Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Suspect's dad laments lack of mental-health care - The Denver Post

Suspect's dad laments lack of mental-health care - The Denver Post

One time when his son was feeling particularly violent, War Eagle Eastwood wrapped his arms tightly around his son's waist as Bruco pummeled him in the head, back and shoulders until exhausted.

It was the only mental health therapy Eastwood believed he could afford for his troubled son, who, he said, sometimes yelled, kicked and swung at imaginary enemies.

Though there is no public record that alleged Deer Creek Middle School gunman Bruco "Bo" Strong Eagle Eastwood has been diagnosed with a mental illness, his father said he has long believed his son struggled with schizophrenia — but the father felt powerless and financially unable to help.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Colorado senator wants tax on medical marijuana - The Denver Post

Colorado senator wants tax on medical marijuana - The Denver Post

A state senator said Thursday he wants to ask voters to impose a special tax on medical marijuana.

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said he intends to amend a bill that creates regulations for medical-marijuana dispensaries to include a provision that places an excise tax on medical marijuana, similar to the special excise tax that already exists for alcohol. Because of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, that provision — if first approved by lawmakers — must be put before the voters before the tax could be imposed.

Romer wants to use the resulting revenue — which he hopes to be about $10 million to $15 million annually — to fund drug education programs for teens, substance- abuse treatment centers, and

medical care for veterans and the poor. Romer said he is concerned the state's boom in medical-marijuana use could create a companion boom in recreational marijuana use among young people.

The idea received a cautious reception from medical-marijuana advocates.

Attorney Rob Corry said he's intrigued by the idea but would first need to see more specifics.

"With taxation comes legitimacy," Corry said. "This industry is one of the few that is asking to be taxed and legitimized to join the rest of the business world."

The measure would be inserted into House Bill 1284, which creates new requirements for the state's medical-marijuana dispensaries, and is just one of several changes the bill will likely see when it comes up for its first hearing next week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Only 11% Of Inmates With Substance Abuse Problems

Treatment For Only 11% Of Inmates With Substance Abuse Problems
Some 85 percent of the U.S. prison and jail inmates either meet the official criteria for substance abuse or addiction, had other substance abuse problems, or committed their offense for money to buy drugs, says the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). The center said only 11 percent of all inmates with substance abuse and addiction disorders receive treatment during their incarceration.
The report said that in 2006, alcohol and other drugs were involved in 78 percent of violent crimes, 83 percent of property crimes, and 77 percent of public order, immigration, or weapon offenses; and probation/parole violations. CASA said that if all inmates who needed treatment and aftercare received such services, the nation would break even in a year if just over 10 percent remained substance and crime free and employed. Thereafter, for each inmate who remained sober, employed, and crime free the U.S. would get an economic benefit of $90,953 per year. "States complain mightily about their rising prison costs; yet they continue to hemorrhage public funds that could be saved if they provided treatment to inmates with alcohol and other drug problems and stepped up use of drug courts and prosecutorial drug treatment alternative programs," said CASA's Susan Foster.

Why Growing Numbers of Baby Boomers and the Elderly Are Smoking Pot | Drugs | AlterNet

Why Growing Numbers of Baby Boomers and the Elderly Are Smoking Pot | Drugs | AlterNet

Earlier this week, an AP wire article picked up a lot of buzz in the news-cycle, with a title and premise meant to shock the mainstream: "Marijuana Use by Seniors Goes up as Boomers Age."

The AP article was pegged to a December report released by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It revealed that the number of Americans over 50 who had reported consuming cannabis in the year prior to the study had gone up from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent in the period from 2002 to 2008.

This is supported by earlier polling results. In February 2009, a Zogby poll found that voters aged 50 to 64 were almost equally divided in their support for marijuana legalization at 48 percent. In that same poll, young voters aged 18 to 29 were the cohort who most enthusiastically supported legalization, at 55 percent. But overall support among all ages came in at 44 percent.

So who brought the average down? Don't lay the blame on the elderly. In fact, as early as 2004, an AARP poll found that 72 percent of its members (all 50-plus, with the lion's share over 65) supported marijuana for medical purposes, indicating their understanding of the benefits of legal cannabis availability.

Some expert observers in the marijuana reform movement believe that the bulk of marijuana detractors are made up of 30- and 40-somethings -- adults of parenting age. And as more of the 65-and-over crowd is populated by Baby Boomers, it appears that in the not-too-distant future every age demographic including the elderly will approve of marijuana reform more than Americans in their 30s and 40s.

Prisons operator Cornell's 4Q profit falls; 2010 outlook is below Street view, shares fall - latimes.com

Prisons operator Cornell's 4Q profit falls; 2010 outlook is below Street view, shares fall - latimes.com
NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of prison and treatment services operator Cornell Cos. fell Thursday, a day after it posted a fourth-quarter profit decline of 26 percent on higher operating costs and projected first quarter and 2010 profit well below Wall Street's expectations.

For the last three months of 2009, net income available to stockholders was dropped to $5.4 million, or 36 cents per share, from $7.4 million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier. The latest results announced Wednesday beat Wall Street's estimate of 35 cents per share, according to a Thomson Reuters poll of analysts.

Cornell said its higher operating costs included expenses to open a new prison in Colorado.

Revenue rose 2.5 percent during the quarter to $104.1 million from $101.5 million. Revenue in the latest quarter fell short of the $106.9 million analysts had expected.

Cornell said for 2009 profit rose 11 percent to $24.6 million, or $1.64 per share, from $22.2 million, or $1.49 per share. Revenue rose almost 7 percent to $412.4 million from $386.7 million.

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New El Paso County court puts veterans in therapy, not prison - The Denver Post

New El Paso County court puts veterans in therapy, not prison - The Denver Post

COLORADO SPRINGS — Leonard Smith, who became addicted to drugs after being shot in the leg during Operation Desert Storm, says he'd probably be deep in prison somewhere if it weren't for the El Paso County Veterans' Court that officially opened for business Thursday.

Smith, a 45-year-old veteran of Beirut and Iraq, faces two felony charges for drug abuse and impersonation of a physician for calling in phony prescriptions for himself for Oxycontin, Percocet and other painkillers.

Presiding District Judge Ron Crowder, himself a two-star general in the Colorado National Guard and a combat-decorated paratrooper in Vietnam, on Thursday sent Smith to a halfway house for veterans and ordered him to undergo a year-long regimen of therapy and counseling.

If Smith completes the difficult assignment, his record will be clean and he will avoid prison.

It's a new approach for dealing with veterans who have led relatively clean lives until suffering traumatic disorders in combat.

Many of them return to society with intense stress and emotional problems that lead them either into crimes or behaviors that prison will not cure but that might be corrected with the proper rehabilitation program.

"We've seen a spiral of self-medicating and repeat problems among veterans," Crowder said. "We've set up this court not just because it's the right thing to do for our veterans but to reduce their recidivism rate."

El Paso County District Attorney Dan May called the court part of the cost of freedom.

"As our soldiers come back with needs, some of them are met and some are not. Those whose needs aren't met can end up in the criminal system," he said. "This is a voluntary court that the veterans have to commit to for treatment. They have to volunteer to undergo treatment not for the symptoms but for the underlying issues.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bill to help drug abusers needs cash commitment - The Denver Post

Bill to help drug abusers needs cash commitment - The Denver Post

The idea is laudable: Cut prison sentences for drug abusers and get them into treatment so they have the tools to stop using.

We support the philosophy embodied in House Bill 1352, but one element of it gives us pause: the money.

The bill directs Colorado legislators to put some of the money saved by reducing prison sentences into a drug treatment fund. Then, the state pays for drug abusers' addiction treatment rather than their costly prison stay.

We wonder though, given the desperate fiscal straits the state cyclically finds itself in, whether the political will to stick to those principles will remain when tough budget decisions need to be made.

It's pretty easy to imagine how the drug treatment fund would be raided — just as other funds have been drained — when the economy goes south and revenues dry up.

We are not suggesting that ironclad constraints be put on the drug treatment fund. To the contrary. Colorado already suffers from too many fiscal mandates that create all kinds of problems.

But a bill such as this one makes the need for state fiscal reform all the more clear. And it would take an ongoing commitment from elected legislators to ensure it has the intended impact.

The bill has one big political plus. It is sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators, which says to us its aims are less likely to be sacrificed for political purposes.

The bill would significantly decrease penalties for those users possessing small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

For instance, someone caught possessing between one and four grams of cocaine now would get up to six years in prison. According to the bill, that offender would get a prison term of up to 18 months.

Such a change will save the state money, but the ultimate success of the measure is dependent upon those offenders getting treatment. Otherwise, you have a bill that cuts prison sentences and does nothing to address the root cause of the problem.

It then would dump people with untreated drug problems onto communities that already have seen funding dry up for the services that could put a drug addict on course to a productive life.

Treating the addiction in community-based programs also should reduce recidivism, and slow increasing prison costs. That's undoubtedly in the public interest.

Over the years, corrections costs have consumed an increasing portion of the state budget. In 1980, prison costs comprised less than 3 percent of the general fund. Now it's more like 10 percent. It's a long-term trend Colorado can't afford.

Drug users are better off getting help than occupying an expensive prison bed. It's just disquieting to us that there is such strong potential for only half the bargain being kept.

Polis wants feds to pull back on med pot raids - The Denver Post

Polis wants feds to pull back on med pot raids - The Denver Post

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, wants "rogue" federal agents to lay off medical marijuana dispensaries after a raid at the home of Highlands Ranch grower on Feb. 12.

Tuesday, Polis sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to instruct agents to abide by the Justice Department's Oct. 19 directive to allow deference to state laws on legalized medical marijuana use, or to clarify the new position.

Polis posted his letter this afternoon on the progressive political website Square State. In a preamble he referred to "rogue agents ... harassing and raiding our medical marijuana dispensaries."

Reached by phone in Washington this evening, Polis also invoked the White House.

"I think President

Obama has clearly stated his position on respecting states that have voted to allow medical marijuana," he said. "I believe the words and action of the agent in charge is in contradiction to the will of the voters of Colorado."

In the letter, he noted a Denver Post story on Feb. 13 that quoted DEA agent Jeffrey Sweetin as saying, "We're still going to continue to investigate and arrest people ... Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law."

The grower, Chris Bartkowicz, is free on $10,000 bond after his arrest on a drug-distribution charge. Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized 224 marijuana plants.

He did not return a call for comment this evening.

Justice Department and DEA spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.

Experts have called the case precedent-setting.

"It strikes fear in the hearts of many medical marijuana patients in Colorado, and that's unfortunate," Polis said in an interview.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CCJRC 2010 Legislative Update

Here’s an update on the bills that CCJRC is actively working on. 
We are thrilled to announce that HB 1352, a drug sentencing reform bill, was introduced yesterday by bi-partisan sponsors. This was a bill that CCJRC helped to develop as part of a drug policy task force of the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. Two of our priority bills, HB 1023 and HB 1112, have already passed the House very strongly. We’ve also been very busy trying to amend or oppose a number of bills that would have created employment barriers for people with criminal records. So far, we have been able to amend one and help kill another. There are still three bills that we know of that will be introduced that related to sentencing or parole reform that we will be supporting. As soon as they are introduced, we will let you know.  When we are ready to have you start contacting legislators we will let you know.  If you are a member of an organization or community group that would like to sign on in support please let me know.
NEW HB 1352: Concerning Changes to Crimes Involving Controlled Substances
Sponsors: Representative Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) and Senators Pat Steadman (D-Denver) and Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) with cosponsors Representatives Pace (D-Pueblo), Court (D-Denver), Gardner B. (R-Colorado Springs), Gerou (R-Jefferson County), Kagan (D-Denver), King S. (R-Grand Junction), Levy (D-Boulder), Looper (R-El Paso), Massey (R-Poncha Springs), May (R-Douglas)
McCann (D-Denver), Miklosi (D-Denver), Nikkel (R-Loveland), Roberts (R-Durango), Ryden (D-Arapahoe), Stephens (R-Colorado Springs) and Senators M. Carroll (D-Aurora), Hudak (D-Jefferson), Morse (D-Colorado Springs), Newell (D-Littleton), Penry (R-Grand Junction), White (R-Garfield/Eagle).
This drug sentencing reform bill is based on recommendations approved by the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. After reviewing the drug laws, practices, and research, the Commission concluded that drug laws and strategies would be improved by more clearly differentiating between those drug offenders who are primarily users and addicts from the more serious offenders who engage in the crimes of distribution, manufacturing and trafficking of drugs.
For those drug offenders who are primarily users and addicts, the Commission determined that intervention and treatment in the community would be a more effective use of resources than the current escalating system of punishment that often results in a prison sentence. For these offenders, it was recognized that the current structure and approach to prosecuting these drug crimes is frequently ineffective in reducing recidivism and curbing addiction and that a primary omission from current law is a means of assuring prompt and effective treatment of drug offenders.
The Commission also determined that penalties for several drug distribution offenses should be increased and that two provisions of the special drug offender statute should be clarified. 
What the Bill Does:
Drug possession offenses
·         Creates a separate statute for the crime of possession of drugs. 
·         Reduces the crime of drug use from a class 6 felony to a misdemeanor.
·         Redefines the quantity of drugs that is considered “simple possession” from 1 gram or less to 4 grams or less of a schedule I or II drug   and 2 grams or less of methamphetamine. “Simple possession” would be a class 6 felony.
·         Standardizes that possession for personal use of amounts greater than “simple possession” quantities is a class 4 felony.
·         Reduces possession of schedule III-V drugs (i.e. prescription drugs) to a misdemeanor.
·         Reduces the penalty for fraud and deceit in connection with controlled substances from a class 5 to a class 6 felony.
·         Requires cost savings from this bill to be evaluated annually by the division of criminal justice and reported to the legislature and that some of the cost savings will be allocated to expand and enhance substance abuse treatment.
If there is evidence that even small quantities of drugs are possessed with the intent to distribute, prosecutors can still file a criminal charge of drug distribution at any quantity of drugs.
Offenses related to marijuana
·         Redefines the quantity of marijuana possession that determines crime classifications at various levels including possession of under 2 ounces (petty offense), possession of between 2 – 6 ounces (class 2 misdemeanor), possession of between 6-12 ounces (class 1 misdemeanor), and possession of over 12 ounces (class 6 felony).
·         Redefines the quantity of marijuana concentrate possession that determines crime classification at various levels including possession of under 3 ounces (class 1 misdemeanor) and possession of over 3 ounces (class 6 felony).
·         Creates a graduated penalty for marijuana cultivation including cultivation of less than 6 plants (class 1 misdemeanor), cultivation of between 7-29 plants (class 5 felony) and cultivation of 30 or more plants (class 4 felony).
Increasing penalties for drug distribution
·         Creates a new crime of distribution of schedule I or II drugs by an adult to a minor (class 3 felony) and if the adult is more than 2 years older than the minor, imposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
·         Increases the crime level to a class 3 felony and imposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence for distribution (even without remuneration) of marijuana or marijuana concentrate by an adult to a minor less than 15 years old.
·         Increases the crime classification for distribution of ketamine (aka “date rape drug”) to a class 3 felony.
Clarifies two provisions within the Special Offender drug law (enhanced sentencing 8-48 years)
·         Requires the quantity of drugs to be greater than the “simple possession” amount to be considered importation of drugs into the state.
·         Enhances sentences when a deadly weapon is on a defendant's person or his within immediate reach, when a firearm is within the defendant's or confederate's access in a manner that posed a risk to others or when a firearm is in a vehicle the defendant was occupying.
* * * * * * * *
HB 1023: Concerning Clarifying Civil Liability Regarding Negligent Hiring Practices For An Employer That Hires A Person With A Criminal Record
Sponsors:  Representative Mark Waller (R) and Senator Evie Hudak (D); co-sponsors include Representatives Gagliardi (D), Kagan (D), Kefalas (D), Summers (R) and Senators Boyd (D), Sandoval (D), Scheffel (R), and White (R)
CCJRC Position: SUPPORT (priority)
Status: HB 1023 was passed unanimously out of the House and will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 1, 2010.
Description: CCJRC helped develop this bill which was endorsed by the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction task force chaired by Rep. Kefalas. This bill would limit the admissibility of evidence of an employee’s criminal history in a civil action against an employer where the criminal history did not have a direct relationship to the underlying cause of action in the civil case, the criminal record was sealed prior to the acts underlying the cause of action, the criminal history consists of an arrest that did not lead to a criminal conviction, the conviction received a pardon, or the defendant successfully completed a deferred judgment. 
* * * * * * * *
HB 1112: Concerning the “Correctional Education Program Act of 1990”
Sponsors: Representative Miklosi (D) and Senator Newell (D)
CCJRC Position: SUPPORT (priority)
Status: HB 1112 was passed out of the House of Representatives 50-13 (2 excused) and will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 1, 2010.
Description:  This bill is the result of a report CCJRC issued in August 2009 that highlighted deficiencies in vocational programs offered in prison. In particular, CCJRC raised concerns that very few people in need of vocational programming actually received it while in prison, that many of the vocational programs offered do not provide training in skills that are marketable in today’s economy, that completion rates are unacceptably low, and that there is inadequate reporting of vocational program performance and cost by the Department of Corrections. This bill sets performance measures for vocational programs to include market-relevant training and mandates an annual report. 
* * * * * * * *
SB 06:  Concerning Reductions in Barriers to Obtaining Identity-Related Documents
Sponsors: Senator Boyd (D) and Representative Summers (R); co-sponsors include Senators Hudak (D), Sandoval (D), White (R) and Representatives Gagliardi (D), Kefalas (D), and Waller (R)
CCJRC Position: SUPPORT (priority)
Status: The bill was passed by the Senate on second reading on February 24, 2010 and will be have its third and final vote in the upcoming days. It will then go on to the House.
Description: This is another bill that is coming out of the Economic Opportunity & Poverty Reduction Task Force. CCJRC participated in this task force and was able to include some provisions that would impact people who were struggling to get identification documents after release from prison. Among other things, this bill would prohibit the state from charging a fee to obtain a birth certificate if referred by a state agency or county department of social services or human services. The bill would also restore, in limited circumstances, the authority of a district court to allow a person with a criminal record to legally change their name with notification to all necessary parties.
* * * * * * * *
HB 1082: Concerning Disqualification From School Employment For Conviction of Certain Offenses, And, In Connection Therewith, Enacting the “Felon-Free Schools Act of 2010”
Sponsors: Representative McNulty (R) and Senator Penry (R)
Status: HB 1082 was killed in House Judiciary on February 22, 2010.
Description: This is a similar bill to the one Representative McNulty introduced last year that CCJRC opposed and that was killed in the House Judiciary Committee. This bill would prohibit a school district or public school from employing as a nonlicensed employee a person who has a conviction for certain offenses, including any felony drug offense. The bill also amends existing mandatory disqualifications for licensed educators to include any conviction for a felony drug offense.  
* * * * * * * *
HB 1090: Concerning the Punishment for a Person Who Is Convicted Of Driving A Motor Vehicle With Knowledge That His Or Her Driver’s License Is Under Restraint
Sponsors: Representative Waller (R) and Senator Morse (D)
Status: HB 1090 was passed by the House on a vote of 57-6 (2 excused) on February 8, 2010. It will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 1, 2010.
Description: This bill would eliminate the mandatory 5-day jail sentence for a person who is convicted of driving a motor vehicle or off-highway vehicle upon any highway of the state with knowledge that his other license or privilege to drive is under restraint for any reason other than conviction of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while ability impaired (DWAI), or underage drinking and driving.  
* * * * * * * *
HB 1219: Concerning the Authorization For the Sale of Correctional Facilities Owned by the Department of Corrections
Sponsors: Representative Vaad (R) and Senator Penry (R)
Status: The bill was killed in the House Judiciary Committee on February 22, 2010.
Description: This bill authorizes the executive director of the Department of Corrections to sell by competitive bid the correctional facilities owned by the state. Under current law, private prisons may only house medium security or lower security inmates. The bill removes that limitation. This bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
* * * * * * * *
HB 1338: Two-prior felony rule
Sponsors: Representative Beth McCann (D)
Status: HB 1338 will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, February 25, 2010.
Description: This bill is based on a recommendation from the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice that would only apply the two-prior felony rule if one of the prior convictions or the current charge was for a crime of violence. The two-prior felony rule states the people who have two prior felony convictions cannot be sentenced to probation on a third felony conviction without consent of the district attorney. Under this bill, judicial discretion is restored.

Lawmakers Unite Behind New Approach To Drug Offenders

Colorado News Agency
Drug addiction and crime are serving as catalysts to unite some Democratic and Republican, as well as the attorney general and the state Public Defender’s Office, behind what they say is a common goal: reducing sentencing for drug offenders while carving out treatment opportunities from the cost savings. The resulting legislation, House Bill 1352, was introduced in the House today with wide-ranging bipartisan sponsorship.
“It’s a rare day when the Public Defender’s Office and the attorney general appear together to support a bill,” Republican Attorney General John Suthers said at a news conference showcasing the legislation.
The bill creates a distinction between possession of drugs and distribution of drugs by reducing sentences for possession, and it focuses on treatment rather than incarceration for those drug offenders who are primarily addicts.
The primary sponsors of the bill, Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, and Sens. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, based the bill upon recommendations from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, whose members hail from different quarters of the criminal justice system.  The premise of the bill that emerged out of the recommendations is that jailing non-violent drug offenders is not the best use of public-safety dollars.
“It’s time to switch our focus from being tough on crime to being smart on crime,” said Waller.  “This bill is about how we can get the best bang for our public-safety dollars.”
Steadman said the state could save money and lives by being smarter.
“Incarceration is really not the right answer.  The real problem with most prisoners is addiction,” said Steadman. “We need to be smarter with public resources by not simply warehousing drug addicts.”
Christie Donner, Executive Director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, said the measure will have far-reaching benefts for children whose parents are incarcerated.
“This change in approach will interrupt the cycle of addiction and involvement in the criminal justice system,” said Donner.  “Families, especially the children, of those caught up in addiction and the criminal justice system, will benefit the most when the cycle is interrupted.”
The sponsors of the bill and its supporters in the criminal justice community say that using state resources for treatment leading to recovery will cut down on recidivism and save the state money in the long run. They say that could help prevent many crimes from being committed in the first place, such as burglary when a criminal is motivated by drug use.
Mesa Count District Attorney Pete Hautzinger implemented a treatment program for methamphetamine addicts in Mesa County, and he said there was a dramatic decline in felonies after the program was put in place.
“If we can get the drug addict ‘unaddicted’ we can prevent all sorts of other crimes,” said Hautzinger.
Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, who is another of the bill’s sponsors and chairs the House Judiciary Committee, where the bill will be vetted first, said she hopes the proposal will be a real turning point in how crime and criminal sentencing are approached.
“I hope this is a beginning of a whole new attitude,” said Levy.

More rehab, less jail in drug-reform measure - The Denver Post

More rehab, less jail in drug-reform measure - The Denver Post

Drug offenders could spend less time in jail and more time in rehabilitation programs under a sentencing-reform proposal that debuted at the state Capitol on Tuesday with widespread support and the goal of curbing repeat offenses.

The plan would lower the penalties for people found in possession of up to 4 grams of most drugs, shaving years off sentences and saving the state money by vacating prison beds, advocates said. The savings — which doubters argue may never materialize — could provide the first large and reliable funding stream to treat drug offenders' addictions.

The legislation also marks the first time lawmakers stand a chance at large-scale drug-sentencing reform, said a variety of backers who

include prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement, community advocates and the governor.

State Public Defender Doug Wilson said the bill "had a 100 percent chance of passing" and that its chief accomplishment would be drawing a more clear distinction between drug users and drug dealers.

"Colorado is starting to recognize that locking people up in prison for what is essentially a disease is not a way to cut recidivism," Wilson said.

House Bill 1352 would lower sentences for criminals facing charges for using and possessing drugs, but stiffen penalties for those who deal drugs to children.

One in five of Colorado's 22,600 inmates landed in prison for primary drug offenses, though not all would qualify for lighter sentences, according to Attorney General John Suthers, who backs the bill.

Anti-drug groups including the CaƱon City-based Christian Drug Education Center worry about the message that lowered penalties for drugs such as marijuana would send to kids already seeing a boom in medical-marijuana use, founder Beverly Kinard said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lawmakers propose changes to drug sentencing - KRDO.com Colorado Springs and Pueblo News, Weather and Sports

Lawmakers propose changes to drug sentencing - KRDO.com Colorado Springs and Pueblo News, Weather and Sports

DENVER (AP) - Drug users could end up spending less time behind bars to free up more money for treatment under an overhaul of the state's drug laws being pushed by bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The bill introduced Tuesday also has the support of prosecutors, public defenders and Attorney General John Suthers.

State law now treats drug users and dealers much the same and people convicted of possession can face between two to six years in state prison. The bill would create a distinction between dealing and using and raise the threshold for possession to four grams for most drugs.

Prosecutors would be able to charge drug users with a less severe felony carrying a sentence of between 12 and 18 months. They'd still retain the right to charge anyone with distribution however.

Sentencing Reform Bill Would Cut Some Prison Terms and Fund Rehab

DENVER – A Colorado Springs lawmaker says his plan to cut prison sentences for drug users could reduce crime while saving the state money.
The state now houses more than 4,500 prisoners convicted of non-violent drug crimes under a slate of state laws that makes possessing small amounts of drugs or using drugs a felony.
Republican Rep. Mark Waller’s bill would convert most drug possession and use crimes to misdemeanors or lesser felonies under Colorado’s expansive sentencing schemes, cutting sentences by half or more. He would use some of the money saved in prisons to reinvigorate drug treatment programs.
“This is going to save millions of dollars over the years,” he said.
The measure would also increase sentences for drug dealers who sell narcotics to children.
The measure, HB1352, was introduced in the House on Tuesday. It has gained support from influential Democrats and most Republican leaders at the Capitol. It was spawned by a series of meetings last year held by the state’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice after a broader sentencing reform measure was dumped by the state Senate. Lawmakers have requested study on how much the measure would save or cost the state.
Waller said he championed the bill because as a former prosecuting attorney, he can back it with few political consequences.
“This isn’t something the Democrats can do alone because they don’t want to appear soft on crime,” Waller said.
(For a complete list of bills from El Paso County lawmakers, click here.)
Backing Waller is state Attorney General John Suthers, a former district attorney from Colorado Springs, who said the state needs to focus on treating drug addicts.
“I don’t want to fill our prisons with drug offenders,” he said.
Douglas Wilson, who heads the Colorado Public Defender’s office, said the measure is a good idea, but lawmakers must make sure that they keep their promises of enhanced drug treatment. He said drug abuse is a key factor on why people make return trips to prison.
“When you have 60 of every 100 offenders going back to prison within three years, you have a problem,” he said.
The idea of helping drug addicts is attractive to lawmakers, but the cash Waller’s bill could save may be its biggest selling point.
The General Assembly is struggling to close a $1 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts in July, and even once-sacred institutions like public schools could feel the pain under plans being considered.
Housing prisoners remains one of the most expensive things the state does, with each of the state’s more than 24,000 inmates costing taxpayers more than $30,000 per year.
House Judiciary Committee chairwoman Rep. Claire Levy said Waller’s bill could be a beginning to wider sentencing reforms.
“This is a real turning point,” the Boulder Democrat said.

Drug Sentencing Reform HB 1352

Read it here first.  
HB 1352

Christie Donner at the Colorado Springs Event on Prison Spending

Colorado lawmakers propose changes to drug sentencing | SkyHiDailyNews.com

DENVER (AP) — Drug users could end up getting treatment instead of long prison sentences under legislation picking up bipartisan support at the Capitol.

Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, plans to introduce a bill as early as Tuesday that would change the standard for when someone is prosecuted as a drug user as opposed to a drug dealer. Currently, the tipping point is whether a person has more or less than one gram. The bill would change that to four grams for most drugs.

The aim is to use the money saved from reduced sentences to pay for drug treatment.

“I'm convinced that warehousing people who are addicts doesn't do anything to solve the problem,” Waller said.

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, plan to back the proposal in the Senate.

The proposal is based on recommendations of the criminal justice commission appointed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver's former district attorney, and has the backing of Republican Attorney General John Suthers.

Steadman said he wants to draw a better distinction between drug users who are feeding their own habit but haven't crossed over into violent crime to support it and dealers possessing larger quantities of drugs.

He said commission members came up with the new four-gram standard after talking to addicts as well as drug investigators about what amounts of drugs they think they separate users from dealers.

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More seniors using marijuana as boomers age - The Denver Post

More seniors using marijuana as boomers age - The Denver Post

MIAMI — In her 88 years, Florence Siegel has learned how to relax: A glass of red wine. A crisp copy of The New York Times, if she can wrest it from her husband. Some classical music, preferably Bach. And every night like clockwork, she lifts a pipe to her lips and smokes marijuana.

Use of the country's most popular illicit drug is growing among the AARP set as the massive generation of baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and '70s grows older.

The number of people 50 and older reporting marijuana use in the prior year went up from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent from 2002 to 2008, according to surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Ritter administration stands by early release of inmates

Ritter administration stands by early release of inmates–at 235 and counting

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chambers Turns Blind Eye To DNA Evidence

Residents were alarmed last summer by a rash of thefts, trespasses and burglaries in Stonegate, a neighborhood in Douglas County.
Fear turned to panic in July after an intruder reportedly climbed into a second- story window and groped an 8-year-old girl in her bed.
A sicko was on the loose and pressure was on to catch him.
A week later, Sheriff David Weaver announced that his office had made an arrest.
What Weaver didn't say is that the suspect, Tyler Sanchez, a thin 19-year-old redhead, looks nothing like the 40ish, stockier, brown-haired intruder described by the victim.
What the sheriff left out is that Sanchez has serious cognitive delays.
What the news release failed to mention was that investigators' only evidence against him is a short statement that seems to repeat what Sanchez was told about the crime during 17 hours of interrogation by detectives who didn't seem to catch that he's mentally disabled and hearing impaired.
And what prosecutors continue to ignore is the key physical evidence in the case.
Records show underwear the victim says her molester yanked to her knees bears the DNA of two other people: her father and an unknown male. Neither of the genetic profiles match Sanchez. The young man who continues to be charged is excluded from the only piece of physical evidence that would tie him to the assault.
Officials have gone too far.
Detectives' methods seem coercive at best. Sanchez's so-called confession mirrors details about break-ins that investigators told him as they wore him down during 38 hours with little food or sleep.
What prosecutors say is a pattern of escalating behavior is nothing more than a deferred judgment from a 2007 juvenile graffiti case followed by a probation violation when Sanchez was caught with the smell of alcohol on his breath.
"This is not an isolated incident," prosecutor Brian Sugioka said in court. "He said he did these things."
District Attorney Carol Chambers' office should have dropped the case when the state released its DNA report in November. Instead, the 18th Judicial District official keeps pressing charges because she says the results don't prove anything.
"With the low-cut jeans that girls wear, she could have picked up anyone's DNA off any surface her panties touched while they may have been riding up above her pants. I hate those low-cut pants," Chambers said Friday, swear to God.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ritter Green Lights CSP II Opening

How can Ritter justify this when he is cutting the very programs that are evidence based and also the ones that help people when they are released? 

Pueblo Chieftain
DENVER — Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday announced that the state's newest prison, which is still under construction and awaiting funding for staff, will open earlier than expected, while another prison program in Southern Colorado will be shuttered.

  Colorado State Penitentiary II in Canon City will employ 229 workers to guard 336 high-security inmates (one-third of the prison's capacity) on July 1. Inmates will be transferred there from Limon, Buena Vista and the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility beginning Sept. 1.

   Construction of the $162 million prison is expected to be complete in June.

  The Colorado Department of Corrections announced in October that CSPII would not open in July as initially planned due to the state's budget crisis, which prevented it from being staffed.

  Ritter said $10.8 million of the state's 2010-11 budget will be devoted to the opening of CSPII. But as a consequence, the state's only boot-camp prison program for adult inmates, located in Buena Vista, will be closed, saving the state almost $1 million.   Ritter's plan calls for the 32.7 full-time employees at the boot camp to be reassigned within the prison system.

  The Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting declared: "The boot camp program is not supported by research as an evidence-based practice that reduces offender recidivism."

 Katherine Sanguinetti, a DOC spokeswoman, said the boot camp will close June 30. It serves 79 inmates on average, and has a capacity of 100. Inmates housed at the Buena Vista boot camp will be absorbed into other state prisons, she said.

Sirota: Rogues gone wild - The Denver Post

Sirota: Rogues gone wild - The Denver Post

"I am in control here in the White House."

— Secretary of State Alexander Haig, 1981

Ah, the good old days when even a big shot like Gen. Al Haig could get in trouble for such mavericky declarations that defy basic constitutional precedents.

In the 21st century, that's ancient history. We've so idealized cowboy-style rebellion in matters of war and law enforcement that "going Haig" is today honored as "going rogue." Defiance, irreverence, contempt — these are the moment's most venerated postures, no matter how destructive or lawless.

The Bush administration's illegal wiretapping and torture sessions were the most obvious examples of the rogue sensibility. Then came McCain-Palin, a presidential ticket predicated on the rogue brand. And now, even in the Obama era, that brand pervades.

It began re-emerging in September with Gen. Stanley McChrystal's Afghan escalation plan. McChrystal didn't just ask President Obama for more troops. He went rogue, pre-emptively leaking his request to the media, then delivering a public address telling Obama to follow his orders.

Incredibly, few politicians or pundits raised objections to McChrystal's behavior. Worse, Obama meekly agreed to his demands, letting Americans know that when it comes to foreign policy, the rogue general — not the president — is in control in the White House.

Of course, while McChrystal's insubordination was extra-constitutional in spirit, he at least made the effort to obtain approval. The same cannot be said for the rogues inside Obama's Drug Enforcement Agency.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kids Catch A Break In Denver Court; Care of Judge

The Denver Post
Denver County Courtroom 191-J, Juvenile Division, municipal offenses. The honorable Judge Kerry Hada presiding.

By 7:30 a.m., a line is already forming outside the locked doors. At least a dozen people, security guard Scott Hopp figures, and the judge won't even start hearing cases for another hour. A good sign.
Posters went up in schools. Messages were posted on Facebook. The judge did some radio. Denver Public Schools and the court cross-checked lists, made phone calls. Boys and girls, Tuesday, Feb. 16, is a school holiday and your lucky day. Have a 191-J case you ignored? Come on in. Free attorney representation from the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. Head from court to community service — a Parks and Rec van is waiting. Two hours in a Salvation Army warehouse packing food for the needy, and the judgment goes away.
"Can we get in on this?" a woman asks Hopp at the door. "Only if you have an outstanding juvenile case in this court," he answers. "So, nothing for grown people?" she says. "Shoot," a second woman says, turning to the first. "They don't do that for us, girlie. No way."

They keep coming, crowding the entry, raising their arms as Hopp runs the metal-detector wand up and down. The kids must be accompanied by a parent. Usually, it's a mom wearing an expression parked somewhere between peeved and resigned. I thought you had one ticket. What do you mean you have four?

This is where you have your curfew

violators, your possessors of graffiti paraphernalia, your school brawlers, your petty thieves. What'd you shoplift? A lip gloss. A pack of LifeSavers. A PlayStation 2.
191-J is a tip-of-the-iceberg courtroom, a turning-point courtroom. High pressure, high volume. Anywhere from 5,300 to 6,300 cases a year, and the reason we're here: 10,000 warrants on cases with obligations not yet satisfied — no-shows, fines unpaid, community service ditched.
Judge Hada says to a full courtroom: "You're about to get a screaming deal."
Hada was a criminal-defense attorney for 20 years. His first job on the bench was in this courtroom in December 2008. He's aiming for at least two more years in 191-J. He likes the work. His colleagues told him they'd erect a statue of him if he lasts five.
"Daniel, how old are you, please?"
"And who are you here with today?"
"My mom."
"Hello, Mom. Daniel, you have a case here for possession of graffiti material and a 2006 case for shoplifting. The '06 case will be dismissed. You have friends who have warrants? You better contact them. Get them in here today. How do you plead to one count of possession of graffiti materials?"
"Do you know my reputation on graffiti cases?"
"I don't."
"Let me educate you. I don't like graffiti vandalism. I don't want Denver to look like Detroit or L.A. . . . Are you prepared to go out and do two hours at a food bank?"
"Yes, sir."
"You're on the next van out. Go do some good."
For more than five hours, this is how it goes. Why didn't you take care of this? the judge asks. They answer: I couldn't get a ride to court. I moved out of state. I forgot.
Minors with outstanding-judgment warrants can't get driver's licenses. Once 18, the outstanding judgment becomes a bench warrant, which explains the 24-year-old man here with a moldering curfew violation from 10 years ago.
"If the police had stopped you, they would have arrested you," the judge says, dismissing the case.
The day's tally: 136 cases cleared, 76 hours of community service performed by 38 young people. Most still had to pay the $30 outstanding-judgment fee, but because many of the families are indigent, fines were waived or worked off through community service.
"We were hoping for 1 percent of the 10,000, so I'm pleased," Denver County Courts presiding Judge Mary Celeste says. "These are low-level cases that go too long unaddressed. It's a win-win. The kids get free representation. We save on jail-bed days. The court gets some cases removed. The kids provide community service."
When the last bus of the day leaves for the Salvation Army, it carries a 13-year-old girl ticketed for fighting last year, a 12-year-old ticketed for the brass-knuckles belt buckle he wore to school, a 17-year-old girl with a curfew violation and a 13- year-old boy ticketed for petty theft and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
"I just want to get this out of the way," the last boy says. He says he was 12 and mixed up when he got in trouble but that everything is better now.

Foster mom guilty in death of Springs toddler - The Denver Post

Foster mom guilty in death of Springs toddler - The Denver Post

COLORADO SPRINGS — A jury today found former foster mom Jules Lynn Cuneo guilty of child abuse and manslaughter in the death of a 2-year-old girl social services had placed in her care.

But jurors did not find the 36-year-old El Paso County woman guilty of first-degree murder in the Oct. 10, 2007 death of Alize Vick, which would have meant a mandatory life prison sentence.

Instead, Cuneo will face 16 to 48 years when she is sentenced April 12 for the child abuse conviction and four to 12 years for a separate count of reckless manslaughter.

The nine-woman, three-woman jury took about seven hours over two days to reach the verdict. They filed out of the courtroom, walking past the five-slat wooden coffee table where Alize suffered a fatal blow when the back of her head hit the edge of the table.

Alize's parents and grandmother left the courtroom through a back entrance and declined comment after the verdict. El Paso County Human Services took custody of the child and her younger brother and entrusted them to Cuneo after both their parents had been jailed.

Highlands Ranch marijuana case could set federal precedent - The Denver Post

Highlands Ranch marijuana case could set federal precedent - The Denver Post

A Highlands Ranch man who until last week made his living growing marijuana in the basement of his home walked into a courtroom wearing a tan prisoner's jumpsuit Thursday, the first steps in what legal experts say could be a precedent-setting journey through the federal justice system.

After a routine hearing, a magistrate judge found there is probable cause for the drug-distribution case against Chris Bartkowicz to continue toward trial and set his bail at $10,000.

Bartkowicz, who was arrested Feb. 12 by Drug Enforcement Administration agents after they seized more than 200 marijuana plants that Bartkowicz said were for medicinal use, is the most high-profile person involved in medical marijuana in Colorado to face federal


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ritter outlines steps to close $203M deficit next year - The Denver Post

Ritter outlines steps to close $203M deficit next year - The Denver Post

A prison boot camp program in Buena Vista would close and a scholarship fund would be tapped to help close a roughly $200 million shortfall in the state budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

But the largest single chunk of the plan Gov. Bill Ritter announced today to finish balancing the 2010-2011 state budget relies on $204.5 million in one-time federal money to help offset Medicaid costs, funding that Congress still must approve.

"Today's balancing plan maintains the approach we started when the recession began," Ritter said. "These are tough and unenviable — but necessary — decisions from a list of very limited options.

"This is a common-sense, fair, thoughtful and balanced plan to balance the budget. It protects public safety, preserves the safety net and maintains programs that promote job creation and economic recovery."

But Republicans said the Democratic governor is not making enough tough decisions.

"The governor and the Democrats shouldn't break their collective arm patting themselves on the back," said Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction. "More than half of the proposed budget-balancing was put on the federal government's credit card, and a good portion of the rest of the measures are either gimmicks, cash transfers, or accounting misdirection all of which only result in pushing the really tough choices to next year."

Penry also pointed out that part of Ritter's overall budget-balancing plan for 2010-2011 is to eliminate more than $100 million in sales tax exemptions and credits and to suspend a property tax break for senior worth nearly $100 million.

Senate Republicans have called for more than $300 million in cuts they say should be focused on the state's payroll, though they have not offered any specific programs or departments to trim.

Ritter on Thursday specifically rejected the suggestion that state employees could bear more of the burden, saying there were 1,150 fewer state employees than when the recession started.

"Those employees haven't had any raises for two years," Ritter said. "This year, they have eight furlough days, and next year they take a 2.5 percent pay cut.

"For anybody who wants to be a critic of that they need to stand in front of a group of employees and tell them what more we should do without impacting the safety net, without impacting all of those things that are critical services of government."

State economists in December predicted the state's general fund would be short another $203.3 million for the 2010-2011 budget year that begins in July. The December forecast also showed that the State Education Fund, which is used to help cover the costs of basic state aid to schools, would be insolvent without additional revenue.

The State Education Fund was created under Amendment 23, which voters passed in 2000 and which guarantees school funding increase by at least the rate of inflation each year. The fund ensured there was a dedicated pot of money for schools outside the general fund and which did not count against the revenue limit under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights in the state constitution.

Ritter's plan announced today would transfer $135 million in general fund money to the State Education Fund to keep it solvent. With the transfer, the fund would be $65.9 million in the black next year, but without the transfer, it would be $72.6 million in the hole.

Even with the transfer, the fund is projected to be $180 million in the red for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The re-balancing plan assumes that Congress will approve an extension of aid to states for Medicaid costs, without which Colorado would have to find another $204.5 million to handle Medicaid costs. The U.S. House has already passed one version of such an extension, and President Obama has indicated support for the idea.

Ritter's latest plan also closes a 100-bed boot camp for non-violent offenders at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex, saving $900,000 and eliminating 33 positions. Administration officials said the boot camp has not proven itself effective in reducing recidivism.

But because of an overall decrease in prisoner caseloads that resulted in a $10.1 million savings, Ritter said the state could now afford to open a portion of a new maximum security prison in Ca~non City, incurring a $10.8 million cost for the 316-bed unit that houses violent, trouble-making offenders in prison.

The plan announced Thursday also would sweep $29.8 million from a scholarship trust fund generated by the profits on student loans made by the state. The scholarship, which was targeted at students who graduate high school with a cumulative 2.5 grade point average, gave students up to $1,500 per year for up to five years of college.

Pregnant In Prison: Giving Birth In Shackles

Boulder Weekly
Listen to Pamela White's interview on KGNU about this story by clicking here.
Tammy White lies back on the examination table and lifts her green smock and gold T-shirt to reveal a bulging belly. She is expecting her fifth child. The mother of three boys and one girl ranging in age from 9 to 19, she’ll give birth to this baby — a girl — sometime around May 23.
Pam Spry, a certified nurse midwife, measures White’s uterus by stretching a measuring tape from her pubic bone to her fundus — the top of her uterus — and finds that the baby’s growth is right where it should be for a fetus at 21 weeks and three days of gestation.
It’s good news, but not a surprise. White already had an ultrasound, as well as an alpha-fetoprotein test, and both tests showed that her baby is developing normally despite the fact that White, 36, is considered to be at higher risk for fetal defects because of her age.
Spry chats with White about how she’s feeling. The two listen to the baby’s heartbeat using a handheld Doppler ultrasound device, the steady rhythm making White smile.
Then her smile fades. She slowly sits up, pulls her shirt back into place, fiddles with the identification band on her wrist, clearly not anxious to get back to her unit.
“I just hope I’m out before I deliver,” she

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Unable to Get Jobs Freed Inmates Returning To Jail


A growing number of states are pushing inmates out of prison in early release programs designed to reduce overcrowding and save money. But faced with a tight job market and few employers willing to hire someone with a criminal record, many former inmates are likely to end up right back behind bars.

Last month, California began releasing prisoners deemed at low risk for re-offending. Colorado, Oregon, Kentucky and Connecticut, all wracked with budgetary issues, have instituted similar moves as a way to cut costs, while others, including Michigan and Mississippi, are considering similar initiatives.
“If people get drawn back into the real world, get a job and make a living, studies show they’ll be less likely to go back to prison,” said Howard Husock, vice president for policy research for The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “With early release now on the menu for so many states, it makes the matter more pressing.

Mason Tvert Calls For The Oust Of Ernie Martinez

In many ways the friction between Mason Tvert, head of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and Lieutenant Ernie Martinez, head of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association (CDIA), personifies the ongoing clash between law enforcement and marijuana activists.
While the two both sit on the mayor-appointed Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel, they're far from chums. Last month, for example, Tvert demanded a boycott of Starbucks after he noticed the coffee chain appeared to be a sponsor on CDIA's website. (Starbucks apparently relented, and right now the CDIA's website is down).
Now Tvert's launched another broadside across Martinez's bow. SAFER is calling on Mayor Hickenlooper to pull Martinez from the city's marijuana panel, based on a 2006 CDIA letter penned by Martinez that compares marijuana legalization advocates to cancer.
The letter, which introduces a CDIA position paper on marijuana legalization, states:

Those who want to legalize drugs weaken our collective struggle against this scourge of our society. Like a cancer, proponents for legalization eat away at society's resolve and moral fiber. The marijuana-drug legalization movement has nothing to offer users and addicts but more drugs.
"It's just very clear that this individual has no interest in working towards what the people want," says Tvert, noting that a recent internal poll found that half of likely voters statewide and two-thirds of those in Denver support making marijuana legal. "And if Hickenlooper is going to represent the people of Colorado, he has to take a stand on this. [Martinez] should not be in a position where he's influencing policy on this issue."

Colorado: Man Freed By DNA Settles Suit

The New York Times
A Colorado man who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder for nearly a decade will be paid $4.1 million by Larimer County to settle a lawsuit he filed. The man, Tim Masters, was sent to prison in 1999 for the 1987 slaying of a woman who was found dead in a field near his Fort Collins home when he was 15. He was freed after DNA evidence pointed to another suspect. Mr. Masters’s suit charged the authorities with framing him in their zeal to close the case, which remains unsolved. Larimer County’s Board of Commissioners approved the settlement on Tuesday. “I would gladly pay $10 million, or whatever it took, if I could get those years of my life back,” Mr. Masters said.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

County agrees to pay $4.1 million to Masters - The Denver Post

County agrees to pay $4.1 million to Masters - The Denver Post

FORT COLLINS -- Larimer County has agreed to pay $4.1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who was wrongly imprisoned for nearly 10 years for a slaying that remains unsolved.

Timothy Masters was convicted in 1999 in the murder of Peggy Hettrick in Fort Collins, but a judge overturned the conviction in 2008 after DNA evidence pointed toward another suspect. Masters, a former aircraft mechanic, was the first person freed from prison in Colorado because of DNA evidence.

Masters filed a lawsuit that claims detectives and prosecutors maliciously targeted him and destroyed or withheld evidence that could have cleared him.

Larimer County's board of commissioners unanimously approved the settlement Tuesday morning.

Feds to charge med pot grower from Highlands Ranch - The Denver Post

Feds to charge med pot grower from Highlands Ranch - The Denver Post

Federal prosecutors say they are preparing documents to charge a man whose home was raided Friday for growing medical marijuana.

Chris Bartkowicz will face one charge of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

If convicted, the charges carry prison terms of five to 40 years.

Federal investigators say Bartkowicz had 224 plants in various stages of development at his Highlands Ranch home near C-470 and University Boulevard.

Bartkowicz violated state medical marijuana laws and the federal ban on marijuana, U.S. Attorney David Gaouette told 9Wants to Know Tuesday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says Bartkowicz had more plants than state law allowed.

A second chance for felons - The Denver Post

A second chance for felons - The Denver Post

One of the final pieces of legislation that President George W. Bush signed before leaving office was the Second Chance Act, appropriate for a man who originally ran on a "compassionate conservatism" platform. The law seeks to improve the lives and prospects of people returning to the larger community from prison.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2008, more than 7.3 million people were on probation or parole or in prison — 3.2 percent of all adult residents and the highest rate in the world. The aggregate federal and state incarceration expenditures alone (not including prosecution, probation, etc.) exceed $50 billion.

So, in many respects, Americans have a vested interest in helping those who err and pay the price — especially non-violent criminals — return to society as productive members and not remain prisoners (literally and figuratively) of the state.

It is an issue that should transcend political ideology, too. Liberals, after all, profess tolerance for those who make mistakes. Conservatives embrace personal responsibility, but should also want those who accept it to become contributors to society again rather than just consumers of its resources. And as a religious nation, many proclaim to believe in redemption.

I have a vested interest in this issue. I have a pathological gambling addiction that eventually landed me in federal prisons for 25 months in the prime of my life and left my family without a husband and father.

I have an unusual record of recovery without relapse during the past eight years. Additionally, I have recovered tens of millions of dollars for taxpayers after successfully settling a health care whistleblower lawsuit. But while I am proud of my abstinence from gambling and my success in uncovering health care fraud my other professional accomplishments during that time are paltry — largely, I believe, due to my felon status.

A Blue Ribbon Look At Criminal Justice

The nation’s criminal justice system is in need of an overhaul. This is particularly true of its incarceration policies. Too many people are being put behind bars who do not need to be there, at great cost to the states, and not enough attention is being paid to helping released prisoners re-enter society.
The Senate Judiciary Committee recently voted to create a blue-ribbon commission to study the justice system and offer reforms. The bill’s main sponsor was Jim Webb, a Democrat of Virginia who is one of the Senate’s more thoughtful voices on crime and punishment.
Among the issues the commission would study is why the United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. Prisons are filled with a large number of nonviolent offenders, including minor drug offenders. In many cases, it would be more humane, economical and effective to provide drug treatment and mental health alternatives.

Denver cop and robber reconciles his troubled past - The Denver Post

Denver cop and robber reconciles his troubled past - The Denver Post

Months after Art Winstanley hammered out a cathartic, self-published account of his descent into crime, scandal, alcoholism and prison, the venture still finds him hundreds of dollars in the hole.

But the writing process, spread over three years and nearly 300 pages, had one definite payoff: It helped him reconcile a troubled past and his place in local history.

In 1960, Winstanley became the first domino to fall in what stood then as the biggest and most public case of police corruption in the nation.

More than 50 area law enforcement figures — nearly all of them Denver police officers — were swept up in a burglary ring in which cops cracked safes and made off with an estimated $250,000 from more than

200 heists involving businesses on their beats. More than 40 did time. The ring operated for at least a decade, insulated by police prerogative and a code of silence.

Medical-pot advocacy group pushes for compromise at Capitol - The Denver Post

Medical-pot advocacy group pushes for compromise at Capitol - The Denver Post

The medical-marijuana dispensary owners who gathered last week for a regular meeting of the group Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation were anxious about rules lawmakers are considering for the booming industry.

But Matt Brown, a former business consultant who is now the group's executive director, stood before the crowd and gave it reason to believe the concerns would be heard.

"They're really looking for anyone willing to compromise," Brown said of lawmakers.

He would know.

With its message of professionalism and compromise, Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation — an organization that didn't even exist until a few months ago — has emerged as the marijuana community's most powerful voice at the Capitol.

That's largely due to a massive advocacy campaign the group has assembled, hiring four lobbyists and a public-relations company, working with a prominent political polling firm and generally taking on the polish of every serious industry group under the dome.

The group, known as CMMR, has dozens of members — including some of Denver's most prominent dispensaries, including Peace in Medicine and the Apothecary of Colorado — and a five-figure monthly operating budget.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Suspect in Sunday murder commits suicide at Arapahoe jail - The Denver Post

Suspect in Sunday murder commits suicide at Arapahoe jail - The Denver Post

A man being held for investigation of murder committed suicide this morning at the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office Detention Facility.

Roberto Silva, 54, of Denver jumped from a second-floor walkway to a concrete floor below, according to Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson.

Robinson said that Silva was being held without bond for investigation of first-degree murder that occurred about 8:51 a.m. Sunday in the 4400 block of Leetsdale Drive in Glendale.

Glendale Police Chief Victor Ross said Silva had picked up a Turkish immigrant by the name of Narima Dzhulfayeva, 51, and taken her to a room he had rented at the Homestead Studio Suites Hotel, 4444 Leetsdale Dr.

Ross said the couple had an on-going relationship and some kind of domestic dispute broke out. He said Dzhulfayeva was fleeing Silva through the hotel parking lot when Silva allegedly shot her multiple times.

Ross said that Silva showed no indication he was suicidal at the time he was arrested.

Robinson said Silva was booked into the facility very early today and went through mental health screening and "there was no indication at all he was suicidal."

The sheriff said Silva had shared a cell with another inmate but the cell doors were opened about 6 a.m. to allow Silva into a "day room" where he was able to mingle with other inmates who are part of the general population.

Demand in charter schools forces lotteries, long waiting lists - The Denver Post

Demand in charter schools forces lotteries, long waiting lists - The Denver Post

Alma Meraz's eyes welled when her daughter's name was pulled from a cookie jar during an enrollment lottery for the high-performing West Denver Prep charter school.

"I'm so happy," said Meraz, who cleans houses for a living. "I need her to go to this school for better opportunities. For a better life."

West Denver Prep — which some parents have come to view as a first step toward college and possibly a lifeline out of poverty — is rated the second-best school in Denver.

The school's college-preparatory curriculum and swift interventions for struggling students have been touted for helping at- risk kids beat the academic odds. West Denver Prep now posts some of the best academic growth in the state.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Medical marijuana lawyer files complaint on raid - The Denver Post

Medical marijuana lawyer files complaint on raid - The Denver Post
DENVER—Colorado's top federal drug agent is defending his decision to raid a suburban house where marijuana was being grown but said he has no plans to start cracking down on the hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have popped up around the state.

Jeffrey Sweetin, Denver's Drug Enforcement Administration special agent, said agents removed over 120 marijuana plants from the Highlands Ranch home of Chris Bartkowicz on Friday.

Sweetin said agents learned about the operation after seeing a story on KUSA-TV's Web site about Bartkowicz and becoming suspicious, partly because he said he would like to earn around $400,000 a year from selling marijuana.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Owner who bragged of large medical-pot operation jailed in DEA raid - The Denver Post

Owner who bragged of large medical-pot operation jailed in DEA raid - The Denver Post

Federal drug-enforcement agents Friday raided the home of a Highlands Ranch man who a day earlier bragged in a 9News report about the large and profitable medical-marijuana-growing operation in his basement.

Along with the raid, Jeffrey Sweetin, the Drug Enforcement Administration's special agent in charge of the Denver office, sent a message to anyone involved in Colorado's increasingly profitable medical-marijuana industry.

"It's still a violation of federal law," Sweetin said. "It's not medicine. We're still going to continue to investigate and arrest people."

Agents at the scene Friday evening said the marijuana grower, Chris Bartkowicz, had been taken into custody.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14393797#ixzz0fQPRL2NW

Larimer County settlement would give Tim Masters about $4 million - The Denver Post

Larimer County settlement would give Tim Masters about $4 million - The Denver Post

Larimer County commissioners have reached a settlement to compensate Tim Masters in the range of $4 million for his wrongful imprisonment in the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick, according to sources close to the negotiations.

The deal, set for a formal vote by the board on Tuesday, would pay damages resulting from the conviction.

At the time, prosecutors Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, both now Larimer County judges, used a psychological theory in the absence of any physical evidence to persuade a jury to convict Masters.

Masters, 38, spent a decade behind bars before he was released in 2008 after advanced DNA testing found no trace of Masters' genetic material as well as DNA that may point to another suspect.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14393641#ixzz0fQOpF9nn

Larimer County settlement would give Tim Masters about $4 million - The Denver Post

Larimer County settlement would give Tim Masters about $4 million - The Denver Post

Larimer County commissioners have reached a settlement to compensate Tim Masters in the range of $4 million for his wrongful imprisonment in the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick, according to sources close to the negotiations.

The deal, set for a formal vote by the board on Tuesday, would pay damages resulting from the conviction.

At the time, prosecutors Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, both now Larimer County judges, used a psychological theory in the absence of any physical evidence to persuade a jury to convict Masters.

Masters, 38, spent a decade behind bars before he was released in 2008 after advanced DNA testing found no trace of Masters' genetic material as well as DNA that may point to another suspect.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14393641#ixzz0fQOpF9nn

Smart On Crime: Independent Thinking

Last night's show featured Sen Pat Steadman and Rep. Mark Waller discussing the benefits of sentence reform in Colorado. Watch the show here
You tube II

Friday, February 12, 2010

9NEWS.com | Denver | Colorado's Online News Leader | How to handle medical marijuana in the workplace

9NEWS.com | Denver | Colorado's Online News Leader | How to handle medical marijuana in the workplace

DENVER - Labor lawyers are seeing a large increase in the number of calls from employers and workers trying to deal with medical marijuana in the workplace.

We talked to Labor Law Expert Kim Ryan to get advice on how both parties should handle the issue.

Voters legalized medical marijuana nearly 10 years ago but the issue it is just now taking center stage in the legal arena.

"It's all in the legal spotlight because there have been so many new patient licenses issued and there has been a lot of controversy also about the new dispensaries popping up everywhere," Ryan said.

One of the top questions she has been asked is whether or not an employee can be fired for using medical marijuana. Ryan says as long as it is legal, they cannot.

"If workers are using medical marijuana and they have a license for it and they are using it legally, pursuant to the license that they have from the state, than they should not be terminated for using their medical marijuana - particularly if they're using it in their home and they are off duty and off the premises of their work place," she said.

Of course, Ryan says, if a worker is using the substance illegally, all bets are off.

"If workers are abusing it and are not using it pursuant to any kind of a valid license then they may have a problem," she said.

Ryan says there is still some question as to whether or not there are grounds for a lawsuit when it comes to an employee using medical marijuana on their breaks while on the job or on the premises of the business.

The buck doesn't stop with DA Carol Chambers - The Denver Post

The buck doesn't stop with DA Carol Chambers - The Denver Post

Proposed settlement in Masters suit reached - The Denver Post

Proposed settlement in Masters suit reached - The Denver Post
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—Government officials say they have reached a settlement with a man who sued them when his murder conviction was overturned after spending nearly 10 years in prison.

Larimer County Manager Frank Lancaster told the Fort Collins Coloradoan Thursday that commissioners will vote Tuesday on the proposed settlement with Timothy Masters. KCNC-TV also reported the proposed settlement.

Officials say they can't release details of the settlement until it's final.

Masters was convicted in 1999 in the murder of Peggy Hettrick in Fort Collins, but a judge overturned the conviction in 2008 after DNA evidence pointed toward another suspect.

The case remains unsolved.

Masters' lawsuit claims detectives and prosecutors maliciously targeted him and destroyed or withheld evidence that could have cleared him.

Covert medical-marijuana growing operations surface in suburban homes - The Denver Post

Covert medical-marijuana growing operations surface in suburban homes - The Denver Post

HIGHLANDS RANCH — From the outside, Chris Bartkowicz's house looks like most of the others in his Highlands Ranch neighborhood.

The interior is a different story.

Bartkowicz has built a large medical-marijuana growing operation in the basement of his $637,000 suburban home, and he is far from alone.

9News discovered that dozens of suburban homes around Denver have been converted to indoor medical-marijuana farms.

"Whether it's a small grow or a big grow, I don't think the average person realizes how close to their front door it is," Bartkowicz said.

"I'm definitely hidden in suburbia," he said.

A jungle of electrical wires and water hoses snakes from room to room in the home's basement, all supporting Bartkowicz's nearly $500,000 medical-marijuana operation.

This year, he is hoping for a record profit.

"I'd like to see somewhere in the vicinity of $400,000 " he said, though he admits he could make as little as $100,000 depending on what happens with proposed laws regarding medical marijuana.

For now, state law allows people to grow six plants per medical- marijuana patient they serve. But changes contemplated in the legislature could restrict the size of operations like Bartkowicz's, or require a deeper relationship with patients than just being a pot farmer.