Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pot patients sue Centennial over closed dispensary - The Denver Post

Pot patients sue Centennial over closed dispensary - The Denver Post
CENTENNIAL, Colo.—A medical marijuana lawsuit in suburban Denver could test the limits of how far Colorado cities can go to stop pot shops.

A dispensary and three patients sued the city of Centennial Monday after the town shut down a marijuana dispensary last month.

Centennial originally gave CannaMart a business license but then forced the dispensary to close after about a month, saying town officials didn't know the business was selling pot.

Kirsten Lamb, 41, one of the patients suing, said she has multiple sclerosis and can't find an alternative dispensary she likes as well.

"They have always been there to take care of me, but now they're not there," she said.

The lawsuit could answer a question many Colorado cities are struggling to answer as pot shops proliferate: Do cities have to allow dispensaries just because state voters in 2000 allowed some patients to possess marijuana?

Lawyers for CannaMart say yes.

The Centennial lawsuit is the first of its kind in Colorado, and the message should be sent that towns can't ban dispensaries, the attorneys said.

Early Parole Dates Okayed For Arkansas Prisoners

AP Report
LITTLE ROCK—A spokeswoman for the state prison system says the Arkansas Board of Corrections has approved early parole hearings for 648 inmates in an effort to ease prison crowding.

Prison spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Monday the board also hopes to reduce crowding in the prisons by getting money from the Legislature next year to open a new prison in Malvern. The facility was scheduled to open partially this year, but those plans were aborted when $6.6 million was slashed from the prison system’s budget.

Solitary Disgrace

The Washington Post

MANY ARE KEPT in their cells for at least 23 hours a day with minimal contact with other people, including guards. Food is delivered through a slit in the door, and most are prohibited from attending classes or counseling sessions with other inmates.

They are not, by and large, the "worst of the worst" -- mass murderers or psychopaths in the mold of Hannibal Lecter. They are, instead, men and women serving time for all manner of offenses, some of them relatively minor. But they have been deemed disciplinary problems -- or potential disciplinary problems -- by prison staffers. And so they find themselves locked up in what is commonly known as solitary confinement, sometimes for months, sometimes for years and sometimes with devastating consequences.

At one time shunned in the United States, solitary confinement is becoming a tool increasingly used by corrections officials trying desperately to keep order in grossly overcrowded and sometimes chaotic prisons. These decisions are made even though solitary confinement costs roughly twice as much as keeping an inmate in the general prison population. At any given time, experts estimate that 25,000 to 100,000 prisoners are kept in some sort of "special housing unit" where they are isolated and kept apart from the general prison population. The number changes frequently as new prisoners are sent in and others sent out of solitary.

Helping to feed the homeless after holiday - The Denver Post

Helping to feed the homeless after holiday - The Denver Post

The idea of feeding hamburgers and hot dogs to the homeless in Lower Downtown on Sunday was born at Nicol Ocampo's kitchen table three weeks ago, but the story goes back much further.

Her husband, Mike Nowlin, told her how his family used to buy stacks of hamburgers and hand them out to the homeless they encountered on the street.

"I told him my family had never had the money to do that," said Nicol, 34, as she took burger and hot dog orders from disheveled men a block from the Denver Rescue Mission.

"We're not rich now, by any means, but we have enough," she said.

For Mike, 29, it wasn't merely an act of kindness.

"My Uncle Danny — Danny Ortega — was homeless," he said. "He committed suicide in 1996."

After a long pause, he added: "Sometimes, it's not that their families give up on them. It's that they give up on themselves."

Mike started his own business, Mile High Towing & Recovery, two years ago with three secondhand trucks.

Mike and Nicol, the company's chief financial officer, surveyed their books and took out $1 for each impounded car or call for roadside assistance.

That was more than just a gesture for the couple, who have seven children.

They spent the money on supplies: 240 hamburgers, 260 hot dogs, buns, 300 cookies and 300 bags of chips.

At daylight Sunday, the sound of sizzling burgers filled their kitchen, as a George Foreman Grill and two large frying pans went full-bore.

Mike's top driver and manager, George Garcia, boiled hot dogs at his house and brought along his children to help prepare plates.

They acted with extraordinary politeness, looking the men in the eyes when they spoke and calling each one "Sir."

Gordon Thomas, 57, released from prison a month ago, said he probably would not have eaten until dinnertime at a shelter.

"It's very gracious," he said. "And I'm grateful to them. I would guess they're God-loving people."

Gerard Pelletier, 33, said the families' timing, after the Thanksgiving celebrations are over, spoke volumes.

"Everybody cares on Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said. "But when you're homeless, you're hungry every day... I thank these people for caring."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Federal judges argue for reduced sentences for child-porn convicts - The Denver Post

Federal judges argue for reduced sentences for child-porn convicts - The Denver Post

In a nationwide series of hearings, members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission have heard from federal judges seeking reduced sentences for a group of defendants one would think unlikely to get sympathy from the bench: possessors of child pornography.

From New York to Chicago, and recently in Denver, federal judges have testified before the commission, which sets federal punishments, that the current sentencing structure for possessing and viewing child pornography is too severe.

The commission has made reviewing child-pornography sentencing guidelines a priority of its work, which will end in May and could include a change to the guidelines to allow shorter sentences for future offenders.

Judges, for the most part, have based their argument on a belief that some of the defendants who view child pornography have never molested a child or posed a risk to the community and may be better served by treatment rather than prison.

As federal guidelines now stand, the number of images and the way the contraband is obtained enhance prison terms. A first-time offender with no criminal history can be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

Starting Tuesday, it will be illegal to text and drive - The Denver Post

Starting Tuesday, it will be illegal to text and drive - The Denver Post

Don't post to Twitter while merging onto Interstate 25.

Don't steer with your knees while Googling for directions. Don't sneak in a behind-the-wheel response to an e-mail, not even at a stoplight.

The tweet is gone. If you text and drive, cops in Colorado starting Tuesday are going to bust you.

"It's extremely dangerous," Colorado State Patrol spokesman Ryan Sullivan said. "Hopefully . . . by people knowing it's against the law, it will keep people from doing it."

A new law taking effect Tuesday bans texting while driving for all drivers. The law also bans all cellphone use — texting and talking — for drivers younger than 18. The legislature passed the laws during its session this year in the hopes of cutting down on accidents caused by cellphone-distracted drivers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

When Prisoners Phone Home

The New York Times
New York State’s highest court has rejected the last vestiges of a lawsuit by families of inmates who claimed that the prison system overcharged them for telephone calls from their loved ones. The good news is that this suit — and an accompanying lobbying effort — has already succeeded in reforming a terribly unfair system.
New York, like many states, used the phones in its prisons as a profit center. MCI, which provided the phone service, agreed to pay the prison system 57.5 percent of the fees it charged for prisoners’ collect calls. The state then allowed MCI to charge outrageously high rates: 16 cents or more a minute plus a $3 surcharge for every call. Families paid as much as $300 to $400 a month, according to one advocacy group.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a public interest legal organization, and prisoners’ families sued in 2004, charging that the exorbitant rates were unconstitutional. The suit rightly embarrassed New York politicians. In January 2007, Eliot Spitzer, the state’s newly elected governor, announced that rates would be substantially lowered. The Legislature later made it illegal for the Department of Correctional Services to accept revenue in excess of its reasonable costs for operating an inmate phone system.

What was left for the New York State Court of Appeals to decide was whether family members were due refunds. They contended that the excessive fees were an illegal tax that violated inmates’ equal protection rights. This week, the court, by a 5-to-1 vote, rejected the suit.

The decision is regrettable. But even the majority noted that the plaintiffs had strong arguments that the high rates were bad policy because they made it difficult for inmates to maintain family and community ties, and that released prisoners who lack these ties are more likely to return to a life of crime.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Right and Left Join Forces On Criminal Justice

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the next several months, the Supreme Court will decide at least a half-dozen cases about the rights of people accused of crimes involving drugs, sex and corruption. Civil liberties groups and associations of defense lawyers have lined up on the side of the accused.

But so have conservative, libertarian and business groups. Their briefs and public statements are signs of an emerging consensus on the right that the criminal justice system is an aspect of big government that must be contained.

The development represents a sharp break with tough-on-crime policies associated with the Republican Party since the Nixon administration.

“It’s a remarkable phenomenon,” said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “The left and the right have bent to the point where they are now in agreement on many issues. In the area of criminal justice, the whole idea of less government, less intrusion, less regulation has taken hold.”

Edwin Meese III, who was known as a fervent supporter of law and order as attorney general in the Reagan administration, now spends much of his time criticizing what he calls the astounding number and vagueness of federal criminal laws.

Mr. Meese once referred to the American Civil Liberties Union as part of the “criminals’ lobby.” These days, he said, “in terms of working with the A.C.L.U., if they want to join us, we’re happy to have them.”

Dick Thornburgh, who succeeded Mr. Meese as attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and stayed on under President George Bush, echoed that sentiment inCongressional testimony in July.

“The problem of overcriminalization is truly one of those issues upon which a wide variety of constituencies can agree,” Mr. Thornburgh said. “Witness the broad and strong support from such varied groups as the Heritage Foundation, the Washington Legal Foundation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the A.B.A., the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society and the A.C.L.U.”

In an interview at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group where he is a fellow, Mr. Meese said the “liberal ideas of extending the power of the state” were to blame for an out-of-control criminal justice system. “Our tradition has always been,” he said, “to construe criminal laws narrowly to protect people from the power of the state.”

There are, the foundation says, more than 4,400 criminal offenses in the federal code, many of them lacking a requirement that prosecutors prove traditional kinds of criminal intent.
“It’s a violation of federal law to give a false weather report,” Mr. Meese said. “People get put in jail for importing lobsters.”

Such so-called overcriminalization is at the heart of the conservative critique of crime policy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce made the point in a recent friend-of-the-court brief about a federal law often used to prosecute corporate executives and politicians. The law, which makes it a crime for officials to defraud their employers of “honest services,” is, the brief said, both “unintelligible” and “used to target a staggeringly broad swath of behavior.”

The Supreme Court will hear three cases concerning the honest-services law this term, indicating an exceptional interest in the topic.

Harvey A. Silverglate, a left-wing civil liberties lawyer in Boston, says he has been surprised and delighted by the reception that his new book, “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent,” has gotten in conservative circles. (A Heritage Foundation official offered this reporter a copy.)

Reality Show In Prison and Reality In Prison

Thank you Alan


Lockup, MSNBC's voyeuristic peek at life inside America's nastiest prisons, launched its new season Sunday night with some cell floodings and tough talk by thick-necked inmates at Colorado's own Limon Correctional Facility.
This season (titled "Extended Stay: Colorado") will focus on Limon, a simmering high-security hoosegow that houses close to a thousand violent prisoners and has a troubled history of assaults and lockdowns.
Like its prototype, Cops, the MSNBC show isn't exactly an unbiased source of information about the criminals it finds so fascinating. The producers are dependent on corrections officials for access, and that clearly influences what they can and can't show about what really goes on behind bars.
The prisoners seem to enjoy cutting up for the cameras, which makes them that much easier to demonize. But then again, some of them don't need much demonizing -- a murder last week at another Colorado prison had strong overtones of the theme of this week's episode, demonstrating that some of the popular stereotypes about prison life are all too true.
A central character in this week's plot line, Timothy Schreiber, happens to have a history of sexual assaults on children. Rather than keep this information to himself, Schreiber did everything he could to antagonize other inmates and staff, all in a brazen effort to keep himself out of general population at Limon. (For clips of the show, go here.) Child molesters don't fare well on the yard with everyone else, as Lockup viewers know well.
Schreiber's plan almost backfired -- he screwed up enough ways to face possible habitual charges, which could have landed him in Limon for life. But apparently the prison system was as sick of him as I was by the end of the episode and ended up cutting him loose. Schreiber was released in September and returned to Jefferson County, prompting a community meeting to inform his neighbors -- who'll likely be even more disturbed than before when they see this episode.

Legalize in 2012


Move over, Cheech and Chong: The two most important people in Colorado's marijuana scene are Brian Vicente and Mason Tvert -- and they're out to prove it by passing a statewide initiative in 2012 that will legalize marijuana for all Coloradans over 21.
Vicente and Tvert unveiled the plan last Monday at their marijuana-reform "Thanksgiving celebration" at the Gilmore Art Center at Mile High Framing -- and they admit there's a lot of work ahead before Colorado sanctions (as well as regulates and taxes) recreational marijuana use. After all, just three years ago, state voters rejected by a 60/40 margin a constitutional amendment organized by Vicente, Tvert and others that would have decriminalized just an ounce or less of weed.
But like Bob says, the times, they are a-changin'. Earlier this month, Breckenridge voters decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of pot, following in Denver's footsteps, which passed a similar measure in 2005. A Gallup poll last month found that 44 percent of Americans favor legalization, up from 31 percent in 2000. The same poll found that just in the West, the percentage rose to 53 percent.
There are efforts underway to legalize weed in California next year, but if that fails, Colorado could end up leading the legalization movement nationwide -- and it's hard to imagine a duo better suited to the task than Vicente and Tvert. While the two helm different drug-reform organizations -- Vicente runs Sensible Colorado and Tvert leads SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) -- it's no accident the two share an office space and are both funded by the venerable Washington D.C.-based organization Marijuana Policy Project. In the war against the war on drugs, Vicente and Tvert are coordinating their attacks with a two-front offensive.
Lately, Vicente, a lawyer, has spent most of his time lately guiding the state's medical-marijuana community -- assisting on pivotal court cases, consulting with dispensaries and meeting with policy makers. And on December 19 at a location yet to be announced, Sensible Colorado is hosting a medical-marijuana stakeholder meeting -- sort of a "gathering of the five families" à la The Godfatherat which the state's captains of marijuana industry will try to craft a unified legislative agenda for 2010.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prison Treatment Cuts Could Feed Recidivism in Calif.

Prison Treatment Cuts Could Feed Recidivism in Calif.

An 80-percent reduction in prison addiction-treatment capacity could lead to a proportional increase in recidivism in California, some experts say.
The Contra Costa Times reported Nov. 12 that $1.2 billion in budget cuts for state prisons will mean that just 2,350 inmates will receive addiction treatment next year, down from 12,164. Nine-month programs will be cut to three months, which critics say could limit their effectiveness.
"Those inmates will have very little treatment service to deal with behavioral issues that they've spent years to develop, most of which was put on them from an early age," said Darrol Monfils, a counselor at the California Institution for Women. "Their chances of succeeding are slim."
"California prisoners will be paroling inmates with little or no rehabilitation," Monfils said. "They will be paroling with the same behaviors as they did when they arrived. Now, having said that, there will be a few exceptions to the rule, but they will be the larger minority."
A state corrections department spokesperson said the agency is "scientifically evaluating and assessing inmates, those at the highest risk of recidivism and so we are targeting our resources to that population group and identifying what their needs are."
David Conn, senior vice president for treatment provider Mental Health Systems, Inc., said the state made the cuts only reluctantly. "These were sort of last-minute budget cuts to balance the budget, and everyone agrees it's probably a foolish decision," he said. "Individuals who are incarcerated to support drug habits will not receive substance abuse treatment. The likelihood of them reoffending increases significantly."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Congress Introduces Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009

Congress Introduces Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009

Congress Introduces Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009
This week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Adam Schiff introduced the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009. The bill is numbered S 2772 for the Senate and HR 4080 for the House. The complete text of the legislation can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.

The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009 authorizes the U.S Attorney General to make grants to incentivize state and local governments and tribes to:
(1) analyze criminal justice trends to better understand what is driving the growth in their local jail and prison populations;
(2) develop tailored policy options to reduce prison spending, better manage the growth of the prison population, reduce recidivism and reinvest a portion of savings in strategies designed to increase public safety and improve conditions in neighborhoods to which most people return after prison;
(3) implement the proposed policies.
Justice reinvestment seeks to improve public safety more cost effectively through reforms of parole and probation policies and practices that downsize state prison populations and budgets. The money saved by these initiatives is then reinvested to improve community corrections and to strengthen community institutions - schools, job creation, affordable housing and health care - in the neighborhoods where people live before and after prison.
The idea was pioneered by Susan Tucker, Director of The After Prison Initiative at the Open Society Institute, and Eric Cadora, a former OSI Program Officer who now directs the Justice Mapping Center.
With support from the Open Society Institute, the Council on State Governments has developed justice reinvestment intiatives in 11 states.
More information can be found at www.justicereinvestment.org.

Experts Discuss Legalization To Reduce Crime

By Greg Flakus - Drug smuggling gangs in Mexico have turned some parts of that country into a war zone. At the same time, arrests for drug offenses in the United States have soared, contributing to a jail population that is the highest in the industrialized world. Experts on the narcotics issue came together for a discussion of legalization and other ideas at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston Thursday.
Houston, TX - infoZine - The question before the panel was whether legalization of cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, would help reduce the power of the violent Mexican crime cartels. But the discussion also included the idea of legalizing other narcotics or changing the legal approach to the problem they pose.

Speaking in favor of legalization was Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance."I think the notion of taking certain psychoactive substances, certain plants and chemicals and treating those as criminal and treating anybody who touches them or uses them, consumes or sells or buys or grows them as criminal is basically wrong. It is wrong and especially for people whose only offense is to take those things into their body," he said.

Nadelmann argued that the so-called war on drugs being carried out by the US government is not really a war at all, but an ill-advised attempt to control behavior that has existed in human society for thousands of years. He says criminalization of drugs has put hundreds of thousands of otherwise lawful citizens in prison and provided criminal gangs with large profits.

But the Intelligence Chief for the Houston office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, Gary Hale said efforts to stop drug trafficking do amount to a war. "To me, it is a drug war. It is a conflict that is marked by death and, certainly, threats to our national security. A significant number of terrorist organizations partially fund their activities with drug proceeds," he said.

Hale noted that leftist guerrillas in Colombia are largely funded by taxes they impose on cocaine growers and that the Taliban in Afghanistan benefits from opium production there.

Hale stressed that his job is to enforce the laws, not to make them, but he challenged the idea that legalization of marijuana or any other drug would have a great impact on Mexican criminal gangs like the Zetas, who operate along the US-Mexico border. "If you look at their revenue sources, which are drugs and prostitution and alcohol sales and petroleum theft and just a whole range of stuff the Zetas are involved in, drugs is a very small part, 15 to 20 percent," he said.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prison Overcrowding: $700 Million Is Too Much

The Gazettehttp://www.gazette.com/articles/possession-89650-bills-misdemeanor.html
Colorado prisons are overflowing with inmates, at a cost of nearly $700 million a year to taxpayers, in part due to mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, a panel of state lawmakers and sentence reform advocates said at a town hall meeting Saturday.
To ease the pressure on the state prison system, the 2010 General Assembly will be asked to pass a package of bills that would give judges discretion at sentencing to let some of those convicts out sooner.
The sentencing reform package also will include bills reducing penalties for possession of marijuana and other drugs. For example, possession of 4 ounces of marijuana would become a petty offense instead of a criminal misdemeanor. Possession of 8 to 16 ounces would be a misdemeanor under the bills, instead of a felony.
Similar reductions would apply to possession of small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine and various prescription drugs, with the exception of “date-rape” drugs.
The package also will address DUI sentencing laws, perhaps raising penalties for habitual DUI convictions, said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

California cop urges Colorado to sort out its medical-marijuana laws - The Denver Post

California cop urges Colorado to sort out its medical-marijuana laws - The Denver Post

The top cop in a California town that has become a poster child for a well-intentioned medical-marijuana law gone wrong has some advice for Colorado legislators.

"Make your laws as clear as you can, so that your executive and judicial branches of government can do their jobs as they are intended to," said Randy Mendosa, chief of police in Arcata, Calif.

The northern California town of 17,000 drew national attention in 2008 when a boom in medical-marijuana growing spawned serious public-safety concerns and siphoned away affordable housing as homes were rented for pot cultivation operations.

Colorado has its work cut out for it.

The state has few regulations for the burgeoning medical-marijuana industry, which has forced befuddled municipalities to enact a patchwork of moratoriums and outright bans as they wait for lawmakers to take up the issue in January.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quillen: Colorado's Medical Marijuana Maze

The Denver Post
It came as something of a surprise to read that Breckenridge residents had overwhelmingly voted on Nov. 3 to legalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, as well as associated paraphernalia.
It was a surprise because I used to work there for a few months in 1977-78, when I edited the Summit County Journal. Back then, you would have had to work at it to find that marijuana was illegal.
The only pot arrests I recall were "stupidity busts." Someone forgot to remove the plants from a condo's window sill before calling to report a burglary, or left a bag in plain sight on the front seat when pulled over. Indeed, I distinctly remember two guys passing a joint in broad daylight while they changed a flat tire right outside the sheriff's office window.
But even if a municipality can set priorities for law enforcement (Denver voters made it the "lowest priority" in 2005), a town can't actually legalize marijuana, since the plant also comes under state and federal law. Colorado voters legalized medical marijuana with Amendment 20 in 2000, but that had little effect until recently.
Although the Bush administration offered lip service to federalism and respecting states, Bush told federal drug agents to ignore tolerant state marijuana laws. Thus a pot dispensary that was legal under California or Colorado law was still a target for the federal DEA.
That has changed. President Barack Obama has told federal agents to ignore cannabis operations that are legal under state law, and thus the recent growth in Colorado dispensaries.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

KUNC: Hudson Correctional Facility Opens in Colorado (2009-11-18)

KUNC: Hudson Correctional Facility Opens in Colorado (2009-11-18)
(KUNC) - Earlier this week federal officials toured an Illinois prison as a possible site to house Guantanamo Bay detainees. So far Colorado has not been contacted by the federal government for the project. But a recent medium-security private prison opening in Hudson yesterday could provide a glimpse of what could be gained by such a project.

The new Hudson Correctional Facility is a welcome economic boost for the town's 1,600 residents.

"The answer was pretty loud and clear," says Hudson Town Administrator Joe Racine, who says voters overwhelmingly approved zoning for the prison in 2007. "It passed 2:1."

Right now Hudson is a sleepy commuter town just off I-76, east of Fort Lupton. But officials like Racine expect this to change because of the $90 million dollar correctional facility.

"The biggest single tax revenue item from the prison will be property tax and that exact amount won't be known until we get the assessor's evaluation on the facility," says Racine.

Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. brought in millions of dollars to fund a new wastewater treatment facility. They also paved several roads around the prison, opening the door for new development.

"It's a significant injection into southern Weld County into an area that hasn't seen a lot of growth," say Charles Seigel, spokesman for Cornell.

Seigel estimates the 1,250-bed prison will pump more than $7 million in salaries to the area annually. But national studies have shown that workers choose to commute to work when prisons are located in rural communities, which could reduce the economic impact on Hudson. Joe Racine says there will be a pay off for his town, though.

"The I-76 corridor like the I-25 corridor before us will see significant growth," he says. "We've already seen significant growth just down the road in Brighton."

That growth will first come in the form of prisoners, and they won't be from Colorado. Department of Corrections officials cite Governor Ritter's recidivism package and the economy for a slow down in the prison population. Cornell says the first 800 inmates to arrive in Hudson will come from Alaska. More are likely from around the country in the years ahead.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sentencing laws and prison costs - The Denver Post

Sentencing laws and prison costs - The Denver Post
Lowering penalties for marijuana possession and ramping up punishments for repeat drunken drivers are both promising ideas that ought to be considered as part of state sentencing reform.

We're glad to see the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice pursuing these changes. But before the ideas get too far along, it will be important to get a handle on the economic impact of such a restructuring.

Would the overhaul result in overflowing jails? Will counties have the resources to accommodate changes? Is there any way to realize some savings in prison expenses?

Prison cost reduction is one of the main reasons the commission was formed. As corrections eats up an increasing portion of the state's general fund, it is imperative to figure out a way to slow the growth.
The commission is set to finish its work by the end of December, and then it will forward suggestions to the governor. Ultimately, restructuring sentencing laws will fall to legislators, who convene in January.
State lawmakers need to quickly get their arms around the financial implications of sentencing reform because anything with a significant price tag is going to be a waste of their time given the budget situation. Ideally, they'd realize savings.

The last sentencing reform bill, introduced in the waning days of the last legislative session, was shelved in part because no one knew how it would affect the budget.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, offered some good ideas with its reduction in sentencing ranges for non-violent, property and some drug crimes.

It seems like the commission, which most recently met last week, is considering some of the same directions.
Commission members voted to recommend dialing back penalties for marijuana possession. Those caught with up to 4 ounces of marijuana would face a petty offense instead of a criminal misdemeanor. Possession of 8 to 16 ounces would become a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Those changes are in keeping with trends around the state as voters have been taking a more lenient view about marijuana use.

AG Suthers says Colorado can tax medical marijuana - The Denver Post

AG Suthers says Colorado can tax medical marijuana - The Denver Post

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Colorado man to sue over seizure of pot plants - The Denver Post

Colorado man to sue over seizure of pot plants - The Denver Post

Thornton: A court for mental illness - The Denver Post

Thornton: A court for mental illness - The Denver Post

History will be made in Colorado's 18th Judicial District this week when Colorado's first districtwide adult Mental Health Court will convene to hear the case of "Robert," age 37.

Robert has bipolar disorder. He frequently goes off his medication, hasn't followed through with treatment plans, has attempted suicide, and has been hospitalized three times. He has several prior convictions for shoplifting, violating restraining orders and resisting arrest. Now he says he wants to figure out a better way to live, and has volunteered for the Mental Health Court.

The court is a specialized treatment court similar to others used in Colorado for drug users and teen offenders. It's designed to divert nonviolent felony offenders who have a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression, as well as those with a combination of mental illness and substance abuse. It is not open to those with violent behavior or to sex offenders.

Most of the people who'll come before the court have been repeatedly in and out of jail. They've been charged with minor offenses that result from their mental illness, things like being a public nuisance, drinking in public, and shoplifting. They're charged with a felony because of the cost of items they've stolen or damaged. Usually they have been off their medications because they can't afford them, and live in and out of shelters.

Defendants who volunteer for the court are assessed for eligibility by a team that includes the Mental Health Court magistrate, the coordinator of the court, a treatment professional, and representatives of the district attorney's and public defender's offices.

Each participant will have an intensive treatment plan, including case management and medications, and will be closely monitored by probation officers and mental health professionals. Treatment addresses the mental illness, recurring substance abuse and criminal thinking. There will be incentives for compliance, and sanctions for non-compliance that may include re-sentencing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Marijuana Moves Into The Open In A Ski Town

The New York Times
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — High-altitude partying is a deeply carved tradition in ski country, where alcohol in the open and illicit drugs in the shadows have been intertwined for years.
Even before last week’s town vote here that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, one of the best-selling T-shirts at Shirt and Ernie’s on Main Street winked at what it means to live and play 9,600 feet up in the Rockies.
“Dude,” the shirt says, “I think this whole town is high.”
But what the town’s drug ordinance could mean for the local culture and economy, as well as its potential impact on the resort industry if more ski towns go Breckenridge’s way, has become part of the discussion as people scan the skies and wait for snow.
For business owners ever vigilant about the town’s image, safety-minded resort managers and footloose ski and snowboard vagabonds whose ranks have given towns like this a tinge of wildness since the first ski bum washed a dish or waited a table, marijuana is openly discussed as perhaps never before.
The leader of the group that organized the petition drive leading to the vote, Sensible Colorado, said that Breckenridge, where 71 percent of voters approved the marijuana measure on Election Day, was the opening salvo in a town-by-town strategy toward the goal of a vote on statewide legalization within a few years.
Local efforts, said the group’s founder and chairman, Sean T. McAllister, are now organizing or under way in two other Colorado resort towns, Durango and Aspen. After the election, Mr. McAllister said, people in Montana and Washington called seeking advice on starting voter initiatives.
Breckenridge’s part-time mayor, Dr. John Warner, a dentist who voted against the measure but remained publicly neutral before the election, said the three dozen or so e-mail messages he had received since the vote had been mixed.
About half of the messages were negative, Dr. Warner said, and included comments from people who said they had canceled reservations and would never come back. Other respondents said they were thrilled about the town’s vote and could hardly wait to visit and spend some money.
State and federal law still make marijuana possession a crime in Colorado, but residents here say that local enforcement has not been a high police priority.
A spokeswoman for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber of Commerce, Carly Grimes, said she thought that because of those other laws, little would change. But she said that some chamber members were concerned about perceptions — that the statute could send a message of broader drug tolerance that could turn off visiting families, who remain a cornerstone of the economic base.

Romer's medical marijuana bill would target dispensaries, younger patients - Boulder Daily Camera

Romer's medical marijuana bill would target dispensaries, younger patients - Boulder Daily Camera

If state Sen. Chris Romer has his way, the medical marijuana industry will look quite a bit different a year from now.

The legislation the Denver Democrat plans to introduce in January would require all caregivers with more than two patients to obtain a license from the state. The conditions of the license would require that caregivers develop health care plans for their patients and offer more services than selling marijuana to patients.

"I fully expect well over 50 percent of the dispensaries will go out of business," he said.

He calls the status quo "a train wreck" with dispensaries springing up on every corner "like convenience stores."

Romer said retail operations in which patients walk in, buy pot and leave wouldn't qualify under this licensing scheme, and all businesses would be required to apply for licenses. Those that didn't qualify would become illegal.

Dispensaries that follow a wellness center model and physical therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists who also sell marijuana likely would qualify.

Caregivers also would need to undergo criminal background checks, though Romer said he doesn't know what sort of cut-off he'd use to disqualify a caregiver. Most likely, past arrests for non-violent, marijuana-related offenses wouldn't disqualify someone.

Marijuana activists said Romer and the rest of the Legislature need to remember that accessing marijuana for medicinal purposes is a constitutional right in Colorado, and any limits on it that patients and caregivers feel are unreasonable will be challenged in court.

One proposal that activists say they would welcome is the creation of a licensing system for grow operations. Most attorneys agree that the law today doesn't allow for commercial grows, even if all the marijuana goes to a legal dispensary.

Romer said he understands the economic and practical necessity of allowing grow operations. His legislation would create licenses for grow operations that could show all their marijuana went to medical use and met certain health and safety standards.

Romer also wants an additional medical review board to look at all applicants from patients who are under 25.

Colorado justice commission suggests lighter penalties for drug possession - The Denver Post

Colorado justice commission suggests lighter penalties for drug possession - The Denver Post
A commission of Colorado criminal justice leaders voted Friday to recommend reduced penalties for possessing marijuana and other illegal drugs.
If Colorado legislators adopt the recommendations, possessing up to 4 ounces of marijuana would become a petty offense instead of a criminal misdemeanor, and possessing 8 to 16 ounces would become a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
The Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice also favored lower-level felony charges for possessing a few grams of cocaine or methamphetamine and reducing the charge for illegally possessing various prescription drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. It excepted possession of "date-rape" drugs, which would remain a felony.
The commission is weighing whether to recommend longer jail sentences for drunken drivers convicted of a second or third offense. Some commission members said a Denver Post series on the inconsistent sentencing of persistent drunken drivers led them to favor legislative changes, but no recommendation was made Friday.
The commission was created two years ago to study criminal sentences in Colorado and recommend changes to a legislature struggling with the growing costs of incarceration.
The proposal to reduce penalties for possessing marijuana drew broad support from a commission represented by top law enforcement officials as well as appointees from the legislature and the public defender's office. Of eighteen voting members, 13 supported the proposal, four said they could live with it, and one opposed it.
Some worried that the proposed criminal changes would get intertwined with an anticipated legislative debate about the proliferation of medical-marijuana clinics across the state.
"Are we going to be blurring issues if this is addressed?" asked Department of Public Safety executive director Peter Weir.
"I think we should move forward," Attorney General John Suthers replied. "Marijuana penalties should be reduced, regardless of what happens" with the clinics

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Season to Share: Urban Peak gives at-risk youths a safe place to grow - The Denver Post

Season to Share: Urban Peak gives at-risk youths a safe place to grow - The Denver Post

It was standing-room only at a recent community breakfast, the weekly Thursday refueling session at the youth shelter on South Acoma Street. The first order of business was to "acknowledge those who have been kicking butt and taking names!"

Among them: Eric Wilson, 20, who finished his GED the previous day.

His success met with cheers and applause from the nearly 40 other people finding food, shelter and motivation at Urban Peak, the only licensed youth shelter in Denver.

The shelter's mission starts with the basics — providing warmth, safety and food for homeless, runaway, at-risk youths, ages 14 to 24 — and extends to job and education assistance. From providing hats, gloves and simple hygiene to GED preparation and job training, Urban Peak meets a range of needs with the long- range goal of avoiding chronic adult homelessness.

After the resident doctor offered bus tokens for those wanting to get flu vaccines, and case managers offered diagnostic help for substance abuse and mental-health problems, the youths touting recent achievements got to lead the food line.

Wilson proudly showed off his name on a bulletin board as having completed his GED. That makes him one of 250 this year who earned an equivalency degree with help from Urban Peak.

The Aurora teen's story is typical in that it begins with an unstable home life. Wilson, 20, was home-schooled in high school by his mother. He had trouble transferring his grades to earn approval for a diploma.

Greene: No escaping this error in corrections - The Denver Post

Greene: No escaping this error in corrections - The Denver Post

Alaska has its Bridge to Nowhere.

We're shackled with a prison for nobody.

The Colorado State Penitentiary II is a $208 million mothership of a maximum-security prison near completion in Cañon City. It will sit unused now that the state has no money to staff it.

Criticizing Gov. Bill Ritter for building the 948-bed prison would be as unfair as blaming President Barack Obama for last year's stock-market crash. The prosecutor- turned-governor inherited the project from Bill Owens' administration and a fear-mongering 2003 legislature set on a supermax to isolate the state's most dangerous inmates.

Still, in a year when Ritter is furloughing workers and slashing services in other agencies, he's adding $6 million to the Corrections Department budget, including 27 new employees — among them three to run the boiler room at CSP II and eight to guard the empty building.

As if people actually break into prison.

The $1 million Ritter seeks for CSP II's 11 new workers could pay to either put 60 drug addicts through in-patient treatment programs, treat 350 mentally ill Coloradans or supervise about 1,000 people on probation, according to estimates. Or it could fund vocational classes and other services for parolees that Ritter promised but hasn't delivered.

"You don't want to leave a big facility completely empty," says corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti.


"When there are deep cuts all over the state, the irony of staffing an empty building so heavily is absurd," counters state public defender Doug Wilson.

The absurdity grows as some officials chatter about selling the big house even before it opens.

What seems to go unnoticed at the Capitol is that the state can't sell a building that technically it doesn't own. The legislature sidestepped the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights by paying for the prison with certificates of participation — a complex financing tool that basically lets the state lease the building for the term of the debt. Privatizing would be unlikely given that a buyer would have to pay far higher interest rates than the state.

What's more, CSP II is designed to isolate inmates in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. As it is, Colorado has triggered human-rights complaints for isolating far more inmates — including juveniles — than the national average. State law prohibits private companies from running high-security prisons.

Opposition to CSP II was loud and foreboding when lawmakers debated the bonds in 2003.

Some critics argued even before the economic crash that the state couldn't afford to staff the prison in the long term. Others called for ending Colorado's ever- sprawling prison industrial complex by easing state sentencing laws to lower the overall prison population.

"What we're seeing now is some chickens coming home to roost," says Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition's Christie Donner, the chief naysayer.

The mothballed prison is a monument to misguided priorities and an embarrassment to a state that borrowed too eagerly to build.

Rest assured that its heating and cooling systems will be well-tended. And its empty cells ever so carefully guarded.

Colorado medical-pot backers form trade group - The Denver Post

Colorado medical-pot backers form trade group - The Denver Post

A group of medical-marijuana advocates — striving for legitimacy for their still-nascent industry — announced the formation of a new trade group Wednesday.

The Colorado Wellness Association, its founders said, will formulate regulations for the state's booming medical- marijuana dispensary business, develop quality-control guidelines to protect patients, produce a regular magazine and perhaps even start an online medical-marijuana commodities market for dispensary owners to purchase their product.

"This industry is growing up," said medical-marijuana attorney Rob Corry, the new group's chairman.

The founding of the association is another step by members of Colorado's broad medical-cannabis community in recent months to cast a mainstream light on what had for years been an in-the-shadows business. A group of medical-marijuana patients and dispensary owners in Boulder County have formed a similar group. Advocates have begun to lobby state lawmakers for regulations to better define and protect the industry.

Wednesday's announcement came at the offices of Full Spectrum Laboratories, a recently opened Denver company that tests samples of medical-marijuana products and quantifies their potency. The lab not only provides quality-control assurances but also helps patients determine their needed dosage of the drug, lab founder Bob Winnicki said.

"We're just bringing stuff that is already being done in other industries and focusing it on this industry," said Winnicki, who dropped out during his third year of medical school to start the lab.

The lab will charge dispensaries about $60 per test and will provide the dispensary with a certification that can be shown to patients. Understanding the potency of an item of medical marijuana — which can vary widely based on the plant strain, growing technique and how the drug is consumed — is another step toward mainstreaming the industry, Winnicki said.

"Doctors are not going to write prescriptions for things that are not a given dosage," he said. "No doctor is ever going to say, 'Take two hits off a joint and call it good.' "

The new association also is working with former state Sen. Bob Hagedorn, a one-time head of the Senate's health committee, to craft policy proposals for the upcoming legislative session.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Death Penalty Is Considered A Boon By Some California Inmates

LA Times
White supremacist gang hit man Billy Joe Johnson got what he asked for from the Orange County jury that convicted him of first-degree murder last month: a death sentence.

It wasn't remorse for his crimes or a desire for atonement that drove him to ask for execution; it was the expectation that conditions on death row would be more comfortable than in other maximum-security prisons and that any date with the executioner would be decades away if it came at all.

Although executions are carried out with comparative speed in states such as Virginia, where Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad was put to death Tuesday night, capital punishment in California has become so bogged down by legal challenges as to be a nearly empty threat, say experts on both sides of the issue.

"This is a dramatic reaffirmation of what we've already known for some time, that capital punishment in California takes way too long," Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the law-and-order Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, said of Johnson's bet that he will live a long life on death row. "This guy certainly feels like it's worth the risk."

Statistics suggest that Johnson may be correct in his calculations.

California has the nation's largest death row population, with 685 sentenced to die by lethal injection. Yet only 13 executions have been carried out since capital punishment resumed in 1977 and none of the condemned have been put to death since a moratorium was imposed nearly four years ago. Five times as many death row inmates -- 71 -- have died over that same period of natural causes, suicide or inside violence.

Healing a Broken System: Veterans Battling Addiction and Incarceration

click here for the Drug Policy Report pdf.
Thousands of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI), and other illnesses and injuries that often contribute to substance abuse and addiction, fatal overdose, homelessness, and suicide.The current generation of veterans joins the large population of Vietnam-era veterans who have struggled with the same problems for decades.

Left untreated, these underlying medical conditions also contribute to violations of the law, especially nonviolent drug offenses.

Indeed, in 2004 roughly 140,000 veterans were in U.S. state and federal prisons, with tens of thousands more in county jails. Research shows that the single greatest predictive factor for the incarceration of veterans is substance abuse. As more veterans return from longer and repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan,
the number of incarcerated veterans is likely to increase significantly.

Incarcerated veterans with PTSD report more serious legal problems, higher lifetime use of alcohol and other drugs, and poorer overall health than those without PTSD.Existing literature strongly indicates that
“incarcerated veterans may face a level of suicide risk that exceeds that attributable to either
veteran status or incarceration alone.”

Moreover, incarcerated veterans are highly vulnerable to death by overdose after release if they do not receive effective treatment. Veterans who are convicted of criminal offenses, particularly drug felonies, or those who have drug use histories, and their families, face a wide range of punitive policies that limit their access to social services necessary for their reentry to civilian life.

Med Marijuana Rule Voided In Denver

The Denver Post
A Denver District Court judge rebuked the state Board of Health on Tuesday for changing rules about medical marijuana without providing adequate notice to patients.
In his ruling, Chief Denver District Judge Larry Naves struck down the state board's actions from a meeting earlier this month. At that telephone conference meeting, the board repealed the definition of a medical-marijuana "caregiver," casting the burgeoning industry into uncertainty — all without taking public testimony. Naves also ordered the state to pay the attorneys' fees of medical-marijuana advocates, who filed a motion saying they were wrongly blocked from participating in the hearing.
"How is it a fair hearing?" Naves hammered the state's attorney during her arguments.
Tuesday's tussle was just the latest legal fight over Colorado's work-in-progress medical-marijuana system.
There are now more than 12,000 people on the state's medical-marijuana registry, a state official said Tuesday. Caregivers, as defined in the state's constitution, are those who provide medical marijuana to patients and have a "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient."

Temporary Pot Rules Passes In Boulder

The Denver Post
A "green" issue much different than the Boulder City Council is used to discussing brought out more than 100 area residents Tuesday night amid concerns that the city might ban medical-marijuana dispensaries. While the council didn't go that far, it did approve a set of temporary regulations for an industry that was otherwise unregulated.
Just after midnight Wednesday morning, the council voted 4-2 to pass an emergency ordinance aimed at keeping medical marijuana dispensaries away from schools, clustering together or operating in neighborhoods. Councilmembers Lisa Morzel and Macon Cowles voted against the regulations, while Councilmembers Crystal Gray, Ken Wilson, Angelique Espinoza and Susan Osborne voted in favor of interim rules.
The ordinance means that through March 31, 2010, any dispensaries that want to open in Boulder may only do so if they are at least 500 feet away from schools or licensed daycare centers, are not within 500 feet of three or more other dispensaries, and are not located in residential areas.
The rules do not apply to the 42 businesses that have already pulled sales-tax licenses with the city, or the 21 or so dispensaries that applied for permits prior to Nov. 6.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Expanding Drug Treatment: Is the US Ready To Step Up?

AP Report(click here for the entire story)

NEW YORK — Based on the rhetoric, America's war on drugs seems poised to shift into a more enlightened phase where treatment of addicts gains favor over imprisonment of low-level offenders. Questions abound, however, about the nation's readiness to turn the talk into reality.
The economic case for expanding treatment, especially amid a recession, seems clear. Study after study concludes that treating addicts, even in lengthy residential programs, costs markedly less than incarcerating them, so budget-strapped states could save millions.
The unmet need for more treatment also is vast. According to federal data, 7.6 million Americans needed treatment for illicit drug use in 2008, and only 1.2 million — or 16 percent — received it.
But the prospect of savings on prison and court costs hasn't produced a surge of new fiscal support for treatment. California's latest crisis budget, for example, strips all but a small fraction of state funding away from a successful diversion and treatment program that voters approved in 2000.
"It's easy to talk a good game about more treatment and helping people," said Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association. "But it smashes head on into reality when they don't put their money where their mouth is."
Money aside, the treatment field faces multiple challenges. At many programs, counselors — often former addicts themselves — are low-paid and turnover is high. Many states have yet to impose effective systems for evaluating programs, a crucial issue in a field where success is relative and relapses inevitable.
"Fifty percent of clients who enter treatment complete it successfully — that means we're losing half," said Raquel Jeffers, director of New Jersey's Division of Addiction Services. "We can do better."
The appointment of treatment expert Tom McLellan as deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in April was seen as part of a shift of priorities for the drug czar's office.
McLellan said he sees greater openness to expanding treatment but also deep misunderstanding or ignorance about scientific advances in the field and the need to integrate it into the health care system.
Most Americans, he suggested, have an image of drug treatment formed from the movies — "cartoon treatment" involving emotional group encounters — and are unaware of a new wave of medications and other therapies that haven't gained wide use despite proven effectiveness
"For the first time, it can truly be said that we know what to do — we know the things that work," he said. "But do we have the economic and political willingness to put them into place? If we do, we'll see results."
McLellan, insisting he's not "a wild-eyed liberal," said expanding treatment wouldn't negate the war on drugs.
"Law enforcement is necessary, but it's not sufficient," he said. "You need effective preventive services, addiction and mental health services integrated with the rest of medicine. You shouldn't have to go to some squalid little place across the railroad tracks."
By federal count, there are more than 13,640 treatment programs nationwide, ranging from world-class to dubious and mostly operating apart from the mainstream health-care industry.
Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, said his agency wants states to develop better measurements of programs' performance.
"The data shows treatment saves money — $1 spent to $4 or $7 saved," Clark said. "If you're an altruist, making treatment available is a good thing. If you're a narcissist, it's a good thing — you'd pay less in taxes."
Treatment advocates are closely watching Congress, hoping the pending health care overhaul will expand insurance coverage for substance abuse programs. Recent federal data indicates that 37 percent of those seeking treatment don't get it because they can't pay for it — and many land in prison.
The work force in drug treatment is, for the most part, modestly paid, with counselors often earning less than the $40,000 per year that it costs to keep an inmate in prison in many states.
"Some of the stigma that goes with addiction adheres to the staff as well," Jeffers said. "Most agencies are trying to do right — but the field is getting increasingly complicated. The business skills that are needed aren't always the same skills that make a good clinician."
Yet generally, front-line counselors win high praise — especially the ex-addicts who bring savvy and credibility to the job.
"People in the field weren't driven to it by the money or glamour, but often by personal experience or that of a loved one," said Keith Humphreys, a treatment expert from Stanford University now working for the drug czar's office. "They may not have the fanciest degrees, but they are incredibly caring."
Garnett Wilson served prison time for armed robbery in the 1980s and now — at 61 — has two decades of drug counseling under his belt as a valued employee of the Fortune Society, which provides support services to ex-offenders in New York City.
As he cajoles the men in his groups, he strives to remember his own battle to change.
"Some of the people who've been through it become too rigid," he said. "Preaching doesn't work. They forget how hard it is to rise above your environment, and they alienate the people they're trying to help."
Wilson says he focuses his efforts on "those guys that are ready."
Perhaps Joe Smith is one of them.
A 29-year-old from Brooklyn, Smith recently served eight months in prison for a weapons offense and was a heavy marijuana user, but now — studying and job-hunting — says he's determined to go straight.
"It's been kind of tough," he said. "The hardest part is just to come to it every day, but when you come to think about it, it's not so hard — because if you don't, it's back to jail."
Another client, Ronnie Johnson, has been back in New York City barely a month after more than a decade in prison upstate.
"It's like family here — everybody's supportive," said Johnson, 39, contrasting the Fortune Society staff with drug treatment workers in prison who were "just doing it for a paycheck."
In the years ahead, New York may serve as a test case for the potential to expand treatment programs.
Earlier this year, its legislature approved sweeping reforms of harsh drug laws enacted in 1973 under Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
The changes mean that thousands of nonviolent offenders who would have faced long, mandatory prison terms will be diverted to treatment. Even in a difficult financial climate, the state is allocating $50 million to boost treatment programs.
"New York will now treat addiction as a health concern and focus on treating the disease, rather than locking up the patient," said Karen Carpenter-Palumbo, commissioner of the state's Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.
Her office oversees one of nation's largest addiction service systems, with some 1,550 programs serving more than 110,000 people a day. Yet that caseload represents only 15 percent of those needing treatment. An estimated 80 percent of the 60,000 offenders in New York's prisons have substance abuse problems.
As the system expands, Carpenter-Palumbo is working with treatment providers on new standards. If the field wants to be a full partner in the medical community, she said, it must be ready for rigorous evaluation.
Problems can range from inadequate staff levels to fraud to the simple lack of a warm welcome when clients first visit.
"Any person with an addiction, if you give them an excuse, they'll run," she said.
Paul Samuels of the Legal Action Center, a public interest law firm, hopes New York and other states will reduce the criminal justice system's role in determining details of treatment, such as whether an addict should be given methadone or other medication.
"That would be like a judge determining the kind of treatment you get for heart disease," he said. "It really should be decided by treatment experts."
The Rockefeller law reforms foretell a potential boom for organizations like Odyssey House, a New York City nonprofit.

Medical Marijuana Get Court Review

DENVER—Medical marijuana rules are headed to a Denver judge.
Denver District Court Judge Larry Naves has scheduled a hearing Tuesday morning on state regulations limiting who can supply the drug to patients.
The state board of health temporarily narrowed the definition last week. But medical marijuana supporters are asking Naves to block those limits from taking effect, saying the state didn't give enough notice of the vote.
The question is about the definition of "caregiver" and who can supply marijuana to people who medically qualify to use the drug. It's unclear how long it will take Naves to decide whether to block the new rule.
The state health board is planning to make its final decision on Dec. 16.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Justices To Weigh Legality of Life Terms For Juveniles

The Denver Post
WASHINGTON — Joe Sullivan was sent away for life for raping an elderly woman and judged incorrigible though he was only 13 at the time of the attack.
Terrance Graham, implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17, was given a life sentence by a judge who told the teenager he threw his life away.
They didn't kill anyone, but they effectively were sentenced to die in prison.
Life sentences with no chance of parole are rare for juveniles tried as adults and convicted of crimes less serious than killing. Just over 100 prison inmates in the United States are serving those terms, according to data compiled by opponents of the sentences.
Now the Supreme Court is being asked to say that locking up juveniles and throwing away the key is cruel and unusual — and thus, unconstitutional. Other than in death-penalty cases, the justices never before have found that a penalty crossed the cruel-and-unusual line.
They will hear arguments Monday.
Graham, 22, and Sullivan, 33, are in Florida prisons, which hold more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for nonhomicide crimes.
Although their attorneys deny their clients are guilty, the court will consider only whether the sentences are permitted by the Constitution.
The Supreme Court's latest look at how to punish young criminals flows directly from its 4-year-old decision to rule out the death penalty for anyone younger than 18.
In that 2005 case decided by a 5-4 vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion talked about "the lesser culpability of the juvenile offender."
"From a moral standpoint it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed," he said.

State Senator Wants More Control of Med MJ

The Denver PostGLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo.—A Colorado legislator says he will propose a bill to regulate Colorado's medical marijuana industry by cutting out individual distributors and creating a state monopoly. State Sen. Al White said the state's failure to regulate the industry has raised concerns that illicit drug cartels are using local dispensaries as quasi-legal outlets for black market marijuana.
"There are also concerns that the drug is being handed out liberally to many who don't really qualify," the Republican from Hayden said.
Colorado voters approved medical marijuana use in 2000, but it is up to local governments to set regulations for dispensaries.
The number of dispensaries and people registered to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation has increased rapidly in the past few months. The pace picked up after the state health board's rejection in July of a proposal to limit suppliers to five patients.
Last week, however, state health officials narrowed the definition of who may sell medical marijuana in response to a court ruling that caregivers must have personal contact with patients and do more than just provide marijuana.
White said that in 2007, fewer than 2,000 people held medical marijuana cards. "That number has now grown to around 13,000, with some 600 new applications coming in every day," he said.
The lawmaker's plan would take the business out of the hands of entrepreneurial caregivers and establish a state monopoly to grow and distribute marijuana. Licensed pharmacists would have to fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.
White's bill would split revenue from marijuana sales between a state "rainy day" fund and a special fund for colleges and universities. All the money would go to higher education after the rainy day fund reached $1 billion.
Jesse Lafayette, who runs the Peaceful Warrior Medical Marijuana dispensary in Glenwood Springs, said White's plan would put him and others out of business.
"It seems to me like they're still fighting marijuana and continuing this war on drugs, when what we really need from our elected officials is more advocacy for marijuana and more awareness," Lafayette told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Former Inmate Becomes Small Business Owner

9 News
SHERIDAN - How many of us can truly say we found our life's calling? Sewing found Johnny Wimberly as a teenager, long before he found this work as a small business owner, running Jed's Custom Services in Sheridan.
"It's definitely a passion, especially on the boat side of it, since I'm such a big fisherman and I like to be out on the water," Wimberly said.
Before he ever found a sewing machine, Wimberly needed to find his way in life.
"You know, I was a young man, 16 or 17 years old. I didn't really have respect for the law. I definitely did a lot of things in hindsight I wish I wouldn't have done. I ended up doing some robberies," Wimberly said.
In 1992, Wimberly was convicted of aggravated armed robbery and spent six years in prison.
"I went to prison basically with no skills," Wimberly said.
Then he discovered sewing in an inmate training program which led to several jobs in prison and work after his release.
"I didn't go try to get a job that had anything to do with banking or money, because most people, their first thought of talking to a felon is that they can't be trusted," Wimberly said.
He sent out resumes to several canvas shops and heard back. If they didn't ask about his prison time, he wouldn't tell. He just wanted to work.
"It was definitely hard, but with that skill, this is all I have. I didn't have family at the time in Colorado, I didn't have anything. I know how to sew," Wimberly said.
Since 1992, he has much more: a loving wife who eventually helped him start his own business, and a daughter who helps run it.
Even during a credit squeeze when getting a loan is unheard of, Wimberly is no longer alone in this new struggle.
"Everything I have is in this company. I can't imagine doing something without it. So what do you do? You quit and take a loss? Or do you just keep going and depend on your customers to come and bring you work?"
Wimberly says most of the employees he's hired through the years have been former inmates. He says it's his way to give them a second chance in life - much like he received several years ago.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Department of Corrections Monthly Population - October

Department of Corrections

The stats show that over 160 people have been released between accelerated release and HB 1351...

Boulder Planning Board: Don't ban pot businesses - The Denver Post

Boulder Planning Board: Don't ban pot businesses - The Denver Post

Children Of Incarcerated Parents...Guidelines for Federal Policymakers

Justice Center Council On State Governmentz(click here for report)

The Issue
The growth in the number of men and women
incarcerated in the United States over the past
twenty years has affected an extraordinary
number of children and families. In 2007, more
than 1.7 million minor children had a parent
in federal or state prison. Research indicates
that on any given day more than seven million
children may have a parent in prison or jail,
or under parole or probation supervision.
Children of incarcerated parents are at risk
of poor school performance, drug use and
mental health problems, and more likely to be
exposed to parental substance abuse, extreme
poverty, and domestic violence. Unfortunately,
connecting these children to services can be
difficult for government agencies, and little
is known about their specific needs or how
effectively these needs are being addressed.

Cocaine Vaccine

Really...a vaccine against cocaine.click here for the whole paper...

Cocaine Vaccine Shows Promise for Treating Addiction
NIDA Study Suggests Harnessing the Immune System Against Cocaine Addiction May Prove
Immunization with an experimental anti-cocaine vaccine resulted in a substantial reduction in
cocaine use in 38 percent of vaccinated patients in a clinical trial supported by the National
Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health. The study,
published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, is the first successful, placebocontrolled
demonstration of a vaccine against an illicit drug of abuse.
“The results of this study represent a promising step toward an effective medical treatment for
cocaine addiction,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow. “Provided that larger follow-up
studies confirm its safety and efficacy, this vaccine would offer a valuable new approach to
treating cocaine addiction, for which no FDA-approved medication is currently available.”
Like vaccines against infectious diseases such as measles and influenza, the anti-cocaine vaccine
stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies. Unlike antibodies against infectious
diseases, which destroy or deactivate the disease-causing agents, anti-cocaine antibodies attach
themselves to cocaine molecules in the blood, preventing them from passing through the bloodbrain
barrier. By preventing the drug’s entry into the brain, the vaccine inhibits or blocks the
cocaine-induced euphoria.
This study included 115 patients from a methadone maintenance program who were randomly
assigned to receive the anti-cocaine vaccine or a placebo (inactive) vaccine. Participants were
recruited from a methadone maintenance program because their retention rates are substantially
better than programs focused primarily on treatment for cocaine abuse. Participants in both
groups received five vaccinations over a 12-week period and were followed for an additional 12

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Corry Files Injunction Against DOH

Injunction Filed Against Board of Health "Emergency" Ruling

This afternoon attorney Rob Corry filed a petition on behalf of Medical
Marijuana advocates seeking to enjoin recent actions of the Colorado Board
of Health in holding a meeting not open to all members of the general
public, in which the Board refused to hear from Medical Marijuana patients
or any opposition, which undid part of its diligent work at the massive
medical marijuana meeting of July 20,2009. Plaintiffs expect the Court to
hold a hearing within one to two days.

Click here to read petition:

Dillon Rejects Dispensaries

The Denver Post
DILLON, Colo.—Medical marijuana dispensaries have been banned, for now, in one Summit County town. The Dillon city council has voted down regulations that would have allowed dispensaries. The town is just a few miles east of Breckenridge, where voters this week made marijuana in small amounts legal for adults.
Tuesday's vote in Dillon extends a pot shop moratorium until Feb. 13. Already two dispensaries are open elsewhere in Summit County, with more expected soon in Breckenridge after that town approved dispensary rules.
Towns across Colorado are struggling to figure out how to regulate medical marijuana shops. The growth of pot shops has led some to call on the state legislature to lay down a statewide law regulating dispensaries.

CCA Third Quarter Profits Jump

AP Report
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Prison operator Corrections Corp. of America said its third-quarter profit jumped 19 percent as more prisoners were locked up in its California and Arizona facilities.
The company said it earned $45.3 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, or 39 cents per share. That was up from $37.9 million, or 30 cents per share, during the same period last year.
Not counting an unusual tax benefit, the company would have earned 33 cents per share — above the 31 cents per share average expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
Revenue rose about 6 percent to $426 million from $403.8 million a year earlier, also topping analysts' $422.8 million forecast. The revenue increase was driven by a 4.5 percent rise in its average daily inmate population, plus a 1.3 percent increase in revenue for each person locked up one day.
Management revenue from states rose nearly 7 percent to $224.9 million as the inmate population from California and Arizona rose, partially offset by a drop in the number of prisoners in Minnesota and Washington.
The company said it expects a fourth-quarter profit of 33 cents to 35 cents per share, and a full-year profit of $1.24 to $1.26 per share, not counting special items. Analysts are expecting a profit of 34 cents per share for the fourth quarter and $1.25 per share for the year, on average.
The company said the general economy remains uncertain, and states — which pay the company to lock up their prisoners — are facing budget revenue shortfalls. It said its prediction includes the potential for additional pricing pressure, and the risk of population declines from some customers.
Corrections Corp. shares rose 33 cents to close earlier at $25.49, and slipped 68 cents, or 2.7 percent in late trading.

Looser Rules on Sentencing Stir Concerns Of Equity

Wall Street Journal(click here for full story)
Earlier this year, a Florida man who had been running a fraud scheme that cheated investors out of about $15 million decided to come clean.
Michael Riolo, 38 years old, offered information to the government before the case was brought and turned over his computers, records and assets.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra of West Palm Beach, Fla., gave Mr. Riolo 24½ years in prison
In another case this fall, Michael Regan, a Massachusetts hedge-fund manager, also turned himself in and pleaded guilty to running a similar scheme that defrauded investors out of $9 million. His sentence: seven years. According to a lawyer involved in the case, U.S. District Judge Carol Amon in Brooklyn, N.Y., noted that while the 66-year-old Mr. Regan cheated several elderly investors and a widow, he deserved some leniency for disclosing his fraud.
Judge Amon imposed a sentence that was shorter than the eight-to-10-year range recommended in the official parameters for incarceration, known as federal sentencing guidelines.
The shorter sentence was possible in part because of landmark Supreme Court cases in 2005 and 2007 that gave federal judges more freedom to depart from sentencing guidelines. But this relatively new latitude has caused a thorny problem to creep back into the federal system: Defendants can receive wildly different sentences for similar crimes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Impound Initiative Fails Breck Okays Pot

The Denver Post
A ballot initiative requiring police to impound the vehicles of drivers without valid licenses failed tonight after more than two-thirds of voters opposed it, the Denver Post is reporting.
All but one Denver city councilperson had asked voters to reject the Initiative 300 last month, saying it would cost the city as much as $1.6 million annually and was aimed at punishing illegal immigrants.
It is already illegal to drive without a license in Denver, though police officers have discretion in whether to impound cars.
Early returns also showed Denver school board candidates Mary Seawell, Andrea Merida, Jeanne Kaplan and Nate Easley leading in their respective district races by at least three points.

Inmates Try Their Hand At Shrimp Farming

Sierra Vista Journal
CANON CITY, Colo. (AP) — Colorado Correctional Industries managers are hoping it doesn’t take a big product to yield big profits as the inmate work program delves into its newest venture of growing shrimp.
A test batch of 30,000 shrimp is in its third month of growth in a converted greenhouse at Arrowhead Correctional Center, a minimum-restricted security prison which also houses a tilapia fish operation and a floral greenhouse operation.
The Pacific white shrimp came from a South Florida production hatchery. When they arrived in late July, the shrimp were barely visible.
When we got them, all you could see was a little pair of eyes,” said Ed McConnell, an inmate working with the shrimp. “It has been a really nice thing watching them grow.”
For a prison-industry business that runs everything from a furniture factory to metal and fiberglass shops and cow and goat dairies, managers are constantly “trying to figure out what we can do” to put inmates to work, said Jim Heaston, agribusiness operations manager. “I said, ‘Let’s try crawdads’ and Dave (Block, another CCI manager) said, ‘Let’s try shrimp,’” Heaston said.
Thanks to independent contractor Pat Foley, who has been helping with the tilapia fish operation, the managers already knew a shrimp expert who has raised the crustaceans from Malaysia to Hawaii.
Foley recommended the inmates grow Pacific white shrimp because they are hardy and more disease resistant than their cousin crustaceans, the Pacific blue shrimp.
In a carefully controlled tank lined with black plastic and with a water temperature between 82 and 86 degrees, the shrimp have been eating and growing.