decided to do the work for free to ensure academic integrity. He hopes to begin publishing results in academic journals within the next year.

"I let the department know what I find, and they've shown a remarkable willingness to be very proactive," said Goff, who said he did not always have positive interactions with police as an African-American growing up in Philadelphia.

"What I have seen in the Denver Police Department is incredible," Goff said. "When I bring them the findings, they talk about it immediately and say, 'OK, this is real. How do we go about fixing it?' "

The Denver Post

Pot Dispensary Burglarized

NateTaylor @coloradoan.com

A man who operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Fort Collins says his home has been burglarized or vandalized nine times in the past month, and on Sunday he confronted the burglars who fired a gun in his direction.

James Masters also said $40,000 worth of marijuana was destroyed at his greenhouse and might cause him to close down his dispensary.

"They burglarized the shop at the beginning of October and cut down plants in the green house," Masters said. "They destroyed $40,000 worth of pot that was supposed to go to medical patients who have been waiting incredibly patiently."

Masters said the burglars attempted to enter his home through a sliding glass door about 7:30 p.m. Sunday but were scared off by an alarm. He said the burglars returned about three hours later; he tried to spray them with Mace outside his home, and one of them fired a gun.

Masters said he has since tried to purchase a gun for protection and is hoping police can help him relocate his family to a different home.

"After having a .45-caliber bullet whiz past your head, you have a different opinion about the Second Amendment," Masters said.

He also said his family is currently living with his wife Lisa's family in Chicago.

Fort Collins police Investigator David Grant said Masters has only filed one incident report, which followed Sunday's attempted break-in.

"We are actively working on this case, and it's under investigation," Grant said, adding that nothing was reported stolen.

Masters said his experience with police has been a positive one, which he wasn't necessarily expecting following his threat to sue the city for the destruction of his marijuana plants seized after he and his wife were arrested in August 2006.

The Coloradoan

Obama Renews Dreams - Letter in RMN

This letter from a Colorado prisoner was posted in today's Rocky.

As an incarcerated black man, I am equally - if not more - excited than a free man that Barack Obama has been elected the new president of the United States.

I think I speak for a great deal of inmates, no matter their race, when I say that this election has a great impact on the prison population. I also believe the recidivism rate will drop as a result of the election.

I believe that once you have been convicted of a felony and have received prison time as a result, life as a productive citizen - once released from prison - no longer exists.

Society has labeled us "ex-convicts." Nobody wants to hire us; it's extremely difficult to get affordable housing. Most places that will accept ex-felons are the very neighborhoods in which ex-felons have the hardest time succeeding.

We all had dreams and goals as young kids and even as young men. After being convicted and serving prison time for a felony, however, those dreams are no longer a reality. How many doctors, lawyers and professional individuals do you know who have been convicted of a felony and sent to prison and still have their job in that same profession? I'm not talking about construction workers or the blue-collar work force; those jobs are tailored for ex-felons. I'm talking about white-collar professions we all dreamed about when we were kids.

Now, however, things are different. How many black presidents can you name? Obama has opened an immense door for so many of us that we can now dare to dream again. We can actually dream about going back to college upon our release, and actually succeeding there. We now have hope that if a black man can run the United States of America, then an incarcerated man can surely obtain a white-collar professional job and beyond.

There is hope that life upon release will not be contained to blue-collar, back-breaking jobs. I am now actually motivated to reach a little bit higher, dream a little bit longer and encourage myself a little bit more that I can have a productive life upon my release.

I am no longer of the mind-set that I will return to the same old society that bats an eye at ex-felons trying once again to be a productive member of society. No longer do I have to rely on impractical thinking because I believed that I was a society reject.

America just elected a black man to be the next president of the United States of America. That says something about today's society. I hope it says something about every person who ever dreamed. I hope it encourages us all to chase those dreams just a little bit more. I hope it encourages us to remember that this country was built on dreams and it's not so much where we've been, but where we are going that really counts.

Nowadays it would seem that a majority of society judges a man on his character, rather than his label. It's a great relief knowing that hard work pays off once again no matter who you are or where you come from. No longer is the excuse available that our label is our supreme hindrance.

Rocky Mountain News

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Willacy County: Indictments Fly

A Willacy County grand jury indicted several high-profile public officials on Monday including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr.

The indictment charges Cheney with illegally profiting, by virtue of his office, from $85 million in investments in the Vanguard Group. The group invests in companies that house federal detainees. He also is charged with exerting pressure on how much prisons are paid to house detainees.

For now, Cheney's office did not comment. "I haven't seen the indictment," Cheney's spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said Tuesday, indicating that it would be reviewed.

The indictment further alleges that Gonzales used his position to stop investigations into assaults committed in the private prison managed by the GEO Group in Willacy County.

The GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp., was also indicted on murder charges involving the 2001 death of an inmate killed in a Raymondville prison. The indictment accuses GEO of allowing inmates to beat Gregorio De La Rosa Jr., 33, of Laredo, to death with padlocks stuffed into socks.

"There are a lot of wild things in the Valley, but this is by far the wildest . . . It's crazy," GEO's attorney David Oliveira said.

Outgoing Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra dismissed a three-count indictment against GEO earlier this month because it was improperly filed.

Lucio is charged with profiting from public office when he acted as a consultant for Management and Training Corp., CorPlan Corrections, Aguirre Inc., Hale Mills Corp., TEDSI Infrastructure Group, Inc., and Dannenbaum Engineering Corp. The indictment against Lucio reflects that he would have not been paid consulting fees were it not for his public office.

Brownsville Herald

Broderick Cleared In Masters Case

By Nate Taylor

An internal investigation by Fort Collins police has cleared Lt. Jim Broderick of violating any department policies or procedures stemming from his involvement in the Timothy Masters case.

Fort Collins police Chief Dennis Harrison said Broderick has been exonerated of violating any department policies.

“That’s no surprise,” Masters said in a phone interview after hearing about the findings of the investigation.

Masters was convicted by a jury in 1999 for the 1987 stabbing death of Peggy Hettrick.

He was 15 at the time of the murder, and no physical evidence tied him to Hettrick.

A judge in January threw out his conviction, saying that DNA evidence pointed toward another suspect and that Masters didn’t get a fair trial, though Masters has not been declared innocent.

Broderick, a detective at the time, was the lead investigator in the case when it was presented to the jury.

“The investigation was not about wrong-doing,” said Harrison, who also said the decision was reached about three weeks ago but not disclosed because the Coloradoan had not asked about it recently. “It was about what the focus of the investigation was. It was about policy violations.”

Police didn’t look at wrong-doing because that was the focus of a special investigation by Weld District Attorney Ken Buck.

Buck concluded that, while there were problems in the initial Masters investigation — particularly in crime-scene management and turnover among lead investigators, there were no crimes committed that he felt could be presented to a court for prosecution.

According to Buck’s report: “Some facets of the investigation and prosecution of the Peggy Hettrick homicide are disturbing. ... After consideration of the evidence, I did not discover criminal conduct among employees of the Fort Collins Police Department or the prosecutors in the case. Based on my review, I believe the deficiencies in this case were the result of misfeasance not malfeasance.”

While malfeasance is illegal action, misfeasance is doing something technically legal but still wrong, according to legal experts.

The Coloradoan

Larimer County Covering Legal Costs

It sounds like Larimer County doesn't want to take on the same legal team that just won the Emily Rice case and are representing Tim Masters.
by trevor hughes

The Larimer County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to cover the legal bills for two former prosecutors, along with the current and former district attorneys, in the federal wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by Timothy Masters.

The county had already paid the legal bills for the two former prosecutors during a disciplinary investigation by an office of the Colorado Supreme Court, which concluded Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair “directly impaired the proper operation of the criminal justice system.”

A jury in 1999 convicted Masters for the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick, and he spent nearly 10 years in prison. But in January, a special judge freed Masters and overturned his conviction after agreeing that he didn’t get a fair trial. New DNA test results pointed toward another suspect, the judge ruled.

And special prosecutors appointed to review Masters’ conviction concluded that multiple pieces of evidence that should have been turned over to Masters’ defense team weren’t.

However, criminal and internal affairs investigations into the lead detective at the time, Lt. Jim Broderick, have concluded he broke no departmental policies nor committed any crimes that could be prosecuted.

Tuesday, county manager Frank Lancaster said the county’s decision to cover the legal fees is not a referendum on Masters’ guilt or innocence or whether any government employees did anything wrong.

Masters’ attorneys in filing the suit publicly called on the city and the county to offer Masters a multi-million-dollar settlement and avoid costly litigation.

Lancaster said the lawsuit is going to cost taxpayers a “substantial” amount of money regardless of what happens.

“It’s obviously a very high-profile case, and there are going to be a lot of busy attorneys no matter what,” Lancaster said. “Any lawsuit, we try and settle. But it has to be on reasonable grounds. We prefer not to go to court. Most people prefer not to go to court.”

Lancaster said the county’s decision to pay the legal fees is important to show would-be government employees that they will be backed if they are sued in the course of their duties.

“Otherwise, no one would want to be a prosecutor,” he said.

County taxpayers have already paid about $28,000 to cover the legal costs incurred by Blair and Gilmore because the Office of Attorney Regulation investigation covered their actions as prosecutors. The two are now judges.

The city of Fort Collins will similarly cover the legal costs of its current and former employees, city officials confirmed Tuesday night. Masters is suing two police investigators, along with Police Chief Dennis Harrison.

Lancaster said the ongoing legal costs are being borne directly by taxpayers but said any settlement or court judgment in favor of Masters would be covered at least in part by liability insurance.

“The government is the citizens, the taxpayers. We have a fiduciary responsibility to do right by the taxpayers,” Lancaster said. “If a court of law finds something wrong there, we’ll abide by that.”

Masters’ civil lawyers are working on contingency, which means they will get paid only if he wins or receives a settlement.

The Coloradoan

Lawsuit Settled, One Journey Over, Another Begins...

The long public legal journey ended Tuesday for Roy Rice and Sue Garber - days of protesting outside Denver police headquarters, meetings with lawyers, and eventually the mayor, before finally learning that a lawsuit born of their daughter's death was settled.

Now begins the private, painful journey of the rest of their lives.

"There are no new memories of Emily," Rice said. "No new contacts with Emily. The rest of the world is missing a wonderful person."

Rice and Garber stood in front of the City and County Building the morning after the Denver City Council voted 11-1 to award the family $3 million as part of a wrongful death settlement.

Emily Rice died Feb. 19, 2006, after she was involved in a car crash and was taken to Denver Health Medical Center. She was then transferred to the city jail, where she was booked on suspicion of drunken driving.

While in her holding cell, she was suffering from internal injuries and, over the course of 20 hours, begged for medical attention.

She eventually bled to death.

The family fought for reforms in the way the jail handles those with injuries. Now dubbed Emily's Protocols, the city agreed to the new policies as part of the settlement. The family must be notified within six months that the protocols are being put into place.

The Rocky Mountain News

Monday, November 17, 2008

Emily Rice Settlement Approved

The Denver City Council has approved a $3 million settlement with the family of Emily Rae Rice, the young woman who bled to death in the city jail while pleading for help for hours.

The council voted 11 to 1 in support of the settlement.

Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz cast the dissenting vote, saying it was "an excessive amount for taxpayers to pay."

At least one of Faatz's colleagues and the family's attorney disagreed.

"I think it's a fair amount," said Councilman Doug Linkhart, adding that it's difficult to put a value on a human life.

Attorney Darold Killmer, who represents Rice's parents, Sue Garber and Roy Rice, said he respected Faatz's opinion but disagreed with her.

"We're very gratified with the 11 to 1 vote," he said. "It shows overwhelming support for the fairness of this settlement. It shows a sensitivity on the part of the council that we expected to see."

Rice, 24, died of internal injuries at the jail on Feb. 19, 2006, after she was injured in a car accident the day before.

Doctors at Denver Health treated Rice before she was booked into jail on suspicion of drunken driving.

Once she was in the city's custody, she begged for help for hours, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Rocky Mountain News

Lawyers For DNC Protesters Battle Gag

Lawyers critical of the decision to prosecute protesters arrested on the first night of the Democratic National Convention say Denver's city attorneys are trying to shut them up.

They say the city has twice asked a Denver County judge to issue a gag order to keep defense lawyers quiet about the validity of the Aug. 25 arrests.

Judge Karen Bowers has denied the requests.

"They want to stop me from criticizing them and telling the public about this," said Robert Corry, an attorney representing several DNC defendants. "I thought it was remarkable they would try this in a First Amendment case."

The judge's order says city prosecutors accused the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyers for the People's Law Project of trying to poison the jury pool by publicly criticizing the cases.

"Despite apparent efforts by third parties to influence these cases, the court believes that the juries have been honest in the selection process and able to listen fairly to the evidence presented," the order says.

The order also says that the ACLU is not representing any of the clients and that she cannot gag that entity. The record says there was no evidence that any individual lawyer associated with a DNC case is responsible for the release of information.

City Attorney David Fine said no motion for a gag order was made.

"We did not move for a gag order and, in fact, deliberately decided not to," he said. "I cannot understand why the order is written that way."

Fine did say attorneys who have entered appearances on behalf of their clients have an ethical obligation not to talk about the case.

The Denver Post

New Rules For State ID

A huge round of applause goes out to Carol Peeples for the volumes of work she did on this!!



The Department of Revenue has passed a significant rule change on an emergency basis, effective immediately, that is likely to enable thousands of Coloradans to obtain a driver’s license or identification card without the necessity of Exception Processing or administrative appeal.

These are the highlights of the new rules:

1. An individual with a Colorado driver’s license (DL) or ID card expired within the last 10 years (previously one year) may use that document by itself to obtain a new DL or ID, provide there is an image of the applicant on file with the Department of Revenue (DOR). (Rule

2. If an individual had a Colorado DL or ID expired within the last 10 years and their image is not on file with the Department of Revenue, only an additional document verifying lawful presence (such as a Social Security card or U.S. birth certificate) will be required. (

3. A Colorado Department of Correction or Federal Bureau of Prisons ID card will now be accepted to establish identity, and only a birth certificate will be needed (so long as the first and last names match) to establish the other 3 elements (age, name and lawful presence). ( No longer will the absence or failure to match a middle name be grounds for denying an ID or DL under these circumstances.

4. An individual who no longer has an expired DL or ID may still be able to qualify if there is a department record of the DL or ID, and the applicant’s facial image, signature and fingerprint match that record. The applicant must also provide either his/her Social Security number (not necessarily the card itself) or an additional document. (

5. Exception Processing should only have to be used when an individual has never had a Colorado ID or DL and when he/she cannot provide sufficient documents as listed in the rules and on the matrix.

The new matrix is not yet available on the DOR website, but it is hoped that it will be available on line within a week. I have attached a scanned copy provided by DOR for your use until that time.

Call (303) 866-9377 or e-mail me (lolson@colegalserv.org) if you have any questions about these changes or run into any problems. Since the rules were just faxed to the DMV offices on Friday, 11/1/408, there are likely to be some mistakes and misunderstandings in the beginning. Roni White, the Director of Licensing Programs, will be monitoring the implementation of these new rules and Exception Processing.

Prisoners Building Homes For Habitat

This is the type of program that should be happening in every community. This is a program that teaches real world skills and helps real world people.

RIFLE, Colorado — Julio Ramirez has some experience in construction, and he’s using those skills to help build the first Habitat for Humanity home in Rifle.

He spends all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays working on the home with a crew of about seven other men before he goes home.

But home for Ramirez, and the rest of his crew, is the Rifle Correctional Center — at least for the time being.

“I do a little bit of everything — whatever needs to be done — siding, cement work, framing...,” Ramirez said. “I look forward to it. I like doing the work, and it’s for a good cause — it’s a home for two families.”

The community labor program is a win-win situation for both the community and the inmates themselves, according to Dave Scherbarth, associate warden at RCC.

“First and foremost, we are here to protect the public,” Scherbarth said. “But we believe we can have inmates in the community safely.”

No sex offenders are allowed at the RCC facility.

RCC is a 192-bed minimum security prison located eight miles north of the city of Rifle and part of the state Department of Corrections system. Along with community labor, it also offers inmates secondary education, vocational training and a reintegration program to successfully reintroduce inmates back into society upon their release. The prison is also home to a certified firefighting crew, which has responded to wildfires all over the state.

Glenwood Springs Independent

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Return of The Pell Grant?


Citing research that shows inmates who take college courses are less likely to return to prison upon release, advocates said Thursday they hope the Paterson and Obama administrations will restart the state and federal programs.

Federal funding for prison higher education, in the form of Pell Grants, was cut in 1993 when then- President Bill Clinton signed anti-crime legislation. In New York, former Gov. George Pataki denied inmates access to the state's Tuition Assistance Program in 1995.

But with a new chief executive in Albany, and a new president in Washington in January, advocates hope to get funding restored, despite troubled financial outlook in both capitals.

"We should be relentless," said the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, president of SUNY at Old Westbury, who supports returning higher education funding to prisons. "We must not stop even in the face of this terrible financial crisis we find ourselves in."

Studies show that education of prison inmates, particularly higher education, reduces recidivism rates, said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit advocacy group in New York City.

A 1991 study of New York prisoners compared college program inmates with those who took no college courses and found that 26.4 percent of college program inmates returned to prison, compared with 44 percent of inmates who had no college courses while incarcerated, Gangi said.

Returning public money for prison higher education also pays off in the form of higher employment rates, less homelessness and lower rates of crime once inmates are released, he said.

"There could be significant return on investment," Gangi said.

New York's prison population has a high percentage of African-Americans when compared to their percentage of the population, mostly because state illicit drug laws are too harsh, Butts said.

However, the political climate is ripe for change, Butts said, because Gov. David A. Paterson is from Harlem, and President-elect Barack Obama worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, a historically black neighborhood.

In 1994, 27,000 inmates receive public money to take college courses while incarcerated, said Anna Crayton, deputy director of research with the Prisoner Re-Entry Institute at John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City.

That figure dropped by 44 percent in the years following, Crayton said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jail Death Settlement at $3 Million Dollars

I can't tell you how lucky we are to have Darrold, David and Mari working for us in Colorado. They continue to keep the accountability card on the table at all times.

The city of Denver is poised to pay $3 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of the family of Emily Rae Rice, who bled to death in the Denver City Jail while her cries for help went unheeded.

The settlement is the largest ever by the city in a personal-injury case, said Darold Killmer, the lawyer who represented the Rice family. The city also agreed to make significant changes in how it disciplines sheriff's deputies and how it handles inmates with medical problems.

"We call those 'Emily's rights,' " Killmer said.

The city's settlement follows an earlier $4 million settlement between the Rice family and Denver Health Medical Center, in which Denver Health also agreed to significant changes in patient screening and treatment at both the medical center and the jail.

Rice, 24, died Feb. 19, 2006, in the jail 20 hours after she was released from the hospital. She had suffered a lacerated spleen and liver and bled to death from injuries she sustained in a drunken-driving crash. Her injuries went undetected at the hospital, and her cries for help were ignored in the jail.

Her blood-alcohol content was 0.12 percent at the time of the crash. The legal limit for drivers in Colorado is 0.08 percent.

An internal-affairs investigation resulted in three-day suspensions for two deputies at the Denver jail who failed to make required visits to the wing where Rice died and then falsified reports. Another deputy, with past discipline problems, resigned after lying to investigators about making her required rounds.

The Denver Post

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mapping DUI's

NateTaylor @coloradoan.com

Local law enforcement agencies believe new maps will help them better enforce drunken-driving laws.

With the help of new data-plotting map technology implemented in the past year, Colorado State Patrol at Troop C in Fort Collins can see where the most DUI-related accidents have occurred during the past three years.

As a result, they can target their patrols to those areas.

"I think the biggest and the whole reason we did this is to focus our enforcement efforts," said CSP Captain Rob Marone. "The maps have helped our troopers to be able to find the areas that need the focus, and that's something we've not had in the past."

The maps feature color-coded pins indicating the locations of accidents and the types of accidents during each season. Marone said for now, the maps are used to pinpoint where activity occurs. With time, the troop will be able to see if it's making a difference by targeting patrols.

"It's our first year doing it, so there is no data to show the effectiveness yet," Marone said. "I hope it's something we can continue so we can compare our new efforts to our efforts before."

The map-plotting technology is not only benefiting the CSP troop but also the patrol division of the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

LCSO Major Justin Smith said the collaboration between the two agencies has improved their ability to enforce the law.

The Coloradoan

Monday, November 10, 2008

Criminal Justice Recommendations For New Administration

Released From The Sentencing Project last week-

"Americans of all political stripes, and especially professionals with experience in every aspect of the criminal justice system, recognize that the system is failing too many, costing too much, and helping too few," said today's report. Included among the recommendations to overcome these challenges are:

· Eliminate the crack cocaine sentencing disparity;

· Expand alternatives to incarceration;
· Fund prisoner reentry through the Second Chance Act;
· Extend federal voting rights to people released from prison;
· Restore welfare and food stamp eligibility to individuals with drug felony convictions; and
· Analyze and reduce unwarranted racial and ethnic disparity in the federal judicial system.

The policy catalogue will be distributed to the Obama/Biden transition team and key leadership on Capitol Hill. The administration's transition team has already identified the need to eliminate crack cocaine sentencing disparities as one of its civil rights agenda items.

Both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden have been supportive of criminal justice reforms while in the U.S. Senate and could aid efforts to address unfairness in the system. On the issue of crack cocaine sentencing, Senator Biden introduced, and Senator Obama cosponsored, the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007 (S. 1711), which would eliminate the 100 to 1 quantity-based sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. The legislation would also focus federal law enforcement efforts on serious drug traffickers instead of the neighborhood crack sellers frequently targeted under current law.

Nationwide - Decrim Wins

Barack Obama wasn't the only big winner in Tuesday elections; marijuana polled just as well, if not better. A medical marijuana initiative in Michigan -- the first in the Midwest -- and a decriminalization initiative in Massachusetts both won by convincing margins, and scattered local initiatives on various aspects of marijuana policy reform all won, too.

In both the statewide initiatives, reform forces overcame organized opposition on their way to victory, mostly from the usual suspects in law enforcement and the political establishment. Michigan enjoyed the dubious distinction of a visit from John Walters, the drug czar himself, who popped in to rail against medical marijuana as "an abomination."

"We could be seeing a sea change in more ways than one in this election," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which backed both state initiatives. "These are not just wins, but huge wins. In two very blue states, marijuana reform outpolled Barack Obama. At this point, we can look members of Congress in the eye and ask them why exactly they think marijuana reform is controversial."

The results are also an indicator of the decreasing influence of the drug czar's office, said Mirken. "A clear public mandate has emerged, and it's particularly noteworthy coming as it does after eight years of the most intense anti-marijuana campaign from the feds since the days of Reefer Madness," he said. "Despite all the press releases and press conferences, despite all the appearances and campaigning Walters has done to try to convince Americans that marijuana is some sort of scourge, the voters just said no."

Stop The Drug War

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Citing Workloads Public Lawyers Reject Cases

New York Times - Public defenders are notoriously overworked, and their turnover is high and their pay low. But now, in the most open revolt by public defenders in memory, many of the government-appointed lawyers say that state budget cuts and rising caseloads have pushed them to the breaking point.

In September, a Florida judge ruled that the public defenders’ office in Miami-Dade County could refuse to represent many of those arrested on lesser felony charges so its lawyers could provide a better defense for other clients. Over the last three years, the average number of felony cases handled by each lawyer in a year has climbed to close to 500, from 367, officials said, and caseloads for lawyers assigned to misdemeanor cases have risen to 2,225, from 1,380.

“Right now a lot of public defenders are starting to stand up and say, ‘No more: We can’t ethically handle this many cases,’ ” said David J. Carroll, director of research for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

The Miami-Dade case, which is being closely watched across the country, was appealed by the state, which says that defender offices must share the burden of falling revenues. On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court sent the case to an appellate court for a ruling. If the judge’s decision is upheld, it will force courts here to draw lawyers from a smaller state office and contract with private lawyers to represent defendants, at greater expense.
New York Times

Connerly May Turn To Prison Reform

Anti-affirmative-action guru Ward Connerly will likely halt his nationwide push to end race and gender preferences. Connerly, a part black California businessman, spoke with the Colorado Independent an hour after Amendment 46 toppled by an extremely thin margin.

The so-called Colorado Civil Rights Initiative was the first Connerly amendment to flop after making it onto a state ballot. It was also a key measure in Connerly’s Super Tuesday for Equal Rights campaign, a nationwide thrust to dismantle affirmative action programs in five states this year. In three of those states, the measure failed to make it onto the ballot, and Thursday, after a feverishly close tally, it collapsed in Colorado. Nebraska was the only state this year to approve the proposal.

In a wide-ranging, hour-long phone interview with The Colorado Independent, Connerly said he now intends to turn his focus to prison reform. He downplayed the importance of Colorado’s rejection of a ban on affirmative action programs, and also weighed in on President-elect Barack Obama’s historic win.

When asked how he planned to proceed now that Colorado voters had rejected Amendment 46, Connerly said that he might curb his 12-year-long effort, which produced wins in California, Michigan and Washington state in years past and in Nebraska this year. “Well, I love to read. I love to write. I do have other interests,” he said. “I would like to pursue those things. I would rather do those things than get involved in these initiatives.”

“Contrary to what is said, I don’t need this for my financial well-being. I don’t need it for my psychological well-being,” he added, referring to an allegation that he paid himself $7 million from the two nonprofits that funded his Super Tuesday for Equal Rights campaign. Connerly spent more than $350,000 in Colorado this year, according to campaign finance reports.

But rather than continue the fight against racial preferences, Connerly said he will focus on reforming the criminal justice system. He has developed a passion for the issue because, he said, “I know someone for whom I have great affection who is in this situation. I had to learn a lot more about the system than I ever knew before.”

Connerly said that in the past year, he has contributed “frequently and heavily” to Families against Mandatory Minimums, a national organization dedicated to changing sentencing laws. And he is a proponent of alternatives to incarceration, such as ankle monitors for some convicts.

“I don’t want to mislead you. I don’t want to say I am no longer going to be interested in race equality in our public policies,” he said. “I think this whole business of what we are doing to people who are incarcerated is far more pressing.”

The Colorado Independent

Ritter's Attempt To Cut Prison Rolls

Rocky Mountain News: It's time for some thinking outside the box when it comes to corrections - particularly as Colorado's recidivism rate, which is a measure of how many inmates wind up back in prison within three years of their release, has jumped to 53.4 percent. Gov. Bill Ritter wants to focus on stemming the flow of return offenders - and promises a hefty return on a relatively small investment.

But can Ritter's anti-recidivism plan - targeted at a prison population where 78 percent are said to have substance-abuse problems and 28.7 percent are deemed to be in need of mental-health services - really eliminate the need for growth in prison beds without jeopardizing public safety?

We think it's worth the investment to find out, while advising a healthy level of skepticism.

The governor touts his anti-recidivism package as costing $10.6 million in its first year while saving $380.5 million over five years. The bulk of those savings would come from not having to expand the Trinidad Correctional Facility by 2,061 beds but the savings also assume no more new beds throughout the entire system by fiscal year 2013-14.

Current Division of Criminal Justice statistics project 4,444 more offenders in the corrections system between the 2009-10 fiscal year and 2013-14. The governor's anti-recidivism plan promises to have 4,965 fewer offenders coming through the system in that time period. In other words, Ritter plans to halt the growth in incarcerated offenders - a laudable but highly ambitious goal given the history of the past two decades.

Rocky Mountain News

Thursday, November 06, 2008

WESTWORD - Can A Troubled Colorado Prison Change The Way Inmates Think?

The newest article from Alan on our prison system appears in this weeks Westword. This time he takes on Cheyenne Mountain.

By Alan Prendergast

published: November 06, 2008

Can a privately run "re-entry center" change the way prisoners think?

Jay Lewis assumes the position. He slouches, arms folded across his chest, knee bent and foot braced on the wall behind him. He looks like your typical green-tunic-clad felon, lazily taking in the passing show at the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center, a 750-bed private prison in Colorado Springs.

"He's jailin'," explains fellow inmate Charles Cook. "That's something we try to deter. If I saw Mr. Lewis doing that for real, I'd pull him up on that and tell him that he's going back to his old behaviors."

Lewis straightens up immediately. "Thank you," he says. "I'll get right on top of that."

The demonstration is neatly scripted, like a lot of interactions among inmates at CMRC. But that seems to be part of the appeal of the place to prisoners like Cook and Lewis; it's a new script for convicts who've found that the old ways haven't gotten them anywhere they want to be. At CMRC, the trappings and the terminology defy expectation. Inmates are known as "residents" and call each other "mister"; the warden is the "director." Staffers dress like corporate executives and motivational coaches rather than prison guards. The living units feature spartan eight- and twelve-man rooms with bunk beds rather than barred cells. Huge signs line the corridors, exhorting residents in an almost Orwellian pitch:







Although classified as a medium-security prison, the facility is a radical departure from the typical lockup operated by the Colorado Department of Corrections. Most of CMRC's residents are nearing the end of their sentences and are likely to be paroled soon; about 20 percent are parole violators getting a little attitude adjustment before hitting the streets again. Under a DOC contract that pays the private operators $52 per head per day, the facility tries to prepare inmates for release by offering basic education, job-hunting and computer skills, drug treatment programs and classes in what could loosely be described as "lifestyle change" — efforts to challenge well-established prison culture by, for example, having inmates confront each other over unacceptable behavior.

There are eighteen possible levels of "intervention" that residents and staff can try, Cook explains, before a misbehaving resident might get thrown into the hole or out of the program. His mild rebuke of Lewis is known as a verbal pull-up, and the only right response to a pull-up is thank you, I'll get right on that. If a resident provides a less compliant answer, along the lines of get your face out of my business before I shank your sorry ass, stronger measures are taken. The offender might have to face his peers in a staff-run meeting, standing in a spot in the middle of the room marked by the outline of two large red feet.

"A lot of guys come here with a sense of closed-mindedness," Cook says. "We're just trying to open them up. There's no chain of command among residents, but there is a line of communication. We have static groups, we have hot seats, we have confrontation groups. Staff are present and overseeing things, but a great deal of it is actually facilitated by the residents."

Like many in his unit, Cook is a firm believer in the CMRC approach. He points proudly to his name listed as unit coordinator at the top of a "structure board," delineating the various lines of communication within his pod. He has been at the prison since February and expects it might be another year before he makes parole. "This is how I want to be when I'm released," he says. "I don't want to go back to DOC and get into a situation where I have to abide by that convict mentality."

Some residents can be almost evangelistic about the program, which they hope will better their chances of being granted an early parole. Serving a ten-year stretch for assault and burglary of a Taco Bell, Eric Erickson has been turned down by the state parole board three times already. He calls his arrival at CMRC three months ago "a huge blessing."

"It's not like DOC, where you can sleep and do nothing all day," he says. "At 6 a.m., it's feet on the floor for everyone. I've seen some good, positive things since I've been here. The staff are respectful and helpful, and I've seen this program help other inmates get out."

But not every journey through CMRC has been so positive. Regular visits by DOC monitors have turned up a slew of management and operational blunders at the prison since it opened three years ago. Documents obtained by Westword show a history of staff shortages and high turnover, inadequate training and security lapses, assaults and gang activity, and several instances of female staffers being fired for fraternization or even sexual relationships with residents. And some inmates who have completed the program claim the place has more problems with violence, contraband and bogus classes than the inspection reports suggest.

"It's a joke," says Douglas Bullard, a 45-year-old parolee who left CMRC in September. "The only time they had people doing what they were supposed to do was when the director was coming through with his cronies. Other than that, it's a free-for-all. You got kids running amok. You got people climbing around in the ceilings, breaking into offices and stealing stuff. You got booze, you got drugs, you got guys smoking in the bathroom. You're supposed to be confronted by other inmates, but the staff are the only ones who are doing it."

"There is very little control," adds Cecil Mercer, who left CMRC last summer after eleven months. "Every day someone gets beat down, and most of the time it's five or six on one. The last five or six months there, I did not feel safe."

Kevin Estep, CMRC's third director since it opened in 2005, insists that the situation has improved markedly since he arrived last spring and that inmates' stories about chronic assaults are greatly exaggerated. "I've heard the same things you've heard," he says. "But we haven't had a serious assault since I've been here. We do have fights, and we take those very seriously, but I've seen prisons that are much worse than what we have."

Officials at Community Education Centers, the New Jersey-based company that runs CMRC and other re-entry and halfway house programs in 22 states, acknowledge some "glitches" in the early phases of the Colorado Springs operation but point to the company's track record elsewhere. Research studies tracking ex-cons who've been through CEC facilities indicate that they are less likely to commit additional crimes than other parolees. "We've had some growing pains," says CEC senior vice president William Palatucci. "It hasn't been a perfect start-up, by any means. But we have a great deal of confidence in our model and the direction that we're heading."


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

CA - Voters Oppose Proposition 5 and 6 and Support 9

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

(11-04) 23:04 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- California voters were trouncing a pair of contrasting anti-crime measures, one that aimed to shrink prisons and another that promised to grow them while boosting funding for law enforcement.

Proposition 5 would expand programs to divert drug addicts and nonviolent offenders from prison to rehabilitation. It was designed to keep them from cycling in and out of overcrowded prisons that cost taxpayers more than $10 million a year.

Opponents said the programs were ripe for abuse.

With about a third of precincts reporting, voters were also rejecting Proposition 6, which would require spending at least $965 million a year on programs for police, prosecutors, jails and juvenile lockups - a $365 million increase from current spending, said the state's legislative analyst. The measure would also increase some penalties for convicts.

A third measure backed by crime victims, Proposition 9, held a significant lead. It would allow victims to speak at bail hearings and limit a defendant's ability to gain evidence from a victim before trial. The measure would also limit the release of inmates due to crowding. That could cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year, the legislative analyst said.

SF Gate

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Staffing New Prison A Daunting Task

While Colorado has begun construction on a new 320-bed super maximum security prison, public officials are still wondering how it will be staffed adequately under a sluggish economy and a statewide hiring freeze.

Colorado State Penitentiary II (CSP II) is set to be completed by 2010 to assist in detaining what both law enforcement members and civil liberties advocates agree is a swelling inmate population.

But staffing the new prison could prove problematic during hard financial times when the state is trying to save money.

In September, following the national banking crisis, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter ordered the state to halt new construction projects and the hiring of new employees.

So far the hiring freeze only applies only to the 2008-09 financial year, and even if it was extended, there are provisions making budgetary exceptions for public safety projects such as the prison, which will be located in CaƱon City.

“Still, it’s going to be a very daunting task in the state’s budget to staff all of CSP II, certainly,” said Rep. Buffie McFadyen, a Democrat from Fremont County where the prison will be located. “Especially since I’m not sure if we’ve completed staffing back before the last recession in 2001-02.”

Colorado experienced a 400 percent increase in the state’s prison population from 1985 to 2005, and since the beginning of the decade the population increased by nearly 7 percent from approximately 16,000 inmates in 2000 to 23,000 in 2008 (PDF), according to state reports.

The Colorado Independent

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Prisons Benefit From Going Green

I'm surprised that the Governor hasn't jumped on this...

LITTLEROCK, Wash. — Of all the things convicted murderer Robert Knowles has been called during his 13 years behind bars, recycler hasn't been one of them.

But there he was one morning, pitchfork in hand, composting food scraps from the main chow line and coffee grounds from prison headquarters — doing his part to "green" the prison.

"It's nice to be out in the elements," said Knowles, 42, stirring dark, rich compost that will amend the soil at the small farm where he and fellow inmates of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center grew 8,000 pounds of organic vegetables this year.

Inmates of the minimum-security facility, 25 miles from Olympia, the state capital, raise bees, grow organic tomatoes and lettuce, compost 100 percent of food waste and even recycle shoe scraps that are made into playground turf.

"It reduces cost, reduces our damaging impact on the environment, engages inmates as students," said Eldon Vail, secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections, which oversees 15 prisons and 18,000 offenders. "It's good security."

As around-the-clock operations, prisons are voracious resource hogs, and administrators are under increasing pressure to reduce waste and conserve energy and water.

In 2007, states spent more than $49 billion to feed, house, clothe, treat and supervise 2.3 million offenders, reports the Pew Center on the States.

To keep costs down, the Indiana Department of Corrections installed water boilers that run on waste wood chips and built a wind turbine at one prison that generates about 10 kilowatts an hour and saves $2,280 a year.

At Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, Calif., 6,200 solar panels send energy back to the grid, enough to power 4,100 homes a year.

At Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, Ore., inmates recycle scraps from old prison blues to make diaper bags for women's shelters and dog beds for animal shelters.

"We try to model pro-social behavior," said Vern Rowan, business manager for the Oregon Department of Corrections.

The Denver Post

Garfield County Civil Rights Lawsuit Costing Taxpayers

County attorney says ACLU lawsuit will force continued spending
By Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado,
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — It’s cost Garfield County taxpayers well over a half-million dollars so far to defend against an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit claiming excessive use of force with Tasers and other problems at the county jail.

As of last week, Garfield County was billed $569,641 by a Boulder law firm for thousands of hours of work to lead the defense against the ACLU’s claims that were filed in July 2006, according to accounts payable records.

“It’s a tremendous amount of money that the taxpayers have spent on this case and will continue to spend,” said Garfield County attorney Don Deford. “The lawsuit has been brought, and we have to defend against it if we don’t agree.”

The figure doesn’t take into account costs of work the county attorney’s office has done to help defend against the ACLU’s claims. The county is also defending against four other ongoing lawsuits the Sheriff’s Office is involved in. But the county doesn’t have to pay anything for those cases outside of the dues it’s paying to an insurance carrier that’s covering those cases.

Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado, said the costly litigation could have been avoided if Sheriff Lou Vallario had been willing to discuss jail policy. But Vallario said the ACLU is on a mission to oppose the use of Tasers with frivolous lawsuits, and it will go jail to jail filing them until it finds a judge that agrees.

The law firm handling defense of the ACLU case is Berg, Hill, Greenleaf and Ruscitti, LLP. It has been submitting monthly bills based on a $200 per hour rate for the lead attorney, $180 per hour for two more attorneys working on the case, and $110 per hour for a paralegal. The largest bill was a June 2007 check for more than some people make in a year at $55,285.

Grand Junction Sentinel

Locking Down Rising Prison Costs

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gov. Bill Ritter wants to spend $10.6 million over the next two years in hopes of saving $380 million in prison costs in the coming five years.

Spending a little to save a lot is nearly always a sensible notion, so long as the anticipated savings are real and not pie-in-the-sky.

The vast majority of the savings in the governor’s prison reform program would come from one source — not building the planned $336 million addition to the state’s Trinidad Correctional Facility. That’s not pie-in-the-sky or smoke-and-mirrors savings. That’s real steel, bricks and concrete, the money for which wouldn’t be spent.

To achieve that, Ritter’s plan aims at reducing recidivism — crimes committed by those recently released from prison — which has been creeping up in Colorado in the past few years. It also calls for more prevention programs for troubled youths, and more diversion and substance-abuse programs for people convicted.

The goal is to reverse the forecast of 4,444 new state inmates in the next five years, and actually reduce the prison population by 521 inmates in that time.

That’s an unquestionably ambitious goal. But such programs are not without precedent. Here in Mesa County, a program to treat methamphetamine addicts, rather than sending them immediately to jail, has helped stem the growth in the county jail population. And, when 80 percent of people in state prisons are known to have substance-abuse problems, dealing with addiction clearly must be a top priority.

Grand Junction Sentinel

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Prostitution On The Ballot In San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO — When Proposition K was added to Tuesday’s ballot, many people likely snickered at the possibility that San Francisco might take its place alongside such prostitute-friendly havens as Amsterdam and a few rural counties in nearby Nevada.

But this week, it became readily apparent that city officials are not laughing anymore about the measure, which would effectively decriminalize the world’s oldest profession in San Francisco. At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom and other opponents seemed genuinely worried that Proposition K might pass.

“This is not cute. This is not fanciful,” Mr. Newsom said, standing in front of the pink-on-pink facade of a closed massage parlor in the Tenderloin district. “This is a big mistake.”

Supporters of the measure say it is a long-overdue correction of a criminal approach toward prostitutes, which neither rehabilitates nor helps them, and often ignores their complaints of abuse.

“Basically, if you feel that you’re a criminal, it can be used against you,” said Carol Leigh, who says she has worked as a prostitute for 35 years and now works as an advocate for those who trade sex for money. “It’s a really serious situation, and ending this criminalization is the only solution I see to protect these other women working now.”

The language in Proposition K is far-reaching. It would forbid the city police from using any resources to investigate or prosecute people who engage in prostitution. It would also bar financing for a “first offender” program for prostitutes and their clients or for mandatory “re-education programs.”

One of the measure’s broadest prohibitions would prevent the city from applying for federal or state grants that use “racial profiling” in anti-prostitution efforts, an apparent reference to raids seeking illegal immigrants.
New York Times