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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Budget Shortfall: Don't Staff CSP II

Colorado has a $17.6 billion state budget this year, but lawmakers trying to cut as much as $600 million in spending don't have many obvious places to go besides higher education.

That's because the amount legislators have real discretion over is much smaller than the total budget. Take away $4.1 billion in federal funding — much of which is matching money for state spending on specific programs — and take away more than $5 billion in revenue from fees devoted to services such as courts, regulatory agencies, highways and colleges, and what you're left with is the state's general fund of less than $8 billion. And in the general fund, the options are not plentiful.

Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, a member of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee, said all programs must be scrutinized closely. But he pointed out that colleges and universities were hit hard by the last recession in the early part of the decade.

"If history is an indication of the future, which it often is," Ferrandino said, "higher education is definitely one of those discretionary areas that has a large amount of funds."

Higher education, which gets nearly 11 percent of the general fund, $812.9 million in the current budget year, is a huge target, although most lawmakers say they are loath to cut it.

"I want to move away from the idea that higher education may be No. 1 on the chopping block," said Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, who will be House speaker in the next session. "We haven't made those decisions yet."

The biggest chunk of the general fund, 42 percent of the total — $3.2 billion in the current budget year that ends in June — goes to public schools. However, the state constitution's Amendment 23 acts as a no- touch rule, requiring education funding to rise every year by at least the rate of inflation.

When it comes to funding schools, lawmakers can tinker only with secondary programs like transportation, extra funding for small and rural schools, English-language classes, vocational training, gifted and talented programs and special education. These programs total about $220 million in the current budget year.

Cutting any of them would be unpopular. The same could be said for the next largest slice of the general fund, the 20 percent spent on Medicaid and the Children's Basic Health Plan. These and other health care programs for the poor cost the state $1.5 billion and serve nearly 500,000 people including the disabled, the elderly, children and pregnant women.

Medicaid and the Children's Basic Health Plan receive federal matching dollars, so cutting state dollars from the programs would "get into a spiral and make it worse," said Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, another JBC member.

A few Medicaid services are optional, meaning the state isn't required by the federal government to offer them to stay in the program, but few lawmakers would urge cutting them. The state, as it did during the last recession, may ask the federal government to increase Washington's share of matching money for Medicaid, at least for a few years.

Lawmakers also would be challenged in the current fiscal year to cut corrections, which represents another 9 percent of the general fund, $676.8 million. JBC members are pondering a delay in opening a prison in the next fiscal year that starts in July, a move that could save the state $16.6 million in the fiscal year and $38.6 million the year after that.

The Denver Post

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prison Spending The Real Crime - Editorial

Aurora Sentinel

The Aurora Sentinel
Published: Sunday, December 28, 2008 11:02 AM MST
Colorado’s current budget woes present a lot of difficult questions that must be resolved with what are sure to be even more difficult answers — all except for one.

It’s unclear yet whether the state will face a relatively painless shortage of about $70 million next year in trying to fund an expected $7.8 billion in needs and services, or whether more dire projects are accurate and Colorado must find a way to trim more than $600 million from it’s budget.

Either way, anyone who’s spent much time watching the creation of the state’s “long bill,” which is the in essence the state’s annual budget, knows that what actually survives the cuts are only the most needed state services. While there may be some ways to squeeze some savings in line items by increasing productivity, for the most part, Colorado runs a lean system. It’s one that’s become too lean in many areas. The state seriously underfunds programs that save Colorado taxpayers in the long run, such as programs to educate Colorado’s poor children and ensure they are mentally and physically well. No study or analysis disputes that funding such programs prevents the government from spending more on those same children later in forms of other social services, corrections or myriad public assistance programs.

And one of the biggest recipients in the state budget for disregarding those tried and true facts is the Colorado Department of Corrections. If you haven’t given the state’s prison department much thought as news of the dismal economy and growing budget shortages hogs the headlines, you should.

Colorado’s prison system accounts for almost 10 percent of the state’s annual budget, a number that has been steadily growing for years. This year, your tax dollars are paying to keep about 24,000 men and women behind bars at the cost of nearly $30,000 a year each. Compare that with the $6,000 or so the state spends on each Colorado child to provide them with a public education.

Here’s the bad-news, good-news: almost half of these men and women are imprisoned because of drug habits, alcoholism, conspiracy or other non-violent offenses. We’re not suggesting that people don’t need to be policed and punished for violating laws, but study after study shows that by first preventing people from becoming mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics, taxpayers save big by having those future cell mates be productive, taxpaying citizens.

More to the point in Colorado right now, those non-violent offenders who are being housed in prisons mainly because of mental illness or drug problems are running up huge taxpayer tabs.

Certainly, Colorado will struggle by cutting into almost every aspect of the state budget. The state, however, will only benefit by reducing the number of people it must house each year in prisons.

State officials should look closely at finding treatment programs for those convicted solely of non-violent drug crimes and find inexpensive drug treatment programs for these people who could easily being paying taxes instead of being the recipient of them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Webb Sets His Sights On Prison Reform

Washington Post

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 29, 2008; B01

Somewhere along the meandering career path that led James Webb to the U.S. Senate, he found himself in the frigid interior of a Japanese prison.

A journalist at the time, he was working on an article about Ed Arnett, an American who had spent two years in Fuchu Prison for possession of marijuana. In a January 1984 Parade magazine piece, Webb described the harsh conditions imposed on Arnett, who had frostbite and sometimes labored in solitary confinement making paper bags.

"But, surprisingly, Arnett, home in Omaha, Neb., says he prefers Japan's legal system to ours," Webb wrote. "Why? 'Because it's fair,' he said."

This spring, Webb (D-Va.) plans to introduce legislation on a long-standing passion of his: reforming the U.S. prison system. Jails teem with young black men who later struggle to rejoin society, he says. Drug addicts and the mentally ill take up cells that would be better used for violent criminals. And politicians have failed to address this costly problem for fear of being labeled "soft on crime."

It is a gamble for Webb, a fiery and cerebral Democrat from a staunchly law-and-order state. Virginia abolished parole in 1995, and it trails only Texas in the number of people it has executed. Moreover, as the country struggles with two wars overseas and an ailing economy, overflowing prisons are the last thing on many lawmakers' minds.

But Webb has never been one to rely on polls or political indicators to guide his way. He seems instead to charge ahead on projects that he has decided are worthy of his time, regardless of how they play -- or even whether they represent the priorities of the state he represents.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Treatment Resources Closing


December 26, 2008 - 10:15PM

Addiction is a word that's lost its punch.

It describes our fondness for favorite TV shows, our weakness for desserts - it's our terminology for anything pleasurable enough to be a temptation.

But with the impending loss of Colorado Springs' only detox program and a recession that's predicted to cut resources for treatment while pushing more people into addiction, substance-abuse experts believe there's a need to re-emphasize that true addiction is a public health problem, not a clever catchphrase.

"It's easy at this point for the general community to look at addiction and to kind of shrug off the seriousness of it because it is so talked about," said Michael McKelvey, who runs the Peak Addiction Recovery Center, one of the region's only inpatient rehabilitation centers focused exclusively on sobriety. "My concern is, it's a disease - it's a diagnosed illness that statistically will kill you if you don't treat it."

Yet, treatment options in the Colorado Springs area are dwindling. This week Peak Addiction found out it's losing its main source of funding, a $60,000-a-month federal grant to treat alcoholics and addicts 25 years old and younger. McKelvey said the 16-bed center will stay open but will have to shift gears to serve more private-paying and insured clients.

"It's awful. It's a horrible impact. To our community, that's a devastating loss," he said.

"Typically, people who really need help don't have money or insurance - and now, not a lot of community options."

That comes on top of two other recent announcements regarding cutbacks:

• Pikes Peak Mental Health announced a few weeks ago that it will close the 28-bed detox center The Lighthouse by the end of January because of funding deficiencies. Community organizations are scrambling to replace it but warn that any new program will likely be bare bones - perhaps just a set of beds where people can sleep off their intoxication safely.

• The Salvation Army reported earlier this month that because of funding issues, it will have to downsize its Adult Rehabilitation Center, which provides free residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services. Capacity will be cut from 65 beds to 30.

The cuts hit a system that local homeless advocates and substance-abuse experts say was already insufficient. They acknowledge that effective, comprehensive treatment can be costly, but argue that research shows it's cheaper than the cost of not treating addicts when you factor in prison recidivism, crime, health care and social services. Still, that argument doesn't tend to go far in public policy.

"No one ever got elected on a ‘more treatment' platform," said David Friedman, co-founder and director of an addiction studies program for journalists and associate dean of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The world of alcohol and drug addiction is complex, scientifically and socially.

Researchers continue to find hard evidence about how drugs and alcohol reshape the chemistry and structure of the brain, while treatment providers continually encounter stigmas and stereotypes as they make the case for services.

Take relapse. It is often treated as a sign of failure, even though providers say that's not the case. They compare addiction to chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, where long-term maintenance might include a setback or two along the way.
Additionally, the poor choices that often lead to addiction, and the ugly impact it has, tend to make it a less sympathetic condition with the public than a physical malady such as diabetes.

Mending Tim's Broken Life

The Denver Post

There's no telling how long it will take before Tim starts to really feel free. There is no way to remove the ten years of imprisonment from his memories and at the very least he should be paid in some way for the years he has lost.

He's barely unwrapped his taco before the $100 bill tumbles onto the restaurant table, dropped from the hand of a total stranger.

"I want you to have this," the smiling, middle-age woman says without stopping on her way out of a Fort Collins Taco Bell.

Tim Masters offers a quick "thank you" in the same half-astonished way he's responded to hundreds of such gestures in the year since a judge threw out his murder conviction and set him free.

People recognize Masters — tall, tight- shouldered, now balding — from newspapers and TV, the man who traded shackles and a tight orange jumpsuit for a proper shirt and bright yellow tie and strode quickly down the back courthouse steps.

Fresh out of a decade in prison, the world

New Life

  • Watch Tim Masters describe rebuilding his life.
is his cheerleader. The applause, the tooting car horns, the clicking cameras, the gifts — they follow him everywhere.

One day, an '88 BMW, the four-wheel drive he's always wanted, shows up at his Greeley attorneys' office. Another day, he's undergoing a free, $4,000 operation to fix his nearsighted vision.

Then he's on a plane, tickets paid, to Europe for an appearance on an Amsterdam TV talk show.

The first man in Colorado history freed from a life sentence by DNA evidence is famous. But it's a fame he would gladly trade to get back the lost years of his life.

The case that put him in prison was always circumstantial: Peggy Hettrick's naked, mutilated body was found in 1987 in a field near Masters' childhood home in Fort Collins.

Police quickly zeroed in on the stoic- faced, shaggy-haired 15-year-old as the killer — and for the next 11 years, did not let go. Masters had passed within several feet of the body on his way to school. His notebooks were filled with violent writings and drawings. Surely, authorities speculated, they were the musings of a killer.

He tried to live a normal life, through high school, a stint in the Navy, a house in California near his sister, a job as an aircraft

mechanic for Learjet.

Then early one morning in August 1998, the knock came. It was Lt. Jim Broderick. A psychologist had declared that the drawings and writings were the fantasies of a killer. Finally, the evidence Broderick needed.

Even without any physical evidence, it took just 10 hours for jurors to convict Masters of murder.

Cars, money and good wishes can't make up for that or do what Masters wants most — to bring the real killer to justice.

"How do you give me back my reputation?" says Masters, now 37. "How do you give me back 10 years of my life?"

Friday, December 26, 2008

Professor Mirrors Milgram Torture Experiments

The Mercury News

Replicating one of the most controversial behavioral experiments in history, a Santa Clara University psychologist has found that people will follow orders from an authority figure to administer what they believe are painful electric shocks.

More than two-thirds of volunteers in the research study had to be stopped from administering 150 volt shocks of electricity, despite hearing a person's cries of pain, professor Jerry M. Burger concluded in a study published in the January issue of the journal American Psychologist.

"In a dramatic way, it illustrates that under certain circumstances people will act in very surprising and disturbing ways,'' said Burger.

The study, using paid volunteers from the South Bay, is similar to the famous 1974 "obedience study'' by the late Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. In the wake of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann's trial, Milgram was troubled by the willingness of people to obey authorities — even if it conflicted with their own conscience.

Burger's findings are published in a special section of the journal reflecting on Milgram's work 24 years after his death on Dec. 20, 1984. The haunting images of average people administering shocks have kept memories of Milgram's research alive for decades, even as recently as the Abu Ghraib scandal.....

Drug Rehab Or Revolving Door?

Blue Ridge Now

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Their first love might be the rum or vodka or gin and juice that is going around the bonfire. Or maybe the smoke, the potent marijuana that grows in the misted hills here like moss on a wet stone.

But it hardly matters. Here as elsewhere in the country, some users start early, fall fast and in their reckless prime can swallow, snort, inject or smoke anything available, from crystal meth to prescription pills to heroin and ecstasy. And treatment, if they get it at all, can seem like a joke.

“After the first couple of times I went through, they basically told me that there was nothing they could do,” said Angella, a 17-year-old from the central Oregon city of Bend, who by freshman year in high school was drinking hard liquor every day, smoking pot and sampling a variety of harder drugs. “They were like, ‘Uh, I don’t think so.’ ”

She tried residential programs twice, living away from home for three months each time. In those, she learned how dangerous her habit was, how much pain it was causing others in her life. She worked on strengthening her relationship with her grandparents, with whom she lived. For two months or so afterward she stayed clean.

“Then I went right back,” Angella said in an interview. “After a while, you know, you just start missing your friends.”....

Coal For Christmas: Bush Revokes Pardon

WASHINGTON (AP) — The pardons President George W. Bush granted this week couldn't have been better Christmas gifts if Santa himself had delivered them.

But a Brooklyn, N.Y., man, Isaac Robert Toussie, received the legal equivalent of a lump of coal.

Toussie, convicted of making false statements to the Housing and Urban Development Department and of mail fraud, was among 19 people pardoned Tuesday.

But after learning in news reports that Toussie's father had donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party a few months ago, as well as other information, the White House issued an extraordinary statement Wednesday saying the president was reversing his decision on Toussie's case.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said the decision to revoke the pardon — a step unheard of in recent memory — was "based on information that has subsequently come to light," including the extent and nature of Toussie's prior criminal offenses. She also said neither the White House counsel's office nor the president had been aware of a political contribution by Toussie's father that "might create an appearance of impropriety."

"Given that, this was the prudent thing to do," she said.

AP Story

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

To all of our supporters and friends, we realize that this may be a difficult time of year for folks who are away from loved ones. From the CCJRC family to yours we wish you a wonderful and peaceful new year.

Life Was Slipping--But Man Got Traction

This story is a testament to the Road Called Strate and the wonderful work that they do, as well as other community groups in Denver who are called upon and don't recieve the support from the state that they should.
Rocky Mountain News

Carl Anderson is home for the holidays. He was last year, too. But last year, home was a 16th Street Mall bench, or a mattress at the Denver Rescue Mission.

He was homeless last Christmas. He is homeless no more.

Now, Anderson has an apartment. His wife, Tammy, is with him. And their daughter, Kirelle.

Last year, he was alone and wasn't sure where he was going to sleep.

"I was five weeks in Jesus Saves, give or take," he said. "I was five weeks in bus stops. I didn't have no place to sleep, no bed. The mall bench - that was my house, man."

His troubles began long before last year. He moved from Louisiana to Denver about 10 years ago. Then he started messing with drugs - dealing and doing. He went to prison, lost his home, almost lost his family.

He was in a halfway house in Colorado Springs - no room in Denver - when he was released.

His wife was pregnant and in jail in Denver. So he came home, even though he had no home to come to.

The baby was due in weeks. And Anderson was sweating. He feared that when his wife gave birth, if he couldn't prove he had a permanent address, the government would take his baby away.

"In order to find a place to live, you have to have a job," he said.

So he was handing out resumes to any business that would take them.

He put up with the glares from people who were better off, tried to ignore others who looked beyond him, not seeing him.

"I was walking and praying," he said.

Thanks to a chance encounter in downtown Denver, he found hope where he had none, a job when he was out of work.

"It all came together like Super Glue," he said.

At the time, Ray Washington was working for A Road Called STRATE, a nonprofit that offers counseling and other help to guys down on their luck as well as fatherhood classes to recently discharged inmates and to single dads or those who have lost custody of their children. STRATE stands for Society's True Rehabilitative Attitude Toward Ex-Offenders. The Colorado Department of Human Services funds the fatherhood program.

"I was on the mall, recruiting dads for my program, handing out cards," Washington said.

Anderson asked Washington what he was doing.

"I handed him a card. I told him to come and see me. And he did," Washington said. "I gave out about 20 cards. He's the only one who came to see me."

Washington brought Anderson into the program.

"They gave me a lead on jobs. They have a clothing bank. They gave me bus tokens. They gave me food, and I didn't have any place to cook it. I was just thankful for the food," Anderson said.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DOC 2009-2010 Budget Briefing


There isn't an Executive Summary but there are some interesting conclusions and recommendations.

Guantanamo Prison Will Close

President-Elect Barack Obama has confirmed that he will follow through with his promise to close down the Guantanamo Bay Prison Facility. What once was considered the cornerstone of the United States’ efforts to combat terrorism, Guantanamo has become synonymous with torture and abuse.

Originally established in the 1970’s, Guantanamo was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees. After the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo has been used as a detention center for those designated as “enemy combatants” by the United States.

The prison facility has been built up in recent years by multimillion-dollar contracts with defense contractor Halliburton, to which American Vice President Dick Cheney had been chairman and CEO.

Controversy has plagued the facility in recent years. Hundreds of men suspected of links to terrorism or al-Qaeda were held without trial as "unlawful enemy combatants". Detainees are subject to such “coercive management techniques” as sleep deprivation, prolonged constraint, and “exposure”. Reports of torture, emasculation, and religious persecution have become common.

Epoch Times

Monday, December 22, 2008

Drug Czar Of Our Dreams

For over 35 years America's war at home, the Drug War, has been raging. Owing in large part to drug war excesses, the United States now locks up more of its citizens than any nation on earth -- more than 2.3 million, with half a million of them behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses alone. That is more than Western Europe, with a much higher population, incarcerates for all crimes combined.

The historic election of Barack Obama signals a unique opportunity to begin to heal one of America's worst open sores and end the drug war, but that is not going to happen unless President-elect Obama nominates someone exceptional to the position of drug czar, or director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The appointment of a "moderate" will not be sufficient, particularly when President-elect Obama's stated goals are to repeal the harshest drug sentences, remove federal bans on syringe-exchange funding to reduce HIV/AIDS, allow medical cannabis research, and support treatment alternatives for low-level drug offenders.

The Christian Science Monitor recently opined, "In his selection of a 'drug czar,' President-elect Obama needs to place more emphasis on addiction as a health problem," Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 2008. Columnist Maia Szalavitz, who covers addiction and treatment issues, perhaps put it best, "We need someone who knows the science, recognizes that there are many paths to recovery -- and understands that dead addicts can't recover," "
Obama Drug Czar Pick: No Recovery from War on Drugs?", Huffington Post, November 21, 2008.

A significant reallocation of scarce resources from criminal justice to public health solutions is long overdue, but drug policy is multi-disciplinary and international in scope. We have had cops, doctors and soldiers. Call me crazy, but I think our drug czar should be an experienced drug policy expert who comprehends the full breadth, depth and importance of this issue on day one.

I have seen Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, and Judge Jim P. Gray suggested in comments appended to articles and blog posts on the topic, but I think Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, personifies the consummate drug policy expert, in both domestic and international affairs, that I would like to see directing the drug czar's office.

To this end, I started this petition.

Perhaps Nadelmann for drug czar is too much to hope for but, with any luck, this petition will at least encourage President-elect Obama to think twice about his choice of drug czar. In addition to your signature and feedback, I would appreciate your help with promoting this petition.

Matthew M. Elrod



Home Depot Charged With Discrimination

Legal Action Center and National Employment Law Center seeking poeple with complaints

Please see the notice below regarding a Title VII national class charge recently filed against Home Depot based on its failure to hire applicants due to their prior conviction history:
Two African-American men have filed charges of discrimination against Home Depot alleging that the company's rejection of their job applications based on their past criminal records violates federal civil rights laws forbidding race discrimination because the practice has an adverse impact on African Americans and Hispanics. The charges were filed with the New York office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The charging parties are being represented by the Legal Action Center (www.lac.org), Outten & Golden LLP (www.outtengolden.com), the National Employment Law Project (www.nelp.org) and Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian (www.gdblegal.com).

As part of their investigation of these claims, the charging parties counsel are interested in speaking to other African Americans and Hispanics who have been rejected for employment by Home Depot because of a past criminal record. People in New York State should contact the Legal Action Center, 212-243-1313 (outside of NY City, call 800-223-4044), and ask to speak to a paralegal about the Home Depot case. People in California should contact the National Employment Law Project, 510-409-2427. People outside of New York or California should contact Justin Swartz at Outten & Golden, 212-245-1000.

Real Cost of Prison

Private Prison To Spur Competition

The real issue is that with modest changes we can have zero prison growth in this state and the need for private prisons diminishes.

Colorado lawmakers eager to avoid another series of ultimatums from the state’s dominant private prison contractor could find some relief after a Texas-based prison firm finishes a 1,250-bed prison near Hudson, northeast of Denver.

Charles Seigel, Cornell Companies’ vice president of public policy, said his company hopes the Colorado Department of Corrections will choose to do business with his company, particularly in light of past budget tussles.

“It certainly is in the state’s interest to have more than one vendor providing this service,” Seigel said.

A contract between Cornell Companies and the state could cut into Corrections Corporation of America’s hold over the majority of Colorado’s privately held prisoners.

According to Colorado Department of Corrections statistics, Corrections Corporation of America houses 4,436, or 82 percent, of the state’s privately held prisoners.

The firm’s corner on private prison contracts contributed to a budget fight last session, when lawmakers said they felt they were being extorted when the prison firm asked for a higher per prisoner, per day reimbursement rate.

In March, the Legislature approved a “compromise” that allowed the private prison company to receive a modest increase in its reimbursement rate.

Sen.-elect Al White, R-Hayden, said Cornell Companies’ plans could lead to competition and lower per prisoner, per day reimbursement rates.

White, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee, said the firm’s new prison could “give the state more leverage in pricing discussion.”

The budget panel is expected to discuss the Colorado Department of Corrections’ budget, including its private prison contracts, Tuesday afternoon.

Seigel said his firm has not entered into any negotiations with the state but hopes to pursue a contract as soon as its new prison is completed in autumn 2009.

Cornell Companies already operates the High Plains Correctional Facility, a women’s prison near Brush, and the South Peaks Regional Treatment Center, a juvenile rehabilitation center near Canon City.

Grand Junction Sentinel

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cop Faces Charges For Beating

The Denver District Attorney’s Office announced today it will pursue charges against a vice narcotics detective in an April beating of an arrestee outside Coors Field on the Colorado Rockies’ opening day.

According to reports, a sports television show crew caught on videotape Det. Michael Cordova slamming John Heaney’s head into the pavement, breaking his front teeth.

Reports said the tussle started after Cordova and another officer accused the man of running a red light on his bicycle as they conducted a ticket scalping sting.

The detectives admitted to kicking, punching and choking Heaney, claiming they used excessive force because Heaney had punched Cordova in the nose, a claim Heaney denied

Friday, December 19, 2008

Budget Shortfall

Can CSP II be stopped now?

Major cuts in state services are likely after the non-partisan Legislative Council released an economic forecast Friday projecting that the state general fund will fall $604 million short of revenue this year.

Ritter's Office of State Planning and Budgeting projected a far smaller shortfall of roughly $77 million, but the Joint Budget Committee typically relies on numbers from the Legislative Council. OSPB director Todd Saliman said he will sit down with Legislative Council leaders to try to determine why his projected budget gap is so much smaller.

In the meantime, though, legislative leaders already are mulling ways to cut out some 8 percent of the general-fund budget — in half a year. Those changes could be as drastic as not opening an huge new prison that is being built in Fremont County, said Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West.

Rocky Mountain News

Ritter Names Buescher As Secretary of State

Gov. Bill Ritter today selected State Rep. Bernie Buescher as Colorado's secretary of state.

Buescher, a Democrat from Grand Junction, lost his re-election bid for his House seat, but will now have two years to persuade voters statewide to elect him for a full-term in his new job.

The secretary of state oversees the division of elections, as well as corporate registrations and other duties. The current officeholder, Republican Mike Coffman, was elected to Congress to replace Tom Tancredo.

Buescher was selected from among three men leaving the Colorado Legislature. House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is said to be among those still being considered for a U.S. Senate appointment to replace Ken Salazar. State Sen. Ken Gordon narrowly lost election as secretary of state to Coffman two years ago.

The Denver Post

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Denver Cutting Funding For Homeless

What will DOC do if Denver stops accepting homeless parolees and demands that DOC take care of their own?

The city of Denver plans to cut nearly a fourth of its funding for homeless initiatives just as the city's homeless population has risen dramatically during the economic downturn.

The cuts, and the increase in the homeless population, have prompted advocacy groups to declare a state of emergency.

"The situation is bleak," John Parvensky, president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said at a news conference Wednesday morning. "And we're running the risk of having more deaths on the street."

Authorities say 140 people have died this year from causes either attributed to or made worse by living on the streets, a 38 percent increase over last year. Denver County Coroner Dr. Amy Martin said the most common causes of death of people living on the streets are chronic alcoholism, acute intoxication from alcohol and drugs, untreated conditions such as diabetes, emphysema or pneumonia, as well as unnatural causes like traffic accidents and drownings.

"Alcohol plays a huge role in this population, either directly or indirectly," she said.

A vigil for those who have died on the streets this year will be held at 5:30 p.m. today on the steps of the City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St. The public is invited.

Homeless numbers are increasing significantly, Parvensky said.

The Denver Rescue Mission served an additional 5,000 meals this October compared with October 2007 and provided 1,000 additional shelter nights, he said, and Jefferson County has seen a 100 percent increase in the number of families seeking emergency food and shelter.

But resources, public and private, are dwindling, Parvensky said.

The Colorado Department of Health and Human Services is cutting its budget by 2.5 percent, while Denver's Department of Human Services is cutting its homeless budget by 24 percent, or $1.4 million, effective March 31, according to Parvensky.

Pat Pheanious, manager of Denver's Department of Human Services, confirmed the 24 percent cut but said it was part of a departmentwide action.

"The department overall will see cuts in the neighborhood of 17 percent between now and 2010," she said. "Some programs will be cut as much as 50 percent.

the Denver Post

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don Quick Next US Attorney?

Ask spokesman Jeff Dorschner to identify the highest profile cases prosecuted by the U.S. attorney in Colorado over the past decade and he doesn’t miss a beat: Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, convicted of insider trading; Terry Barton, the U.S. Forest Service worker who started the largest wildfire in Colorado history; and the three Roman Catholic nuns, convicted of malicious destruction of property for spreading their own blood on a nuclear missile silo in Weld County.

But ask Dorschner who will be his new boss, and he comes up empty-handed.

“I would be hard-pressed to answer that,” says Dorschner.

Similarly, the spokesman for Sen. Ken Salazar who, as Colorado’s senior U.S. senator, would be charged with submitting recommendations of who should be Colorado’s next U.S. attorney to president-elect Barack Obama, is mum on the possibilities.

“It’s still too early in the process,” says Matt Lee-Ashley, Salazar’s spokesman. “We’re not there yet.”

Indeed, Salazar’s expected appointment to become secretary of the interior may take him out of the process entirely.

The likelihood that Colorado’s current U.S. attorney, Troy Eid, appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, will continue in that role is slim. But the lengthy nomination process to name a replacement, which could take months, hasn’t deterred the rumor mill from spinning grist.

Though top profile cases like the Nacchio, Barton and Roman Catholic nun cases often make the headlines, the cases that come before the U.S. attorney in Colorado usually are those involving natural resources, federal military and correctional facilities, crimes on Indian reservations, federal child porn cases, and terrorism. Before Eid was appointed, John Suthers served as U.S. attorney until he became Colorado’s attorney general; before that Democrat Tom Strickland served.

Top among the likely contenders to emerge to replace Eid, according to several knowledgeable sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, is Don Quick, the 17th Judicial District district attorney who previously worked for Salazar when he was Colorado’s attorney general — including three years as Salazar’s chief deputy overseeing 330 attorneys, investigators and staff. In all, Quick has more than 20 years of civil and criminal prosecution experience and has been appointed to numerous boards, commissions and task forces, including serving as president of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council from 2006-07.

On Monday afternoon, Quick confirmed he’s “taking a look at it.” The timing isn’t ideal, Quick told the Colorado Independent, pointing out that he was re-elected just last month to second term as district attorney for the 17th Judicial District, which includes Broomfield and Adams counties.

Yet at the same time, Eric Holder, Obama’s selection for attorney general, has been very supportive of the types of programs that have inspired Quick, including youth initiatives to keep kids in school that are similar to one that Quick has installed in Adams County.

“It’s difficult, timing-wise, but that part is very intriguing to me — the possibility of taking such a position under the leadership of Eric Holder. At this point, I can say I’m taking a look at it,” Quick said.

Colorado Independent

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

JEHT To Close Behind Madoff Scandal

If it isn't the economy...

More victims of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities continue to emerge on Monday. The JEHT Foundation, a charity that supports reform of the criminal and juvenile justice systems, said that it would stop making grants and close its doors next month because its donors, Jeanne Levy-Church and Kenneth Levy-Church, were investors in the Madoff firm.

The foundation was established in 2000 and worked mainly through grants to other non-profits whose missions included voter registration, government transparency and ensuring the U.S. adhered to the international rule of law.

“The JEHT Foundation Baord deeply regrets that the important work that the Foundation has undertaken over the years is ending so abruptly,” the foundation’s president and chief executive, Robert Crane, said in a statement.

“It’s just devastating no only for us, but for those that we work with and support,” Mr. Crane said. Mr. Madoff had been a financial advisor to the Levy-Church family for more than 30 years, “so there was no reason to suspect anything,” he said.

Several charities and family foundations have been severely hit in the Madoff scandal after discovering that a substantial amount of their assets were tied up with the firm. The Julian J. Levitt had $6 million with Mr. Madoff, while the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation had $8 million of exposure. Both Yeshiva University and the charitable foundation of United States Senator Frank Lautenberg also reported exposure to the firm.

Read The Article here

Parole on Probation?

Members of Colorado’s Parole Board suggest there may be a number of reasons why the percentage of state prison inmates receiving early parole has been inching higher over the past three years.

But they can’t say for certain because, as an audi requested by state lawmakers revealed this month, the parole board has not been keeping track of the parolees the way the law requires. There is no way of knowing whether the board is consistent with its decisions to grant early parole. The state doesn’t even track whether those who are paroled early have a higher or lower recitivism rate than those who serve their full prison sentences, despite state law requiring it to do so and report that information to the Division of Criminal Justice.

The overall number of prisoners receiving early parole has risen in recent years. That’s not surprising, since the total prison population has also been growing.

More importantly, the percentage of those who receive early parole in Parole Board hearings has been steadily rising — from 10 percent in 2005 to roughly 16 percent this year.

Earlier, some Republicans blamed the increase on more liberal Parole Board members, appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter, pushing to get inmates out of prison earlier.

We never bought that argument. Ritter is a former Denver district attorney who never had a soft-on-crime reputation. It’s not likely he would appoint Parole Board members with a primary mission of seeing inmates get out of prison as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, there are other factors that may explain some of the increases, including legislative revisions in how some drug crimes are treated.

On top of that, the failure to report the recidivism information as required by law dates back to 1996. So it occurred in the last year of Democrat Roy Romer’s administration and through that of Republican Gov. Bill Owens.

Because of the problems revealed by the audit, no one can proclaim with any degree of certainty: “This many inmates were released early because of these specific policy changes.”

Grand Junction Sentinel

Monday, December 15, 2008

Warm Hearts Fight Cold

Hundreds of people on parole on scattered in shelters across town. What is DOC doing to help pick up the tab? How many people will be released down on Smith Road with no place to go today?

Denver set a record for cold temperature Sunday, and today could see another chilly milestone.

The day's record fell when the mercury at Denver International Airport reached minus 15 degrees about 6 p.m. The old record low for Dec. 14, set in 1901, was minus 14.

The coldest Dec. 15 was in 1951, when the temperature reached 6 below zero, according to the National Weather Service. This morning's low could sink to 20 below zero at DIA, said 9News meteorologist Marty Coniglio.

Though a mostly sunny day is on tap today, with a 10 percent chance of snow, the high is expected to reach only 9 degrees, according to 9News.

The Front Range has a 60 percent chance of more snow tonight, with accumulations of 1 to 3 inches, according

to the National Weather Service in Boulder.

Snow and single-digit lows are in the forecast through Sunday.

As temperatures plummeted Sunday night, shelters, police and welfare organizations worked to get homeless people off the streets.

Aurora Warms the Night, a collaborative effort among several nonprofit groups, offered vouchers for 49 motel rooms — the busiest day in the organization's history.

The Denver Rescue Mission's Lawrence Street shelter and the Salvation Army Crossroads Shelter were full over the weekend.

"Crossroads houses about 300, but obviously the fire department will look the other way when it is this cold," said Salvation Army spokeswoman Stephanie Gustafson.

The Lawrence Street shelter put 100 extra cots in its chapel to handle the overflow.

At Crossroads, which normally opens at 4:30 p.m., a line had formed inside the "tunnel," a long heated hallway, by 2 p.m.

"I been hanging around here since it opened up to stay warm," said Milo Ortiz, 59. "It's better than being outside."

The Denver Post

Audit Discover Parole Records in Disarray

An audit looking at a jump in early paroles instead found record-keeping problems that make it nearly impossible to track how well Parole Board members make decisions on discretionary releases.

An all-paper system has left authorities guessing at how good their judgment is, how consistent they are in granting parole and why the rate at which inmates receive early release has inched upward since 2005.

Members rarely receive feedback on whether the few thousand prisoners released early each year reoffend.

The three agencies involved in the parole process pledged to install by July an electronic system to produce those statistics, and board members have received laptops in preparation for the change, said board chairman David Michaud.

"We'll get accurate data on each individual who's doing hearings," Michaud said. "If somebody begins seeing a high number of repeat offenders, the question is 'What am I missing?' "

The tracking deficits came to light during an audit prompted by Republican lawmakers concerned about a 35 percent increase in the number of early releases between 2006 and 2007.

Part of the jump came from more inmates becoming eligible for early release, though the percent of applicants paroled early has climbed from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2008.

Auditors said policy changes — such as lessening the seriousness of some drug crimes — may have led to the rise.

Department of Corrections officials said they also started releasing prisoners slated for Saturday and Sunday departures a few days early after weekend bus service from the prisons ended.

The findings deflated some of the criticism of Republicans who have used the spike to paint a picture of a liberalized board releasing inmates to cut prison costs.

Denver Post

Sunday, December 14, 2008

US Prison Population Still On The Rise

This report presents data from the National Prisoner Statistics program. It describes the change in the prison population during 2007 and also the characteristics of the 1,598,316 prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction on December 31, 2007. Additionally, it provides the imprisonment rates and age, race, gender distributions for the 1,532,817 prisoners sentenced to more than one year. It quantifies changes in prison admissions and releases,
inmates held in custody, prison capacity, and components of the total incarcerated population.

Growth in the prison population slowed during 2007. At yearend 2007, federal and state correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,598,316 prisoners (1,483,896 males; 114,420 females) (table 1). Jurisdiction refers to the legal authority over a prisoner, regardless of where the prisoner is held. After increasing 2.8% during 2006, the growth of the prison population slowed to 1.8% during 2007. The 1.8% increase was slower than the average annual growth
witnessed from 2000 to 2006 (2.0%). During 2007, the prison population increased more rapidly than the U.S. resident population. The imprisonment rate— the number of sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents— increased from 501 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents
in 2006 to 506 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2007. From 2000 through 2007, the imprisonment rate increased from 475 per 100,000 U.S. residents to 506 per
100,000 U.S. residents. During these seven years, the number of sentenced prisoners increased by 15% while the general population increased by 6.4%.

As in previous years (with the exception of 2002) the majority of the 2007 growth in the prison population occurred during the first 6 months of the year December 31, 2006 to June 30, 2007, the prison population increased by 1.5%, whereas from June 30, 2007 to December 31, 2007, the prison population increased 0.2%.
BOJ Study

Friday, December 12, 2008

Panel Recommends Changes

The state should give paroled inmates more money when they walk out of prison, and people who commit nondriving offenses should not have their driver's license taken away.

Those are just two of the 66 recommendations in the first-ever report released Thursday from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. The commission, formed by Gov. Bill Ritter and lawmakers in 2007, plans to produce a report on the justice system every year.

Evan Dreyer, a spokesman for Ritter — a Democrat who previously served as Denver's district attorney — said the governor was reviewing the recommendations.

Some of the recommendations require legislative approval, but others can simply be implemented by state Department of Corrections officials or the justice system.

The 27-member commission includes legislators, law-enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors, criminal-defense attorneys, advocates for victims and Attorney General John Suthers.

One recommendation calls for eliminating the mandatory revocation or suspension of driver's licenses for people convicted of nondriving offenses. The penalty doesn't deter crime and makes it harder for offenders to get their acts together, the panel said.

"Driver's license revocation inhibits one's ability to work, receive or attend treatment or other appointments in a timely manner, provide useful public service, or even meet with supervising officers," the panel said in its recommendations.

The recommendation specifically excepts the loss of a license for failure to pay child support.

The panel also said inmates paroled for the first time should get more money upon leaving prison. Since the early 1970s, outgoing inmates have gotten $100, and the amount should be increased to nearly $500 for first-time parolees, the panel recommended.

"We probably can't afford it right now, but it's a conversation we should have," said House Speaker-designee Terrance Carroll, a Denver Democrat who sits on the commission. "You send someone out of the gate with $100, and it doesn't get them very far."

Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, cited the commission's call for trying to reduce the number of people who go to prison for technical violations of their probation or parole — currently about 5,000 people a year, she said.

These violations might include not paying a fine or not showing up for an appointment.

"It's easy to revoke (probation or parole) and just throw people in prison, but it's extremely expensive to do that," Donner said.

She added, though, "The idea isn't just that you turn a blind eye" to violations but provide more intensive services.

The Denver Post

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Final 2008 Report From The Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission

Letter from Commission Chair Peter Weir
The creation of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is an
acknowledgement of the need for fundamental public policy changes in Colorado’s
juvenile and criminal justice systems. Establishing the Commission to focus on this
need for change, while ensuring public safety, reflects the vision and the expectations
of Governor Ritter and the General Assembly.
The challenges facing Colorado are not unique. Many states are addressing similar
issues. In particular, recidivism rates continue to increase the size of our jail and
prison populations. We must reduce these rates without compromising public safety.
Research shows that the “return on investment” of each public safety dollar directed
to incarceration decreases in effectiveness as the prison population expands unless the
focus of incarceration is frequent and violent criminals.
Today, being tough on crime means we must be smarter about crime. The judicious
use of resources requires evidence-based data to drive decision-making. In this way,
criminal justice funds will be directed to programs and systems interventions that are
proven to work. For many offenders, this will result in breaking the revolving door of
our penitentiaries. This will also ensure adequate funding to appropriately target
frequent and violent offenders.
There are a myriad of challenges that experts contend contribute to criminal behavior.
Mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, lack of education, poor employment
skills, homelessness, transportation obstacles, and inadequate family support are but a
few of the factors that feed the criminal justice system. The Commission was formed
with the recognition that multidisciplinary approaches to these issues are essential.
Because of this, the Commission consists of experts with wide and varied
Access Report Here

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Colorado Allows Maiden Name Changes


DENVER - Public outcry has forced the State of Colorado to throw out a new rule it enacted just weeks ago to thwart identity theft.

The rule prevented newlyweds from turning their maiden names into middle names.

But because of a crush of complaints, the Governor's Office intervened and asked the Colorado Department of Revenue to adopt an emergency rule undoing the new rule. It will take effect on Monday.

One of those complaining was Robin A. Berg of Denver. She's a life coach who helps people achieve goals. But she found herself failing in a goal to change her name on her driver's license.

Robin had found her happily-ever-after on September 6. And about 3 weeks ago, wanted to use her maiden name, which is Peglow, as her middle name and take her husband, Todd Berg's, last name.

Clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles told her a new rule doesn't allow it anymore. "I said, 'Are you sure? There's nothing you can do?'" she questioned.

So after struggling with the news for a few minutes, she made a decision. "I just decided to change it and keep my current middle name and then put Berg as my last name, but drop my maiden name. It wasn't what I wanted to do at all," she says.

"It wasn't the most popular decision of the Division of Motor Vehicles in recent history," says Mark Couch, spokesman for the Dept. of Revenue.

He says the state initially changed the rule to protect people from identity theft. "Felons who get out of prison will try to change their name to hide their bad past," he says.

That risk is still there. But the inconvenience was apparently greater. So a change of heart by the state on an issue close to the heart of Robin A. Berg.

She says saying goodbye to a name she carried for 38 years was hard--a name she'd made a name with professionally.

"I was concerned if I completely got rid of my maiden name, then being out in the world people wouldn't find me."

The Department of Revenue will soon make the emergency rule permanent.

Before this emergency action, people could change their names but they had to go through the court process to get it done. The DMV will now make people who want to change their middle name attest that they're not doing it to evade the law. Those who get caught lying will have their licenses revoked.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

DOC November Population Reports

Department Of Corrections

Parole Jump Not As High As Believed

The Legislative Audit showed that the jump in the number of people who had been released was statistically insignificant. The report showed that the numbers went up because of a couple of different factors, one being the passage of SB 318 in 2003. SB 328 created a new lower class of felonies that kept people in prison for a shorter amount of time. There were simply more hearings in 2007 but the percentage of people who achieved parole stayed about the same. Other factors included a rise in population and the opportunity for people to attend and complete certain classes.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mislabeled parolees and a 2005 change in policy were the factors responsible for an apparent spike in the number of felons being released early from Colorado prisons, according to a report presented Monday to the Legislative Audit Committee.

The audit revealed early prison releases have increased 40 percent — from 2,000 in 2006 to 2,800 in 2008 — over the past two years, a vastly smaller increase than one previously reported by the Colorado Department of Corrections.

The Colorado Department of Corrections reported last month that the number of discretionary parole releases, prisoners let out before their sentences were up, nearly doubled over the past two years.

Though not double, the spike in releases largely was the result of mislabeling of thousands of parolees whose release dates fell on a weekend, holiday or Friday.

“In December 2005, the board implemented a policy change allowing offenders whose mandatory parole dates fell on a Friday, weekend day or holiday to be released a few days early to alleviate departmental transportation problems,” according to the audit. “When this change occurred, the department recorded these early mandatory releases as discretionary releases.”

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, nonetheless pressed David Michaud, chairman of the Colorado Parole Board, and his peers to account for the increase in parolees.

Michaud said a series of new programs have made felons more “parole-able.”

That said, Jeanne Smith, director of the Division of Criminal Justice at the Department of Public Safety, told the legislative panel it is impossible to cite one factor to account for the increase.

To get at the root of the parole trends, state auditors recommended that the state create a better statistical measure of the number of prisoners granted parole and what happens to them.

Grand Junction Sentinel

Monday, December 08, 2008

Report Due Today On Jump On Colorado Paroles

I will attend this meeting today and report back on the findings

Lawmakers expect to learn today the reasons behind the 40 percent jump in the number of discretionary paroles granted in Colorado in recent years.

Eight Republicans in mid-March requested an audit of the Parole Board's practices after they learned that about 115 more inmates per month left prison early in 2007 than the previous year.

The Legislative Audit Committee is scheduled to receive that report this afternoon.

Corrections officials last spring attributed the increase to the additional money spent to reduce recidivism and a policy change that ended weekend paroles. When prisoners are set free a few days before their official parole date to accommodate transportation needs, the state records the release as discretionary.

Those answers never satisfied state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, who was among those requesting the audit.

The rise in early paroles began in the last year of former Gov. Bill Owens' administration and grew under Gov. Bill Ritter, who staffed the state board with Democratic appointments.

"It would be a spectacular coincidence to have nearly a doubling in the number of prison releases in two short years that coincide with the change in administration," Penry said Sunday. "The question is: Have we changed prison-release policies in order to save a few dollars on costs?"

Ritter's office told The Associated Press that lawmakers out to uncover a parole conspiracy will be disappointed when the report goes public.

The Denver Post

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Gun Buy Back Postponed

A snafu in a gun buy back and anti-violence rally set for Saturday at City Park has forced organizers to postpone the event.

Denver park officials said organizers obtained a permit for the anti-violence part of their program. But the city forbids firearms in any park.

"It's one of our rules," said Kevin Patterson, Denver's manager of parks and recreation.

Alvertis Simmons, an event organizer, said the rally was the subject of media reports and that he explicity told city officials it would include a gun buy back program. Organizers were offering gun owners $50 in exchange for each firearm.

But, Simmons said, no one from the city told him it would be illegal to hold the gun buy back at the park until Friday.

Simmons and organizers have decided to postpone the rally until Dec. 27, when it will be held at the New Covenant Christian Church, 825 Ivanhoe St.

Rocky Mountain News

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lets End Drug Prohibition

Today is the 75th anniversary of that blessed day in 1933 when Utah became the 36th and deciding state to ratify the 21st amendment, thereby repealing the 18th amendment. This ended the nation's disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition.

Celebrating the end of alcohol prohibition, Dec. 5, 1933.

It's already shaping up as a day of celebration, with parties planned, bars prepping for recession-defying rounds of drinks, and newspapers set to publish cocktail recipes concocted especially for the day.

But let's hope it also serves as a day of reflection. We should consider why our forebears rejoiced at the relegalization of a powerful drug long associated with bountiful pleasure and pain, and consider too the lessons for our time.

The Americans who voted in 1933 to repeal prohibition differed greatly in their reasons for overturning the system. But almost all agreed that the evils of failed suppression far outweighed the evils of alcohol consumption.

The change from just 15 years earlier, when most Americans saw alcohol as the root of the problem and voted to ban it, was dramatic. Prohibition's failure to create an Alcohol Free Society sank in quickly. Booze flowed as readily as before, but now it was illicit, filling criminal coffers at taxpayer expense.

Some opponents of prohibition pointed to Al Capone and increasing crime, violence and corruption. Others were troubled by the labeling of tens of millions of Americans as criminals, overflowing prisons, and the consequent broadening of disrespect for the law. Americans were disquieted by dangerous expansions of federal police powers, encroachments on individual liberties, increasing government expenditure devoted to enforcing the prohibition laws, and the billions in forgone tax revenues. And still others were disturbed by the specter of so many citizens blinded, paralyzed and killed by poisonous moonshine and industrial alcohol.

Supporters of prohibition blamed the consumers, and some went so far as to argue that those who violated the laws deserved whatever ills befell them. But by 1933, most Americans blamed prohibition itself.

When repeal came, it was not just with the support of those with a taste for alcohol, but also those who disliked and even hated it but could no longer ignore the dreadful consequences of a failed prohibition. They saw what most Americans still fail to see today: That a failed drug prohibition can cause greater harm than the drug it was intended to banish.

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

And look abroad. At Afghanistan, where a third or more of the national economy is both beneficiary and victim of the failed global drug prohibition regime. At Mexico, which makes Chicago under Al Capone look like a day in the park. And elsewhere in Latin America, where prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption undermine civil authority and public safety, and mindless drug eradication campaigns wreak environmental havoc.

All this, and much more, are the consequences not of drugs per se but of prohibitionist policies that have failed for too long and that can never succeed in an open society, given the lessons of history. Perhaps a totalitarian American could do better, but at what cost to our most fundamental values?

Why did our forebears wise up so quickly while Americans today still struggle with sorting out the consequences of drug misuse from those of drug prohibition?

It's not because alcohol is any less dangerous than the drugs that are banned today. Marijuana, by comparison, is relatively harmless: little association with violent behavior, no chance of dying from an overdose, and not nearly as dangerous as alcohol if one misuses it or becomes addicted. Most of heroin's dangers are more a consequence of its prohibition than the drug's distinctive properties. That's why 70% of Swiss voters approved a referendum this past weekend endorsing the government's provision of pharmaceutical heroin to addicts who could not quit their addictions by other means. It is also why a growing number of other countries, including Canada, are doing likewise.

Yes, the speedy drugs -- cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit stimulants -- present more of a problem. But not to the extent that their prohibition is justifiable while alcohol's is not. The real difference is that alcohol is the devil we know, while these others are the devils we don't. Most Americans in 1933 could recall a time before prohibition, which tempered their fears. But few Americans now can recall the decades when the illicit drugs of today were sold and consumed legally. If they could, a post-prohibition future might prove less alarming.

But there's nothing like a depression, or maybe even a full-blown recession, to make taxpayers question the price of their prejudices. That's what ultimately hastened prohibition's repeal, and it's why we're sure to see a more vigorous debate than ever before about ending marijuana prohibition, rolling back other drug war excesses, and even contemplating far-reaching alternatives to drug prohibition.

Perhaps the greatest reassurance for those who quake at the prospect of repealing contemporary drug prohibitions can be found in the era of prohibition outside of America. Other nations, including Britain, Australia and the Netherlands, were equally concerned with the problems of drink and eager for solutions. However, most opted against prohibition and for strict controls that kept alcohol legal but restricted its availability, taxed it heavily, and otherwise discouraged its use. The results included ample revenues for government coffers, criminals frustrated by the lack of easy profits, and declines in the consumption and misuse of alcohol that compared favorably with trends in the United States.

Is President-elect Barack Obama going to commemorate Repeal Day today? I'm not holding my breath. Nor do I expect him to do much to reform the nation's drug laws apart from making good on a few of the commitments he made during the campaign: repealing the harshest drug sentences, removing federal bans on funding needle-exchange programs to reduce AIDS, giving medical marijuana a fair chance to prove itself, and supporting treatment alternatives for low-level drug offenders.

But there's one more thing he can do: Promote vigorous and informed debate in this domain as in all others. The worst prohibition, after all, is a prohibition on thinking.

Mr. Nadelmann is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Wall Street Journal

Five Points Weighed For Homeless Housing

I believe that housing that Bo wants to build is partly for homeless veterans. They may be in trouble in their lives but if we as a city are making a commitment to help people get back on their feet, then the NIMBY attitude has got to change. Neighborhoods have to realize that these folks are part of the community and they are going to be there regardless. Wouldn't it be smarter to have them stable then not? Kudos to Bo for doing this work as always.

Denver wants to raze a group of aging, dun-colored homes and shops at Downing Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard to make way for 28 apartments for the homeless.

The proposal has the support of some area residents.

But others worry that catering to the homeless will discourage development on nearby properties that could help the Five Points neighborhood.

"Everybody is concerned for the welfare of these (homeless) people," said Linda Dowlen, president of the nearby Whittier Neighborhood Association. But "we want to be supportive in a way that helps them and helps the community."

The apartments would become part of Denver's Road Home - Mayor John Hickenlooper's plan to put homeless people into apartments where they can receive services such as job training and substance-abuse counseling.

The project is being eyed warily by members of the Cole, Curtis Park and Whittier neighborhood associations. They note that their communities already include most of the city's shelters and homeless facilities, which are clustered on Broadway between Curtis Street and Park Avenue.

But at least some community leaders say they would accept the facility for the homeless if it were offered as part of a larger community plan that included middle-class housing and shops.

"I'm against it being concentrated poverty," said City Councilwoman Carla Madison, who represents the area. "If we can't get this to be a larger project, I don't know if I can support it. But if we can get it to be a larger project, then I think the 28 is not a bad (idea)."

The site being eyed for homeless facility 28 is within walking distance of the 30th Avenue and Downing Street light-rail station, Madison said. It is an ideal site for "transit-oriented development," a mixture of housing and shops convenient for people who use the rail line, she said.

City officials have said they favor such development at light-rail stations as a way to boost ridership.

Madison said she would like to see between 75 and 100 dwelling units in the area. The 28 apartments for the homeless would be included, she said.

A major neighborhood-planning project is scheduled for 2009, Dowlen noted. The future of the Downing and Martin Luther King site should reflect the larger plan, she said.

The city has 1,243 apartments for people who previously were homeless. The goal is 3,000 over the next few years.

The city would be unlikely to impose the northeast Denver project on a community that is adamantly opposed, Madison said. Developers would have to reach a "good neighbor" agreement with the community groups, setting forth standards the facility would have to meet.

The 28 new units would be built by the private Matthews Center LLC, named for former University of Colorado football star and businessman Bo Matthews, who lives in Adams County but owns several parcels in northeast Denver.

The Matthews Center already runs programs in the area for troubled people.

Management of the building would be turned over to a property management firm, said Claudie Minor, Matthews' project manager. Denver's Road Home would arrange services for the people who move.

Integrating the 28 units into a larger development scheme could delay the project, which is scheduled to open in 2010, said Pat Coyle, Denver's Road Home housing coordinator. That could jeopardize state funding for the project, Coyle said.

Former addict turns focus on others

Ron Lee, 53, has lived in the Whittier neighborhood since 1993. He is a substance abuse counselor but is between jobs. At a recent community meeting, he shared the following with Rocky Mountain News.

"I have a very diverse background, one that endears me to the plight of the homeless, the plight of the addict, the plight of the lawbreaker - I've been all of that at one point in my life.

"Today, I'm a respected father, husband, aspiring substance abuse counselor, motivational speaker.

"I've been in recovery for seven years. (But) my addiction went unchecked for almost 30 years.

"I come from a very abusive background. My mother made some bad choices as far as husbands. One thing led to another. I was kind of a child observing all this and suffering the consequences, mentally and otherwise.

"I had a breakdown around the age of 14, and Zebulon Pike Detention Center (in El Paso County) got me. . . . I was literally a loner, I had nobody. I just had very severe emotional problems from what I had been through. I asked to be sent to the Colorado Boys Ranch. . . . I went from there to the Air Force.

"When you're coming out of prison, when they say, 'We'll see you again' - and that's what the guards tell you when you pick up your little outfit and you're headed out the gate - you think they're crazy. But more often than we like to see, people do end up right back there because they're not equipped emotionally to deal with life.

"I'm not making excuses for what I did or for what others do. I'm just saying the reasons are much more complicated than the casual person sitting on the couch with his clicker wants to get involved with.

Rocky Mountain News

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Need $50? Gun Buy Back At City Park

Have guns?

Will buy.

From noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Denver residents are invited to sell their firearms - working or not - for $50 each at the "Anti-violence and Gun Buy Back Rally" in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in City Park.

Sponsors, including Denver officials and community organizers, hope to raise $5,000 to $10,000 to buy the guns.

Activist and organizer Alvertis Simmons said he and others organized the event after the September shooting death of popular hot dog vendor Quincy Henderson in Curtis Park.

Henderson was known by customers and friends as the "hot dog dude" who sold dogs and chili in Five Points.

Simmons said he met Henderson's family after the deadly gunfire and was moved to action.

"We have had in the past so much gun violence," said Simmons. "We need to do something . . . Whether it's a Saturday night special or guns that people are not using, guns that are sitting in the house. We don't want people to go break into the home and steal that gun and use that gun in a commission of a crime."

Lawrence Miles, a cousin of Henderson's, said he will appear at the rally. Miles said Henderson was shot after he became embroiled in a fistfight and an assailant pulled a gun.

"What we're trying to get across in this community is that there's enough, enough, enough gun violence," said Miles, who is an aspiring rap artist, as was Henderson. "I don't want to see no more. I've had enough, and I'm standing 100 percent behind this."

The Rocky Mountain News

State Sees Dramatic Decreases In Charitable Giving

It' always important to realize what the ripple effect does to individuals and neighborhoods when local non-profits can't make it....

Colorado saw "dramatic decreases" in charitable giving by individuals between 2005 and 2006, according to a report released today by the Colorado Nonprofit Association.

"The news that giving is decreasing creates a 'perfect storm' for charities struggling to meet rising demands for services with limited resources," according to a statement released by Sharon Knight, chief executive officer of the association and Tom Downey, board chair.

"If things do not change, the survival of many Colorado nonprofits may be in question as will the sector's ability to serve Coloradans in greatest need," they added.

The study profiles charitable giving in Colorado for the 2006 tax year, the latest year for which data is available.

The Denver Post

Will We Lose The Rocky?

The Rocky Mountain News is on the sale block, facing an uncertain future as Colorado's oldest newspaper approaches its 150th anniversary.

The head of Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps, the Rocky's owner, acknowledged in making the announcement Thursday that if a buyer does not step forward in the next four to six weeks that the paper could be closed — a move that could occur as soon as early 2009.

"We're not here today to close the paper," Rich Boehne, president and chief executive of Scripps, told staffers gathered in the newsroom late Thursday morning. "We're here today to say the status quo is not going to work."

Scripps expects the Rocky to lose $15 million this year, Boehne said.

Rocky Mountain News

RMN LETTER TO THE EDITOR - Paths to Productivity Pay

Inmate Wendell Paige speaks of dreams and especially of hope ("Obama renews dreams," Speakout, Nov. 20). At the alternative sentencing program I administered in Southern California, we spoke of providing reason and resources to reduce recidivism. In Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter's announced plan to reduce recidivism provides hope ("Guv proposes cuts in prison costs," Oct. 31).

There have always been good reasons to do what the governor plans; however, resources have been misdirected to provide for more incarceration. Providing paths to productive and responsible citizenship and particularly paths to long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a sound investment that pays big recovery dividends.

Long-term recovery reduces domestic violence, driving under the influence, needless medical expenses and criminal justice costs. For those trapped in addiction and the justice system, it means restoration of the economic and social well-being of families, and leaving behind isolation, anger and fear. It means keeping hope alive and encourages all to "chase those dreams just a little bit more."

Rocky Mountain News

Einstein, Insanity and the War On Drugs

- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. His definition fits America’s war on drugs, a multi-billion dollar, four-decade exercise in futility.

The war on drugs has helped turn the United States into the country with the world’s largest prison population. (Noteworthy statistic: The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners). Keen demand for illicit drugs in America, the world’s biggest market, helped spawn global criminal enterprises that use extreme violence in the pursuit of equally extreme profits.

Over the years, the war on drugs has spurred repeated calls from social scientists and economists (including three Nobel prize winners) to seriously rethink a strategy that ignores the laws of supply and demand.

Under the headline “The Failed War on Drugs,” Washington’s respected, middle-of-the-road Brookings Institution said in a November report that drug use had not declined significantly over the years and that “falling retail drug prices reflect the failure of efforts to reduce the supply of drugs.”

Cocaine production in South America stands at historic highs, the report noted.

Like other think tanks, Brookings stopped short of recommending a radical departure from past policies with a proven track record of failure such as spending billions on crop eradication in Latin America and Asia while allotting paltry sums in comparison to rehabilitating addicts.

Enter Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization started in 2002 by police officers, judges, narcotics agents, prison wardens and others with first-hand experience of implementing policies that echo the prohibition of alcohol. Prohibition, now widely regarded a dismal and costly failure of social engineering, came to an end 75 years ago this week.

As LEAP sees it, the best way to fight drug crime and violence is to legalize drugs and regulate them the same way alcohol and tobacco is now regulated. “We repealed prohibition once and we can do it again,” one of the group’s co-founders, Terry Nelson, told a Washington news conference on December 2. “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”


Jeffco Gets Drug Court

Will treatment be funded....the 64,000 question...

GOLDEN — Beginning early next year, some of the people convicted of drug-related felonies in Jefferson County won't be sent to jail.

Instead, they will head to drug court, where nonviolent offenders will receive intensive substance-abuse treatment, have their cases managed and be tested for drugs.

They'll also face sanctions if they stumble — including revocation of probation and a trip to jail — and incentives if they succeed.

"I don't believe they are hopeless. Sometimes they haven't heard that," said District Judge M.J. Menendez, who will have frequent contacts with offenders as she presides over the drug court. "We can't keep putting people in prison."

Jefferson County officials believe the drug court — which initially will cost about $150,000 — will cut expenses by diverting people from jail while increasing the likelihood of breaking the cycle that has put people in the criminal justice system.

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals estimates that drug courts reduce recidivism by an average of 8 percent to 26 percent.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Congrove noted drug court's humane aspects, saying, "It will help them get off drugs and will keep families together."

A task force of representatives from courts, probation, diversion, mental health services, social services, district attorney's office and public defender's office developed the plan over the past year.

People sentenced to probation for nonviolent drug-related felonies will be screened and recommended to drug court by probation and diversion officers.

"These are offenders who've already been determined to be a low safety risk to the community," said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey.

The Denver Post

Prison Drug Smuggling Operation

So when they tell you there are no illegal drugs in prison....remember this.

Andrew Travers

A pair of local brothers are implicated in an operation that allegedly brought narcotics into a state prison in Cañon City, where one of the men is currently incarcerated.

Authorities in Fremont County allege that Four Mile Correctional Center inmate and Aspen native Stefan Schutter enlisted his brother, Devin, to help bring cocaine and heroin into the prison, using covert drug deliveries by a milk truck driver.

Devin Schutter, who has eight unrelated criminal cases currently pending in Aspen — including charges for dealing cocaine, threatening to kill a local woman, and several alleged violations of his probation terms — was arrested here last month for violating the bail bond conditions in all eight of those cases, after a warrant was issued for him in Fremont County for his alleged role in the prison drug operation. Devin Schutter has three previous felony convictions. He turned 30 in Pitkin County Jail last week.

His younger brother, Stefan, was convicted of holding up Clark’s Market in August 1999 in one of a series of armed robberies carried out by local teenagers. He served six years in prison for that, was released in 2005, and was then arrested months later in Jefferson County in possession of an assault rifle, a revolver, more than 270 grams of cocaine, 220 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms, 360-plus grams of marijuana, and smaller amounts of crack and heroin. Last year he was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for that transgression.

Devin faced a district judge in Aspen yesterday, during a hearing on whether the locally issued warrant had established probable cause for his Nov. 6 arrest at the Hickory House on Main Street. The warrant, issued by the Aspen Police Department, did not clearly present that he was free on bond when he allegedly contributed to the prison drug ring.

Chief District Judge James Boyd accepted an amended, corrected warrant yesterday and denied a request from Devin Schutter’s attorney to free his client on a zero-dollar bond, as a sanction for the police mistake. He remains in custody here on nearly $220,000 bond.

An investigator for the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) began tracking the Schutter brothers after he was tipped off earlier this year that drugs were being smuggled into the Cañon City prison by a milk truck driver named “Henry Ferstreat,” who was allegedly charging inmates $200 for packages of drugs he delivered, according to court documents. Subsequent investigation found the alleged drug courier’s last name was actually Verstraete.

The DOC investigator claims Federal Express packages were sent to Verstraete from Devin Schutter in Aspen.

The investigator, William Claspell, began tapping phone conversations between the Schutter brothers from the prison in July, when Stefan allegedly asked his brother to mail drugs to Verstraete concealed in a bottle of the muscle-building supplement Creatine Monohydrate.

Aspen Daily News

Fallen Women:

By Silja JA Talvi

Three years ago, I journeyed back to Santa Fe to return to a city where I had once lived—and that always seemed to call me back.

I headed out from Seattle with a snowboard for the freshly blanketed mountains, as well as an insatiable appetite for the food I could not find in the Pacific Northwest. But most of all, I traveled back because the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility had agreed to let me come and spend a day in the state’s only women’s prison in Grants.

I was eager for the experience, not just because much of my work in journalism had centered on criminal justice and prisons, but also because my editor at the Santa Fe Reporter, Julia Goldberg, had given me the kind of assignment that investigative reporters like myself treasure the most: Just go out there and see what you find.

Owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), now the nation’s biggest private prison company, New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility (NMWCF) opened its doors in 1989 as the first privatized female prison in the country. From the beginning, the facility locked up women from all classification levels—from drug possession to murder and everything in between—and from all parts of the state, no matter how distant.

Even back in 1989, the strategy of locking up women far from their communities of origin—to an isolated rural town inaccessible by public transit—should have been seen as a problem. NMWCF’s original population consisted of 149 women. Today, roughly 650 female prisoners at Grants are estimated to have 1,800 dependent children, many of whom don’t see their mothers for years on end and who sometimes end up in foster care.

It also should have been recognized, without too much intellectual effort, that a 28-year-old homeless heroin addict serving time for street prostitution would have very different psychological, medical and counseling needs than a 56-year-old woman who shot her chronic alcoholic husband—a man who took to using his fists once he got drunk enough.
SF Reporter

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

To Fight Drugs US Must Cut Demand

Fund treatment instead of incarceration? What a novel idea...

"The Office of National Drug Control Policy, under which Plan Colombia and other drug control programs operate, spends 65 percent of its $12 billion annual budget on supply-side efforts and only 35 percent on the demand side. In 1971, when the Nixon administration initiated the war against drugs, the pragmatic goal was to have the exact opposite: two-thirds of funding for treatment and prevention and one-third for law enforcement, crop reduction and drug interdiction."

To fight drugs, U.S. must cut demand
By Duncan Smith-Rohrberg Maru

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office, commissioned by Sen. Joe Biden, has come to an unsurprising conclusion: After more than $6 billion spent, the controversial drug control operation known as Plan Colombia has failed by large margins to meet its targets.

The goal had been to cut cocaine production in Colombia by 50 percent from 2000 to 2006 through eradication of coca crops and training of anti-narcotics police and military personnel. In fact, cocaine production in Colombia rose 4 percent during that period, the GAO found. With increases in Peru and Bolivia, production of cocaine in South America increased by 12 percent during that period. In 1999 it cost $142 to buy a gram of cocaine on the street in the United States, according to inflation-adjusted figures from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. By 2006 the price had fallen to $94 per gram.

President-elect Barack Obama won his historic victory by promising pragmatic, results-oriented solutions aimed at the common good. The recent report demonstrates that Plan Colombia does not fit those criteria.

The primary lesson for the new administration to take from Plan Colombia's failures is something that many economists have been saying for years: Efforts to decrease the supply of drugs in America without major efforts to curb demand for them will only increase the profits of drug dealers and the associated crime rates.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy, under which Plan Colombia and other drug control programs operate, spends 65 percent of its $12 billion annual budget on supply-side efforts and only 35 percent on the demand side. In 1971, when the Nixon administration initiated the war against drugs, the pragmatic goal was to have the exact opposite: two-thirds of funding for treatment and prevention and one-third for law enforcement, crop reduction and drug interdiction.

During the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administrations, however, strict laws were put in place aimed at reducing the availability of drugs on the streets. These have served to give the United States the highest incarceration rates in the world, with over one in 100 Americans in jail or prison. Mass incarceration has broken up families and communities, at a huge economic cost. In general, it costs about $34,000 to lock someone up for a year and only $3,300 to provide year-long substance abuse treatment.

There are no magic bullets for the socially and medically complex problem of substance abuse. Still, several demand-side strategies have proven effective at achieving the key goals of the drug war: reduced consumption of drugs, improved health outcomes among substance users and a decrease in drug-associated criminal activity.

Of the first 100,000 drug users benefiting from President Bush's primary demand-side initiative - the $300 million Access to Recovery program - 71 percent successfully completed therapy and abstained from illicit drugs, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Of those with criminal histories, 85 percent remained out of the criminal justice system. Other research has shown that drug treatment programs can reduce drug use by over 70 percent and criminal activity by 50 percent.

Real Cost Of Prisons