Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

Judiciary Committee

Local Jobs Lost as Brush Prison Closes

Most of the employees at High Plains Correctional Facility will lose their jobs after the state removes the last remaining inmates from the Brush women’s prison today.
“We have already notified our staffs that most of them unfortunately have to be laid off for now,” said Charles Seigel, spokesman for Houston, Texas-based Cornell Companies, Inc., which owns the Brush prison.
The local facility normally employs 83 people, Seigel said, but management has left about half of the positions vacant in anticipation of the closure.
“In the last few months we haven’t filled positions, knowing this was going to happen,” he said.
Three of the roughly 40 current employees will remain on staff to maintain the facility and prepare for any potential new business, but the rest of the workers will lose their jobs, Seigel said.
Cornell has offered to transfer some of the employees to company facilities in other areas, he said. At least 10 of the employees have accepted jobs at a Cornell prison in Hudson, but workers are reluctant to take jobs any farther away.
“We’re still working on trying to find positions as much as possible for people,” he said.
The closure of the facility will also result in a loss of revenue for the city of Brush, said city Finance Officer Joanne Gosselink.
The city will lose roughly $22,000 in annual income it received for processing the prison’s payments from the state, she said. In addition, the city will no longer receive revenue from sales tax on purchases made by the inmates, she said.
“We’re hoping that something comes back in there relatively soon,” she said.
The inmates housed at High Plains Correctional Facility were placed at the private prison through a contract with the Colorado Department of Corrections.
State officials are moving inmates from the Brush facility to various state prisons due to a decline in the number of female prisoners throughout Colorado, Seigel said.
The Brush prison can house up to 272 female prisoners, but Seigel said the facility’s inmate population has been declining.
Cornell will maintain ownership of the Brush facility, and company officials are currently exploring potential ways to put it back to use, he said.
The facility might be converted to a male prison or house inmates from other states if the Colorado Department of Corrections will not use it for female inmates in the future, Seigel said.
“It’s always a long-term process,” he said. “It doesn’t happen quickly usually.”
If Cornell officials are able to secure a new operating contract, they might offer to again employ the Brush prison workers who lost their jobs, Seigel said.
The Brush facility opened in 2003 and became High Plains Correctional Facility when Cornell took ownership in 2007, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Located on 22.5 acres of land in northeast Brush, the medium-security prison has more than 5,000 square feet of vocational space, more than 300,000 square feet of outdoor recreational space, a computer lab, 15 classrooms, an indoor gymnasium, a football field, a quarter-mile asphalt track, and a regulation-sized soccer field, baseball field and volleyball court.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kagan pledges impartial approach as her nomination hearing for Supreme Court opens - The Denver Post

Kagan pledges impartial approach as her nomination hearing for Supreme Court opens - The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — Elena Kagan vowed Monday that if she is confirmed to the Supreme Court, her approach to judging will be "a modest one" that is "properly deferential" to Congress and the president — remarks intended to quell Republican criticism that she is a partisan who would use the court as an instrument to advance a Democratic agenda.

Addressing senators on the first day of her confirmation hearings, Kagan, the solicitor general and former dean of Harvard Law School, was cautious and measured in her opening remarks. She pledged "even-handedness and impartiality" and promised "a fair shake" for Americans who come before the high court.

Her use of the term "modest" offered the first clue to Kagan's judicial

philosophy in her own words and harks back to a term used by Chief Justice John Roberts, who pledged "judicial modesty" during his confirmation hearings in 2005. The question of just what Kagan means by it — and just what, precisely, her judicial philosophy is — will be a core theme of the hearings when senators begin questioning her today.

"We have less evidence about what sort of judge you will be than on any nominee in recent memory. Your judicial philosophy is almost invisible to us," Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., told Kagan. He urged her to engage in "substantive and candid dialogue."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Denver police officer suspended during excessive-force investigation - The Denver Post

Denver police officer suspended during excessive-force investigation - The Denver Post

Denver police Officer Michael Morelock has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation into allegations of use of excessive force.

Morelock, 30, began working for the Denver Police Department in 2006 and racked up 21 claims of excessive force against him over his first two years in the department, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

Last year he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol.

Denver police spokesman John White said an internal investigation began Feb. 11. Morelock has been suspended with pay since then.

Manager of Safety Al LaCabe said a decision on Morelock's employment status has not been made pending the outcome of the investigation.

Lawsuit cites lie, beating

On Wednesday, Denver resident Tyler Mustard filed a federal lawsuit against the city and county of Denver, Morelock and Officer Kimberly Thompson.

The claim says Morelock beat him without provocation and lied about being hit by Mustard during the arrest.

Mustard claims Thompson helped Morelock beat him near East 12th Avenue and Pearl Street on June 17, 2008, because they suspected he spray-painted a van.

Mustard's lawsuit says he had head injuries and a collapsed lung after he was beaten with a flashlight or a baton.

Denver prosecutors charged Mustard with assaulting a police officer.

During a preliminary hearing in that case, Morelock testified that Mustard struck him in the head with a blunt object and said he almost lost consciousness.

Mustard's suit says Morelock didn't tell medical personnel that his head was injured and claims he made it up to justify the beating.

A Denver judge dismissed the criminal case against Mustard.

Mustard's lawsuit claims that just hours before Morelock arrested him, the officer was questioned by internal affairs about an excessive force allegation made by Alonzo Barrett.

Barrett told police that Morelock beat him with a billy club and that witnesses saw Morelock break his own patrol car window during the incident. Morelock contended Barrett broke his window, the suit claims.

The internal affairs bureau referred the Barrett case to the Denver district attorney. Prosecutors declined to prosecute Morelock, the suit says.

Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the district attorney, said prosecutors could not locate the file late Friday but said it's likely charges could not be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Denver set to pay $175,000 for wrongful arrest - The Denver Post

Denver set to pay $175,000 for wrongful arrest - The Denver Post

When Amy Shroff's ex-boyfriend violated a restraining order by blocking her exit from a police station parking lot with his pickup, the Denver woman thought officers would come to her defense.

Instead, Officer Frank Spellman mistakenly arrested Shroff for violating the restraining order. She ended up spending a night in jail despite pleas that her 4-month-old needed breast milk due to a medical condition that prevented the baby from drinking formula.

Now Denver police are offering up a mea culpa, admitting the officer had no cause to arrest Shroff. And the city of Denver is poised to pay $175,000 to settle a federal wrongful arrest lawsuit.

"This is a reasonable settlement under the circumstances," said City Attorney David Fine in a prepared statement.

The Police Department says the restraining order was not reciprocal and did not prevent Shroff from having any contact with her ex-boyfriend, as the police officer interpreted.

Instead, the restraining order strictly prohibited the former boyfriend from having contact with her, and Shroff should have been considered the protected one, a representative of the Police Department later said in sworn testimony.

"This case is an absolute outrage, and the citizens of Denver should storm City Hall in a torch-light parade demanding accountability," said Shroff's lawyer, David Lane.

Spellman could not be reached for comment. In sworn testimony, he said the former boyfriend had contended that Shroff was stalking him, an accusation she adamantly denied.

Prosecutors dismissed the criminal charge of violating a restraining order within three days of Shroff's arrest. But the dismissal did not occur until after Shroff, a management consultant, spent a night in jail and her baby became ill from drinking formula, her lawsuit states.

Shroff declined to comment for this story, but her lawsuit gave the following account:

On Feb. 23, 2006, she was going to drop off her daughter with the child's paternal grandparents so she could spend time with her father.

On the way to the police station exchange point, Shroff spotted the truck of the father, Greg Kruse, parked outside the Campus Lounge at 10:55 a.m. She knew he had a drinking problem and took a photograph to show the court as proof.

Shroff proceeded to the District 3 police station and was confronted by Kruse there. She contends that under the restraining order, only Kruse's parents were allowed to show up there. As she was trying to leave the police station parking lot, the former boyfriend used his truck to block her exit.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Budget woes loom again for 2011-12 | INDenverTimes.com

Budget woes loom again for 2011-12 | INDenverTimes.com

Legislators Monday got some modest good news about the 2010-11 budget but some sobering forecasts about 2011-12.

The good news is that the 2010-11 budget, which goes into effect July 1, probably won’t need further major cuts beyond a $75 million adjustment by Gov. Bill Ritter in order to keep the state’s reserve at legal levels.

Legislative economist Natalie Mullis

Natalie Mullis, legislative chief economist, briefed lawmakers June 21 on state quarterly revenue forecasts.

The bad news is that the 2011 legislature may need to make about $1 billion in cuts to the 2011-12 budget, depending on future levels of federal support for Medicaid; on inflation; on growth in the numbers of prison inmates, sick people, school kids and college students, and on how lawmakers decide to replace one-time sources of money that were used to balance the 2010-11 budget, such as federal stimulus funds.

Because state support for K-12 schools and higher education spending consumes nearly 40 percent of total state spending and more than half of the tax-supported general fund, any cuts are expected to fall heavily on education.

Some legislative leaders previously estimated that K-12 and higher ed could see cuts of $300 million each in 2011-12.

The two revenue forecasts released Monday offer no detailed hints of what education cuts might look like – it’s much too early in the game for that.

The $1 billion figure didn’t come as a major surprise. Informal estimates in that ballpark were circulating during the closing days of the 2010 session, which adjourned May 12.

But, Monday’s release of the formal quarterly revenue forecasts by legislative staff and the executive branch Office of State Planning and Budgeting mark a key point in the 2011-12 budget process and begin to focus the issue for legislators.

Executive branch departments already are refining their 2011-12 requests, another set of forecasts will be issued in late September and Gov. Bill Ritter has to submit his 2011-12 budget to the Joint Budget Committee by Nov. 1. The panel will hold budget hearings in November and December, and another set of forecasts in late December will update the situation just before the 2011 session convenes.

The national recession began affecting state government in 2009-10 budget year, which is about to end. Lawmakers last spring had to make significant mid-year adjustments in spending, including a $130 million cut in K-12 support. Creation of a balanced 2010-11 budget required significant cuts and revenue shifts.

Total program spending for K-12 schools was about $5.4 billion in 2008-09 and was supposed to rise to nearly $5.7 billion this year, before the midyear adjustments trimmed it back to just under $5.6 billion.

Using a narrow interpretation of the Amendment 23 school-funding formula, the legislature approved about $5.4 billion in total program funding for 2010-11. Full A23 funding would have been about $5.8 billion. The 2010 school finance law recommends the same $5.4 billion figure for 2011-12, although that can be changed by the 2011 legislature.

(Total program funding is the amount of state aid and local revenues used for basic classroom and administrative operations. It doesn’t include additional state aid for such things as transportation and special programs, some federal programs and district revenues from bond issues.)

School districts have responded with layoffs, wage freezes and other cuts of a magnitude Colorado schools haven’t seen in years. (See the One-Stop Budget Cuts Info Center for details.)

Spending at state colleges and universities was maintained at just under $2 billion for 2010-11 – but only with the help of significant federal stimulus support and 9 percent tuition increases for resident undergraduate students. Higher ed is seen as particularly vulnerable to cuts in 2011-12. Senate Bill 10-003, the major flexibility legislation passed last spring, requires colleges to prepare reports on how they would handle a 50 percent cut in state support. Those are due next autumn.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One More Down...

From DOC's website.
Effective immediately, Visitation at High Plains Correctional Facility has been canceled indefinitely due to the pending facility closure and movement of offenders to state facilities.  Thank you for your patience during this transition period.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Paralyzed In a Police Shooting. Darrell Havens is Paying a Terrible Price

A huge thank you to Alan for doing such a great job on this story.
It was a simple plan. Get the kid to bring a stolen car to an isolated parking lot, then tase his ass and take him down.

Although his care in the prison system costs the state more than $200,000 a year, a medical parole for Darrell Havens drew protests from Arvada police.

Havens celebrating a birthday shortly before his 2006 motorcycle accident.

No chase. No shooting. No fuss.
Arvada detective Bill Johnson, the lead investigator on the case, went over the plan in a room crowded with members of the Denver Metro Auto Theft Team, a group of police officers from multiple agencies working on hot-car rings and related crimes. For this DMATT sting operation on a snowy day in January 2007, Johnson had summoned seven other Arvada cops, four Colorado State Patrol officers, a DEA agent, two Lone Tree detectives, investigators from Mountain View, Denver and Colorado State Parks -- eighteen in all, armed with shotguns, rifles and sidearms.
The bust would go down behind the SuperTarget at 50th and Kipling, Johnson explained. The suspect was described in intel documents as part of "a very active auto theft group operation in the metro area," but he was basically a target of opportunity. Just a few hours earlier, Arvada police had arrested a 28-year-old white male in a stolen Honda and found some methamphetamine. Eager to cut a deal, the man had offered to give up both his dealer and the person who'd sold him the car, a guy named Daryl.
Detective Johnson worked the phones and soon identified the target as Darrell Havens, age nineteen. Havens was 5' 5", barely a hundred pounds, but he was one busy carhop. He had arrests scattered across the metro area; at least half a dozen outstanding warrants for crimes ranging from burglary to fraud to auto theft; and a list of known associates tied to meth rings, gang activity, burglaries of equipment and copper wire at the former Gates Rubber factory, and identity theft -- a shitstorm of drug-related property crimes blowing from Lone Tree to Arvada, begging for DMATT action.
By the time of the briefing, Johnson had learned a few important details about Havens. He knew that the kid's right arm was paralyzed, the result of a traffic accident on a stolen motorcycle months earlier. He knew that, while Havens had no history of violent crimes, he sometimes carried a gun and was an expert driver, capable of dangerous stunts, especially when fleeing police or people who'd discovered him in the act of stealing their ride. And the informant had warned the team that Havens wouldn't sit still for a bust. He would do anything to escape, including ramming cars.
The DMATT officers weren't worried. They had several heavy trucks and SUVs at their disposal, including a GMC Yukon, a Jeep Liberty and a monster line of Chevrolets: a Blazer, a Silverado, a Trailblazer and a K2500 pickup. Havens would be driving his latest acquisition, a 2006 Audi A6 worth around $35,000, which the informant had arranged to buy for a couple hundred bucks and an eightball of meth. All the cops had to do was wait for Havens to show up in the area behind the Target, a winding and deserted canyon flanked by a high retaining wall, then move in and arrest him.
"Our intention was to get some big trucks and block his butt in so he can't get out," Johnson told a Lakewood detective a few hours later.
But not much went according to plan that day. In the wake of two heavy snowstorms, the parking lot was a treacherous mix of ice and slush. Originally scheduled for early afternoon, the sting had to be postponed for hours. Havens didn't arrive until after sunset.

Douglas County voters to decide in November on new medical-marijuana sites - The Denver Post

Douglas County voters to decide in November on new medical-marijuana sites - The Denver Post

Douglas County voters in November will get their say on whether new medical-marijuana businesses should be allowed.

The county commissioners on Tuesday passed 3-0 a resolution to allow residents to vote on the issue and also extended a moratorium on new marijuana businesses until July 2011.

The ban proposed by the commissioners' resolution would not apply to existing medical-marijuana businesses — including grow operations, dispensaries and shops that sell products that contain marijuana — in unincorporated Douglas County.

Aurora, too, is about ready to let voters make the call on dispensaries.

By state law, Douglas County's commissioners could have banned new medical-marijuana businesses but decided to let voters have the final say.

County Attorney Lance Ingalls said the county is still unclear whether all county voters or only voters in unincorporated areas would be eligible to vote. The county is awaiting an interpretation from the state regarding that issue, he said.

There are a handful of medical- marijuana dispensaries in Doug las County.

Colorado voters in 2000 passed Amendment 20, which created the current medical-marijuana system. It allows patients suffering from specific conditions to purchase and consume medicinal pot.

But the law did not address dispensaries and other businesses that have sprung up around legal access to the drug.

Jessica Corry, a lawyer and medical-marijuana advocate, said governments are risking being sued if they ban dispensaries. She believes that has kept other communities from either banning the dispensaries or putting the issue to voters.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aurora Sentinel Archives Opinion Editorials Editorial: Need a budget fix? Solve Colorado's costly prison system

Aurora Sentinel Archives Opinion Editorials Editorial: Need a budget fix? Solve Colorado's costly prison system
There could be one good thing that comes from the state’s ever-increasing budget crisis: The state may be forced to deal with its costly and ineffective prison system.

Gov. Bill Ritter and state lawmakers got more bad news Monday in regards to the condition of Colorado’s finances: We’re broke and getting poorer. Budget predictions reveal that Ritter must cut another $75 million from this fiscal year’s budget. That’s after lawmakers already lopped off hundreds of millions of dollars in spending.

The reductions have resulted in reduced services statewide, cuts to public school budgets and higher tuition at state colleges, where cuts have become a way of doing business. It will mean more furlough days for state employees, fewer road repairs and deep cuts to a long list of already overtaxed social services.

It’s unfair to those several million Colorado residents who abide by the law to continue to spend so much money on those who don’t.

News at the end of last year from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that Colorado spends more per capita on prison costs than any other state. Way more. And way more just got even bigger with Ritter having to carve $75 million out of other state services.

The annual survey of state services showed that Colorado spent just under $1 billion for prison and correction programs in 2008, making up a whopping 5.1 percent of state expenditures. The report stated that the average prison expenditure for states was 3.3 percent of revenue.

Colorado warehouses about 24,000 prisoners a year at a cost of almost $30,000 each. And the bottom line gets worse every year. Colorado’s prison population has risen almost 5 percent a year for the past 10 years, double the growth rate of the national average.

Too many of those locked up are nothing more than foolish drug addicts and alcoholics, many of whom become real criminals while being stored in state prisons on the taxpayer’s tab.

The state could realize big, meaningful savings by doing more to treat drug addicts and alcoholics for their problems rather than warehouse them at great expense, and too often turning them into lifelong societal problems.

It doesn’t mean that Colorado should let loose dangerous murderers and other thugs to victimize state residents. But in too many prison cells, beds are taken up by people who only victimize themselves.

Colorado should look closely at sentencing reform and do more to save taxpayer money and the lives of addicts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Judges Give Thumbs Down To Crack, Pot and Porn Mandatory Minimums

From Sentencing Law and Policy:
American Lawyer
Mandatory minimum sentences are too high, restitution for crime victims should be available in all cases, and judge-specific data on sentencing should not be reported, according to a survey of more than 600 federal trial judges.
From January through March of this year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission for the first time questioned federal judges on their views about sentencing under the advisory guidelines system in effect since 2005. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the mandatory sentencing guideline system in its 2005 ruling U.S. v. Booker.
The survey, released last week, drew responses from 639 of the 942 judges to whom it was sent -- a 67.8 percent response rate. The 639 judges who responded had sentenced 116,183 offenders, or 79 percent of those sentenced during fiscal 2008 and 2009.
Sixty-two percent of the judges said the mandatory minimums that they were required to impose were too high, particularly for crack cocaine (76 percent), receipt of child pornography (71 percent) and marijuana (54 percent). However, strong majorities believed the sentencing guideline ranges for most federal offenses were appropriate, with the exception again of those for crack cocaine, marijuana, and the possession and receipt of child pornography, which they said were too high.
When asked to choose among sentencing systems without guidelines, with mandatory guidelines, with advisory guidelines or with mandatory guidelines that conform with the Sixth Amendment, 75 percent of the responding judges chose the current system of advisory guidelines.
The survey asked questions grouped into five broad areas: statutory and structural sentencing, sentencing hearings, guideline application, departures and general assessments. Judges could offer written comments in addition to their survey answers.
Among the survey's other findings, 54 percent agreed somewhat or strongly that pre-sentence reports should be required to include information that a crime victim wants included. But 68 percent said victims should not have the opportunity to comment on the pre-sentence report before sentencing.
Sixty-six percent agreed somewhat or strongly that courts should have the authority to order restitution for victims in all cases.
And 53 percent disagreed somewhat or strongly that judge-specific sentencing data should be reported "as a means to promote transparency in sentencing."
The latter result reflects the judges' "scar tissue," said sentencing scholar Douglas Berman of Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law.
"It's understandable but I think unfortunate," he added. "I could easily imagine writing a question like: 'The commission should have more authority to report particular districts or judges who seem significant outliers relative to the national trend.' But it has already been cast as: 'Do we make a blacklist of bad judges or keep this as opaque as possible?' There's a lot of in-betweens."
Berman said he was also not surprised by the judges' responses on mandatory minimums or their happiness with the current advisory guideline system. However, he added, he would have liked the survey questions to have probed deeper into how the system was working.
"Given what a big change Booker represented and given the sense we're in an era of hope and change, the commission is still asking all the old kind of questions in all the old kind of ways," he said. "But maybe that's all you can do with a survey."
The commission has held a series of regional public hearings on sentencing practices, noted Berman, and those hearings may produce more "dynamic" insights into sentencing.

Bar coasters will indicate if drink tampered with - The Denver Post

Bar coasters will indicate if drink tampered with - The Denver Post

The Aspen Police Department and Response have teamed to distribute 2,500 drink coasters in response to concern about date-rape drugs being slipped into libations.

By putting a few drops of a drink onto a coaster, the users can see whether the cocktail has been spiked — the coaster changes color.

Aspen police will be passing the coasters out to local drinking establishments over the weekend.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

50 is the new stoned: Drug users admitted to treatment a graying population - The Denver Post

50 is the new stoned: Drug users admitted to treatment a graying population - The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — America's drug abusers are going gray.

The share of people admitted to treatment for drug abuse who are 50 or older nearly doubled between 1992 and 2008, a new government study says.

Alcohol is still the leading cause of admissions over 50, but sharp increases were noted for heroin, cocaine and marijuana, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports today.

"These findings show the changing scope of substance- abuse problems in America," agency administrator Pamela Hyde said in a statement.

While some people ages 50 and older were taking up drugs for the first time, the study found three-quarters of older Americans admitted for treatment had started using drugs before age 25.

The report detailed the share of people ages 50 and older treated for abusing various drugs:

• Heroin: more than doubled, from 7.2 percent to 16 percent.

• Cocaine: nearly quadrupled, from 2.9 percent to 11.4 percent.

• Prescription drugs: rose from 0.7 percent to 3.5 percent.

• Marijuana: increased from 0.6 percent to 2.9 percent.

Colorado Mom Seeks New Trial

CBS News
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) ― A Colorado woman serving 16 years in prison for the death of her infant son has new attorneys who plan to seek a new trial for her.

Attorneys for Molly Midyette say they'll file paperwork by August arguing for a new trial. A judge allowed the former Louisville woman to change her counsel so her former attorneys could testify that she was threatened and intimidated before and during her trial by her husband and his attorney.

Midyette was convicted in 2007 of child abuse resulting in the death of her son, 11-week-old Jason, who had broken bones and a skull fracture. Her husband, Alex Midyette, is also serving 16 years for their son's death.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two Men Two Paths

New York Times
When Wes Moore won a Rhodes scholarship in 2000, The Baltimore Sun published an article about his triumph. He was the first student at Johns Hopkins to win a Rhodes in 13 years, and the first black student there ever to win the award.
At about the same time, The Sun published articles about another young African-American man, also named Wes Moore. This one was facing charges of first-degree murder for the killing of an off-duty police officer named Bruce Prothero, a father of five.
Both Wes Moores had troubled youths in blighted neighborhoods, difficulties in school, clashes with authority and unpleasant encounters with police handcuffs. But one ended up graduating Phi Beta Kappa and serving as a White House fellow, and today is a banker with many volunteer activities. The other is serving a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole.
“One of us is free and has experienced things that he never even knew to dream about as a kid,” the successful Wes Moore writes in a new book, “The Other Wes Moore.“The other will spend every day until his death behind bars. ... The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.”
For me, the book is a reminder of two basic truths about poverty and race in America.
The first is that American antipoverty efforts have been disgracefully inadequate. It should be a scandal that California spends $216,000 on each child in the juvenile justice system, and only $8,000 on each child in the Oakland public schools.
Far too many Americans are caught in a whirlpool of poverty, broken families, failed schools and self-destructive behavior that is replicated generation after generation. The imprisoned Wes Moore became a grandfather last year at 33.
The writer Wes Moore offers clues from his own experience about how boys get sucked into that whirlpool.
His father, a radio and television journalist, died of a virus after a hospital emergency room — seeing only a disoriented, disheveled black man — misdiagnosed him and sent him home to get “more sleep,” Mr. Moore writes. The writer Wes grew up in a poor, drug-ravaged neighborhood of the Bronx.
His mother worked multiple jobs and scrounged to send him to Riverdale Country School, an elite prep school, but Wes felt out of place among wealthy, white students — and his black friends at home teased him for going to “that white school.” Wes skipped classes, let his grades slip, hung out with a friend who was dealing drugs, and collided with the police.
Despairing, Wes’s mother dispatched him to a military school. There he finally began to soar.
In the case of the other Wes, there were some moments when he almost escaped. His mother was earning a college degree at Johns Hopkins — which probably would have provided the family a ladder to the middle class — when Reagan-era budget cuts terminated her financial aid and forced her to drop out.
Then the criminal Wes almost found his footing with the Job Corps. There he earned his G.E.D., testing near the top of his class, and began reading at a college level. He learned carpentry skills — but afterward never found a good job and tumbled back into his old life.
The second basic truth underscored by this story is that kids can escape the whirlpool — but they need help.
The author Wes Moore escaped partly because of family support and partly because he was helped by mentors at his military school. Not surprisingly, Mr. Moore believes passionately in mentoring, partly because so many boys in poor families have no father at home and lack male role models. He mentors boys and girls in Baltimore and New York and is directing some of the profits from his book to two organizations that provide mentoring.

Monday, June 14, 2010

911 Good Samaritan Law To Prevent OD"s Goes Into Effect in Washington

Stop The Drug War
A law that provides some legal immunity for people who report a drug overdose in Washington state is now in effect. That makes Washington the second state to enact a "911 Good Samaritan Law." New Mexico was the first in 2007.
Under the measure, if someone overdoses and someone else seeks assistance, that person cannot be prosecuted for drug possession, nor can the person overdosing. Good Samaritans could, however, be charged with manufacturing or selling drugs.
The measure is aimed at reducing drug overdoses by removing the fear of arrest as an impediment to seeking medical help. According to the state Department of Health, there were 820 fatal drug overdoses in the state in 2006, more than double the 403 in 1999.
The bill also allows people to use the opioid agonist naloxone, which counteracts the effects of opiate overdoses, if it is used to help prevent an overdose.
Washington is the first state this year to pass a 911 Good Samaritan bill, but it may not be the last. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island are considering similar measures.
Supporters of the new law held a press conference Monday to tout its benefits. “In 2008, there were 794 drug overdose deaths in Washington state,” said Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, a drug overdose researcher from the University of Washington. “These overdoses do not need to be fatal. Death often takes several hours to occur,” and people are often present. He said more information on the law is available at www.stopoverdose.org.
“We’re here today to encourage people who don’t work in hospitals to help saves lives,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “More people are dying now from prescription drug overdoses (than traffic accidents) and yet fewer people are aware of it,” McKenna said. He said drug overdoses are a hidden problem because they aren’t as visible as, for example, traffic accidents..
Sen. Rosa Franklin, who worked to pass the bill, said she worked as a nurse before becoming a legislator and wanted to address a problem she saw and read about. She said this bill will save lives. “We can no longer … put our heads in the sand and say that drug overdose is not happening.”
Alison Holcomb of the ACLU of Washington said drug overdoses wouldn’t happen in an ideal world, and this law wouldn’t be necessary. She said people do drugs to cope, find acceptance or escape. “We can continue to condemn such people as morally deviant and treat them as criminals,” but, she said, that doesn’t work. She said this law is an important step and a compromise agreement.
“My son, a bright, creative, compassionate and funny kid, began using prescription opiates … during his senior year of high school,” John Gahagan said. Just weeks after graduation, his son died of a drug overdose. “The 911 Good Samaritan Law will save lives,” he said, adding that his son was alone at the time of his overdose, but he knows parents of other teens who could have been saved. “This law will only be effective if there is awareness of it … Call 911 to save a life,” he said.

Do Looser Laws Make Pot More Popular

Marijuana use is not on the rise.
At least, that's the gist of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health done every year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2008 — the most recent data available — 6.1 percent of Americans 12 and older admitted using marijuana in the previous month.
In absolute terms, that number is probably low; after all, this survey asks people to admit to using illegal drugs. But the real significance of the number is that it's steady — it's been hovering right around 6 percent since 2002. Drug researchers say the real percentage may be higher, but it's probably holding steady, too.

This graph shows the percent of those age 12 or older who said they used marijuana in the past month.

And yet, during those same years, marijuana has been edging toward legitimacy. States with medical marijuana laws have made it possible for thousands of people to buy pot over the counter, in actual stores. Some police departments have started de-emphasizing marijuana arrests.
Critics of liberalization believe this inevitably leads to greater consumption.
"It's axiomatic," says John Lovell, a lobbyist for California police chiefs. He's also helping to organize the campaign against an initiative in California to make marijuana legal for adults.
"Anytime you take a product — any product — from a less convenient sales forum to a more convenient sales forum, use increases," Lovell says.
But cities where marijuana have been liberalized have not seen a spike in consumption, so far. In 2003, voters in Seattle made marijuana the "lowest law enforcement priority" for city police. Researchers tracked the results. Caleb Banta-Green studies drug use trends at the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. He says self-reported consumption and pot-related emergency room visits remained flat, before, during and after the initiative went into effect.
Banta-Green says he gets similar reports from drug researchers in other cities.
"I'm not hearing stories on a regular basis that, 'There was liberalization in marijuana policies, and soon afterwards, usage rates increased dramatically,' " he says.
At the same time, says Banta-Green, places like Seattle already had high rates of pot consumption before enforcement was relaxed, so it's not surprising that there was no big increase.
Teenage Perspective
And opponents of liberalization say even if overall consumption stays flat, looser enforcement may increase pot smoking among minors.
They point to places such as California's Bay Area, where medical marijuana is commonplace and enforcement is lax. Teenagers rarely have trouble finding pot. Some get it from dispensaries; far more just buy it from a friend or classmate.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Prison Racism and the Myth of a Colorblind Justice System | Civil Liberties | AlterNet

Prison Racism and the Myth of a Colorblind Justice System | Civil Liberties | AlterNet
By Tolu Olorunda and Michelle Alexander, CounterPunch
Posted on June 9, 2010, Printed on June 10, 2010

Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow. —Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010), p. 4.

If news reports from the last three decades should check clean, Black and Brown males only number the Criminal Justice System today because they choose, of own free will, to turn the ways of crime and disorder; perhaps also because they seem to come from stock inherently deformed and defiled—unable to adapt to a civilized world where barbarism is unacceptable.

And if the renowned rants of Black butlers on the Right should be treasured, Black males only find their human rights violated constantly, only find their dignities criminalized, only fall in the crosshairs of this very real War on Drugs, because they’ve discarded phonetics, filled their iPods with N.W.A. records, altogether accepted academic success as a White Thing, and preferred to sag their khaki pants three inches below waist level.

Of course delusion is powerful, and legal scholar Michelle Alexander, in her scathing text The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, levels these reports and rants with rare clarity, depth, and candor.“Mass incarceration, like Jim Crow, helps to define the meaning and significance of race in America,” she writes. “Indeed, the stigma of criminality functions in much the same way that the stigma of race once did. It justifies a legal, social, and economic boundary between ‘us’ and ‘them’.”

The “them” have long found out their society lost faith in Redemption about the same time it sent into office a B-movie Hollywood actor/corporate salesman, who took on the causes of the rich and ruthless; pronouncing drug users Public Enemy No. 1, shelling out cold cash to any districts desperate enough to hook their tongues around the fishing rod. Since, sentencing rates have “quintupled,” for-profit prison stocks have boomed, rehabilitation resources have dwindled, and a “collapse of resistance” has seized activists and concerned citizens once outraged enough to topple the system of incarceration entirely.

It’s become increasingly easy to neglect those caged in and denied meaningful citizenship for the rest of their lives because for most, even before buying or selling those couple pounds of weed, even before lifting that crack pipe to their lips and inhaling with blissful pain, even before signing those flat checks amounting a few hundred dollars, society didn’t consider them clean enough to warrant concern. So now that the stain has grown greatly, and spread through far and wide, it’s more acceptable—even reasonable—to turn backs, eyes, and ears to millions crying out for help.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

krextv.com - Marijuana Dispensary Calls It Quits over New Regulations

krextv.com - Marijuana Dispensary Calls It Quits over New Regulations
Only one day after sweeping new medical marijuana regulations were signed into law, one Mesa County dispensary owner is having to call it quits.

Medical marijuana dispensary owner Travis Chambers isn’t proud of his past. The reformed ex-con who ran with a motorcycle gang in the 1970s and has multiple drug convictions is now being told he will not be allowed to operate his two shops in Mesa County.

“They say we only get punished one time when we go to prison,” Chambers said. “Now, it’s double jeopardy. We’re getting our businesses taken away.”

Under tough new state regulations signed into law Monday, no owner, employee, or shareholder of a dispensary is allowed to have a felony drug conviction. Dispensaries are required to file applications to the state by August 1, 2010, detailing operations, including employee/shareholder information as well as the origin of their marijuana. Chambers, anticipating Governor Bill Ritter’s signature to the controversial House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109, sold both his medical marijuana dispensaries. Chambers was the owner of God’s Gift in Clifton and Blue Mesa Medicinal in Grand Junction.

“If I had waited around until the background checks came, I would be out the door and I couldn’t pass my license to someone else,” Chambers said.

Under the state’s new guidelines, Chambers is not someone of “good moral character,” and is effectively barred from having any role in the medical marijuana industry.

In protest, Chambers is making a run for governor. Chambers’ aim is not to win the election, but to show how a drug conviction doesn’t disqualify someone from holding elected office. “I can’t sell you a joint, but I can be your governor,” Chambers said outside his dispensary God’s Gift, where campaign posters are displayed in the windows. “It’s just ridiculous.”

Chambers will relinquish his ownership on June 17. Chambers hopes after all the legal battles take their course in Colorado over the constitutionality of the new laws, he will once again be allowed back into the medical marijuana industry.

“I imagine one of these days we will own another dispensary, and I hope we do for the patients’ sake,” Chambers said.

Up until that time, Chambers says he will act as a consultant to the two new business owners and will be a private caregiver for five patients.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Fort Collins settles with Tim Masters for $5.9 million - The Denver Post

Fort Collins settles with Tim Masters for $5.9 million - The Denver Post
The city of Fort Collins has reached a settlement deal with Tim Masters.

Masters sued over time he spent in prison for a murder conviction that was later overturned.

Masters will drop his suit in exchange for $5.9 million, the city said in a news release.

Masters was convicted in 1998 without any physical evidence tying him to Peggy Hettrick's murder. His conviction was overturned by DNA evidence in 2008.

There has been no new arrest in the case.

Masters sued Larimer County and Fort Collins city officials in federal court, alleging his wrongful imprisonment was a violation of his civil rights.

In February, Larimer County settled with Masters for $4.1 million.

The Fort Collins portion of the suit contended that police intentionally concealed evidence and made up evidence against him.

Fort Collins said in a release the city will pay $1.575 million "from the city's reserve fund established for this purpose," and the city's insurance carriers will pay the rest.

"The decision to settle this case does not mean the City agrees with Mr. Masters' allegations," city manager Darin Atteberry said in a statement. "To the contrary, we remain firmly convinced that officers who investigated the Peggy Hettrick homicide did so in good faith, using the best technologies and expert consultants that were available to them at the time. The decision to settle the case is strictly a business decision that reflects the financial realities and risks of proceeding to trial."

Masters' attorney, David Lane, also put out a statement:

"While Tim Masters has achieved some measure of justice as a result of this settlement, he would gladly trade all the money for the return of 10 years of his life behind prison bars and ten years before that of living under a cloud of suspicion. "

Prison population getting older

The US' massive prison population is getting older.

Long sentences that were handed out decades ago are catching up with the American justice system.

Prisons across the country are dedicating entire units just to house the elderly.

During difficult economic times, the issue has hit a crisis point. Estimates are that locking up an older inmate costs three times as much as a younger one.

How are prisons dealing with this issue? Who are the prisoners that are turning gray behind bars?

Josh Rushing gains exclusive and unprecedented access to jails and prisons across the country to tell the story.


Bad Boys Good

THIS IS the season for commencement exercises, and we applaud all who have earned high school and college diplomas. One such exercise is worthy of special comment.

Last week 33 young offenders serving time at the Department of Corrections Youthful Offender System lockup were recognized for having completed their high school education. Of those, 21 received diplomas and 12 received general equivalency diplomas.

YOS was created 17 years ago as a “second last chance” for young lawbreakers as an alternative to serving time in an adult prison. The YOS lockup is located on the campus of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.

We commend these young men for sticking with their studies and we truly wish that all will take advantage of this “second last chance” to become productive citizens.

Monday, June 07, 2010

New medical-marijuana regs now law in Colorado - The Denver Post

New medical-marijuana regs now law in Colorado - The Denver Post
Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law today two bills regulating and legitimizing the state's medical-marijuana industry.

"The companion measures I signed today strike a delicate balance between protecting public safety and respecting the will of the voters," Ritter said in a statement.

The bills — which impose complicated licensing requirements on medical-marijuana dispensaries and crack down on unscrupulous doctors indiscriminately handing out marijuana recommendations — were some of the most high-profile measures passed in the legislature this year.

But Ritter signed the bills, House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109, this morning without the usual public ceremony such attention-grabbing legislation usually

* View an interactive map of medical marijuana laws throughout the country as well as polls and video.

commands. Instead, the bills were signed privately along with a slate of 28 various other bills before Ritter headed out on a bill-signing tour in southwestern Colorado.

Supporters of the bills say they will professionalize the medical-marijuana industry and make it harder for people to abuse the system. But several prominent medical-marijuana advocates say the rules go too far, will drive marijuana dispensaries out of business and will push patients back into the underground marketplace. A team of lawyers has already begun recruiting potential plaintiffs for lawsuits challenging the laws' constitutionality.

A number of law enforcement officials, meanwhile, say the rules don't go far enough. They argue that, by permitting marijuana dispensaries, the legislature overstepped its constitutional authority.

Of the pair, Senate Bill 109, which requires that patients have a "bona fide" relationship with the doctors who recommend marijuana for them, had the less bumpy ride through the legislature.

The new law will require doctors to have completed a full assessment of the patient's medical history, to talk with the patient about the medical condition that has caused them to seek marijuana and to be available for follow-up care. The law also prevents doctors from getting paid by dispensaries to write recommendations.

Supporters hope the measures will eliminate fast food-style medical-marijuana-recommendation operations that critics say have swelled the state's registry with illegitimate patients.

"Senate Bill 109 will help prevent fraud and abuse," Ritter said in his statement today.

House Bill 1284, which creates strict new regulations for medical-marijuana businesses, generated considerably more controversy. The law requires that dispensaries be licensed at both the state and local levels, and it allows local governments — or voters — to ban dispensaries and large-scale marijuana-growing operations in their communities.

Some cities have already moved to do just that. Vail's Town Council voted last week to ban dispensaries, while Greenwood Village officials are currently drafting an ordinance to do the same. Aurora City Council members are preparing a ballot question that would ask voters whether they want dispensaries in the city, and a number of other cities have extended their dispensary moratoriums while they figure out what to do.

The new law will place other requirements on dispensaries, as well. People convicted recently of a felony — or at all of a drug-related felony — will be barred from operating a dispensary. People who have lived in Colorado for fewer than two years cannot open a new dispensary. And all dispensaries must grow at least 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, meaning people currently operating as wholesale growers either have to partner with a dispensary or shut down.

Significantly from a legal standpoint, the law also makes a distinction between dispensaries and "primary caregivers" — small-scale marijuana providers whose work is protected in the state's constitution. In order to qualify for that special protection now, caregivers can serve no more than five patients and grow no more than six plants per patient, in most cases. They must also register with the state.

Dispensaries, the new law says, are not caregivers and don't qualify for their elevated, constitutional protection.

A number of dispensary owners fear that — between the new requirements and the ability of local governments to ban dispensaries — the law may put them out of business.

But Ritter said in his statement today that the law will allow communities to put "sensible and much-needed controls" on dispensaries.

Is Solitary Confinement Effective?

Colorado Matters
Is Solitary Confinement Effective?
by Andrea Dukakis

Is Solitary Confinement Effective?:

"This fall, the state plans to open a new prison where inmates will be alone in cells around the clock. (Photo: National Geographic)"
In September, the state plans to open a portion of new prison where inmates will spend 23 hours a day alone in their cells. For the remaining hour, prisoners will move to a slightly larger cell to exercise by themselves. Colorado State Penitentiary 2--or CSP 2-- is in Canon City and is designed for inmates who, corrections officials say, are too dangerous or disruptive to be with other prisoners. But research suggests that long stretches in solitary confinement can lead to mental health problems and make inmates ill-equipped to deal with life on the outside. The average stay for someone in isolation in Colorado is about two and a half years. We hear first from Craig Haney, who's done a lot of research in this area. He's a professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Then Ryan Warner speaks with Ari Zavaras, head of the Colorado Department of Corrections. He says the state needs a new prison--and more isolation cells--for inmates who are too dangerous to live with the general prison population. (Photo: National Geographic)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Denver's surveillance system draws praise, concerns - The Denver Post

Denver's surveillance system draws praise, concerns - The Denver Post
High-tech video cameras installed throughout the city captured images from about 300 crimes in the past 18 months and helped Denver police make about 80 arrests, authorities say.

And the already robust video system has become so popular along some of Denver's retail corridors that it's getting a financial boost from the private sector. The Colfax Business Improvement District will give police $250,000 to buy and install 12 more cameras along East Colfax Avenue.

Target Corp. is donating $100,000 for police surveillance cameras at George Washington, Kennedy and North high schools. Police already have installed cameras at East, Lincoln, Manual and Montbello high schools, and they monitor video feeds from a separate Denver Public Schools system.

Recent federal grants will allow police to put up cameras at areas viewed as potential terrorism targets, including Cherry Creek mall.

In all, police plan to add 33 video cameras this summer to the arsenal of 80. Some of the existing cameras may be moved to other locations after a review of the system.

Mel Thompson, Denver's deputy safety manager, called the police's High Activity Location Observation program — or HALO — a "force multiplier."

"We would like to put a cop at every corner. But in reality, who can put a cop at every corner?" said Lt. Ernie Martinez, who runs the program. "What we can do is use technology to leverage our assets and help out our officers."

The system worries civil-liberties groups.

"Monitoring public spaces through real-time video surveillance erodes privacy, inhibits freedom and chills expression in public spaces, with little or no benefit in reduced criminal activity," said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

Silverstein said that although Fourth Amendment case law has established that individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public places,

Click Title to

Greene: As State's Chief Justice Mularkey Wielded Justice With Quiet Precision

The Denver Post
Judges tend to give lousy interviews, preferring that their rulings speak for them.

"This job requires the ability to withdraw yourself," says Mary Mullarkey, withdrawn in her chambers Friday.

The chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court is a public official without a public persona. She's admired for her intellect and professionalism, yet remains enigmatic even to those close to her.

"I've never met somebody who's so smart and so committed to public service, yet at the same time so humble," says Andrea Wang, one of the loyal community of lawyers who have clerked for the judge they call "Chief."

You may have read that Mullarkey, 66, is retiring later this year after 23 years on the bench — a dozen as the state's first female chief justice.

What you may not know is that, heading to Harvard Law School on scholarship in 1965, she was living out the dream of her mom, who had been admitted to study law years earlier but whose own mother forbade her to enroll. The admissions director accepted Mullarkey partly because of the summer jobs she'd had as a cocktail waitress. Anyone able to handle a bunch of drunks, he told her, could handle Harvard Law.

She went to work for the Interior Department, then moved to Denver with her husband, Tom Korson, an attorney turned minister turned political satirist. "I've done a lot of interesting things in my life," he says. "One of them is being married to Mary Mullarkey."

Their son
graduated from med school this year and has an 8-month-old daughter. The Chief keeps photos at her desk, yet refrains — noticeably — from rhapsodizing about her grandbaby. She's proud of not letting her personal life or health problems (she has MS and uses a walker) "get in the way."

People's Fair offers something for everyone - The Denver Post

People's Fair offers something for everyone - The Denver Post
Mary Jane Butler wound up between two distinctly different concessions at the People's Fair on Saturday, but the owner of Open Range Art Dolls in Walsenburg managed to stay upbeat about it.

"Business was good last year and this is my second time at the fair, but I'm not sure how well I'll do this time after being placed between tie-dye and beef jerky," Butler joked.

Not to worry. Her concession drew festivalgoers who ogled a variety of dolls wearing colorful machine-quilted dresses with clay polymer faces and limbs made from tree branches that Butler found around her home.

Butler's customers were among the thousands of people who strolled through the streets of Denver's Civic Center during the 39th People's Fair,
People's Fair

* View images from People's Fair in Denver June 6.

which continues today from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Last year, the event drew up to 125,000 people each day — the numbers are tracked by the amount of tickets sold, according to Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods Inc., or CHUN, a nonprofit that has been putting the event since 1971.

This year's fair features 130 local bands on six stages, 350 vendors and 80 nonprofit organizations. "First and foremost, we are an arts and crafts festival, but nonprofits are very important to us to promote community service," said Andrea Furness, assistant director of CHUN.

The aromas of barbecue meats, roasted corn, green chile and funnel cakes wafted into the air as people plunked down $5 for eight tickets to get food or drinks.

Artists sold glass, silver and gold jewelry, paintings, photography, and furniture while vendors sold everything from bowls made from dead standing Aspen trees to soy candles.

Organizations touted the environment, politicians, arts and entertainment, criminal-justice reform and more while pet-rescue organizations featured adoptable dogs and cats.

Bob and Jeunkl Major of Ecosystems of Hawaii were spending their second year at the fair. The couple from Oahu, Hawaii, sold Opae'ula, small red shrimp that live in glass containers that have been filled with coral, seashells or lava but don't require feeding or cleaning.

"The nature of crafts here is higher end and crowds more eclectic," Bob Major said. "It's a great mix of everybody."

Arts and crafts were aplenty, but it was bubbles and tasty dips that caught the interest of Diane Marks of Arvada and her daughter, Emilie, 9.

"I like the bubbles," Emilie said of a bubble tower in the kid's area while her mother tasted dips.

"There's something for everybody of all ages," Diane Marks said. "I like the diversity, and I love all the stands."

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Music, food set the mood at People's Fair - The Denver Post

Music, food set the mood at People's Fair - The Denver Post
Think dancing. Think music. Think deep-fried Twinkies.

Think the Capitol Hill People's Fair is open, signaling that the summer festival season has officially begun.

The People's Fair, with a full roster of street-vendor food and homegrown music, runs through Sunday evening at Civic Center in downtown Denver.

The fair began in 1971 after residents of Capitol Hill weren't happy with city planners' decision to turn some avenues into one-way streets.

The residents, the city and Denver police decided to mend relations by having a neighborhood get-together. The neighborhood confab turned into a full-blown festival that eventually grew so large it had to migrate from Morey Middle School to the big downtown park.

The People's Fair will feature food, and tons of it, from turkey legs, cinnamon roasted nuts, fried Twinkies and buffalo burgers to roasted corn and other traditional summer fare.

Kids can bounce in a bubble tower or test their mettle in the Denver Firefighters Museum obstacle course.

Local bands will perform on six stages scattered throughout the park, featuring jazz, rock, blues, country, Latin, Mexican, rhythm and blues, soul and folk music. A variety of dancers will leap, stomp, shimmy or shake their bellies and bon bons in Aztec, Bolivian, Irish and ballet dance forms.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Victory! Ending the Practice Of Shackling Inmates!

(As reported I would be the one crying in judiciary)

Ryan Owens caught her first case at age 27 after becoming addicted to methamphetamine. She was sent into treatment, but relapsed almost immediately after graduating. When she got into trouble again, she went on the run, afraid of being sent to jail.

A mother with two children, she was also pregnant.

She wasn’t on the run long, however, when law enforcement caught up with her. She spent her first five days in Denver City Jail heavily pregnant and sleeping on the floor on a dirty blanket. Then she was transferred to Denver County Jail, where she stayed for a time, before being transferred to El Paso County on her due date — and then back again.

During transport, she was kept in full restraints, including ankle shackles and a belly belt, an excruciating experience. Though she begged the guards to remove some of the shackles, they refused, instead joking about whether or not the trip would make her go into labor.

“It hurt so bad,” she says. “It was miserable. I cried the whole way down there and the whole way back.”

She was in Denver County Jail when she finally went into labor. She was brought to the hospital in wrist and ankle irons, then chained by her ankle to a hospital bed. The humiliation was extreme. Worse was her inability to make use of the comforts available to other women to help ease the pain of labor, such as the hottub.

The experience, she told the Colorado State Senate and House judiciary committees, left her feeling that she’d been treated “like an animal.”

I listened to Owens testify at the House Judiciary Committee hearing and watched as her testimony resonated with others in the audience, including a former inmate who had tears running down her face. And I feel great satisfaction in knowing that what happened to Owens will never happen again — at least not in Colorado.

On Thursday, May 27, Gov. Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 193, nicknamed “the shackling bill,” into law.

The bill was introduced and carried by Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, who learned about the shackling of inmates in labor from a Boulder Weekly investigation into the treatment of pregnant inmates (“Pregnant in prison,” cover story, Feb. 18). Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, sponsored the bill in the House.

When the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, it will regulate the use of shackles on inmates throughout pregnancy, prohibiting the use of shackles on inmates during labor and delivery, except under extreme circumstances where an inmate poses an immediate danger to herself or others or represents a threat of escape.

With the governor’s signature, Colorado became the ninth state to prohibit the shackling of inmates in labor.

For former inmates, like Owens, who gave birth while in custody, the new law offers a chance to heal one of the worst memories from their time behind bars.

“It’s so great,” she says. “That’s a memory that will never go away. That’s how my son came into this world. I take full responsibility for the reasons that I was there, but the fact that nobody else has to go through that is huge to me. My [labor and birth] is done and over with. It is what it is. But the fact that this is a law now — it does heal.”

For the coalition of women’s groups and medical professionals who pushed for the bill’s passage, the new law marks a leap forward for the medical treatment of women inmates and for human rights in the state’s jails and prisons.

“This takes us out of the dark ages in the Department of Corrections and our jails,” said Sen. Hudak, “and it’s long overdue.”

For me, the journalist who investigated the issue and then took the unusual step of carrying it to Capitol Hill and even writing the first draft of the bill, the new law serves as validation for what I’ve always believed — that newspapers are still capable of bringing about significant change.

Disbelief and shame

The toughest thing about launching Senate Bill 193 was lawmakers’ disbelief. Upon reading through the bill for the first time, many responded like Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs.

“Do we know this really happens?” he asked.

King went on to become a vocal supporter of the bill when he learned that somewhere between 50 and 60 inmates were giving birth in chains each year in Colorado.

As my investigation revealed, how and when inmates were shackled depended entirely on where they were being held. In Boulder County, inmates were not shackled during labor, but in nearby Denver County, inmates were being shackled to their hospital beds by a long, heavy chain fixed to one ankle. In some mountain jurisdictions, women were actually being given furlough from jail to give birth and were allowed to have family with them in the hospital. DOC inmates, on the other hand, were being taken to the hospital in wrist restraints and sometimes ankle shackles and belly belts and were shackled to their beds by one extremity throughout labor — depending on which nurse and correctional officer were on duty.

Once these facts were laid out, most lawmakers were astonished and even ashamed.

Hudak says that compared to some other bills she’s carried, SB 193 wasn’t a difficult bill to explain to people. During the bill’s first hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hudak asked her fellow senators if any of them had ever given birth or been present when their spouses gave birth. She then asked whether they could imagine themselves or their wives trying to escape.

“They finished the sentence before it came out of my mouth, and they really understood that it’s ridiculous that a woman in labor would try to escape or would be successful if she tried,” Hudak says.

SB 193 prohibits the use of belly shackles and ankle irons on pregnant inmates at any point during their pregnancy, out of concern that shackling in this manner poses a danger to the fetus, uterus, and placenta should the belt put pressure on the inmate’s pregnant abdomen or should the inmate trip and fall.

The bill also prohibits the use of any kind of shackles on inmates during labor and delivery, except in extreme cases when an inmate poses an immediate danger to herself or others or represents a serious flight risk. If they are shackled, it must be done using the least restrictive restraint necessary for maintaining safety, and the incident must be detailed and saved as a public record.

Further, the bill enables inmates to have a member of the medical staff present during her strip-search on return to jail or prison.

The bill moved swiftly through the legislative process. It received the unanimous support of the Senate and passed with a single “no” vote in the House, cast by Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.

“The only hesitation came from the Department of Corrections,” Hudak says.

DOC, which runs the state’s prisons, originally took a neutral position, but perhaps showed its true stance by attaching a significant cost to the bill, claiming that they would need to hire more guards if they left laboring inmates unshackled.

But the fiscal note was struck from the bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing in which Sen. Bob Bacon, R-Fort Collins, admitted to feeling ashamed that Colorado needed a bill like SB 193.

“I was particularly pleased in the Senate that they took the fiscal note off because they didn’t believe that additional guards would be necessary,” Hudak says.

After the fiscal note was removed, however, DOC took a more aggressive stance against the bill. There were indications that its representatives would ask the governor for a veto and look for ways to stall the bill until it died if it weren’t amended.

Rep. Claire Levy worked with DOC to craft a version of the bill they could support, removing language from the House version that would have prohibited shackling inmates during transportation to or from a medical facility for childbirth, as well as during the immediate postpartum recovery period. Had it not been for those changes, Levy says the bill might have faced an uphill battle with the governor.

“I’m sorry that the Department of Corrections was successful in weakening the bill in the House,” Hudak says. “They were more successful in convincing the representatives that shackling was necessary during transport. I still don’t believe it is. But as is common in the legislative process, you might not get everything you want, but this goes a long way.”

Because of Levy’s efforts, DOC testified in favor of the bill.

Although the law doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, DOC plans to implement new procedures before then.

“As you are aware, our procedures were in place and different than some other jurisdictions prior to passing of the bill,” Joanie Shoemaker, deputy director of prisons for DOC, wrote in an e-mail to Boulder Weekly. “We have begun the process of changing policy and designing the tracking tool. We will implement as soon as that is finalized even if the bill has not been enacted.”

Ritter Signs Parole Bill Sponsored by Pace

Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation Tuesday that will divert parole violators into less expensive community correction beds rather than prison, if their violation was only technical.
The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, and is expected to save about $15 million for the Colorado Department of Corrections.
The new law says that if a paroled prisoner commits a technical violation — such as missing required meetings — the person should be sent to less expensive detention, such as community corrections, rather than back to prison.
"I learned that the recidivism rate for an offender who completes a therapeutic community program is 8 percent. That's a lot lower than the 50 percent recidivism rate in a DOC facility," Pace said.
Saving from the legislation will be spent on the therapeutic programs aimed at stopping recidivism, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Windsor schools reject drug testing of students - The Denver Post

Windsor schools reject drug testing of students - The Denver Post

The Windsor school district will rely this fall on ways other than random drug testing to discourage illicit drug use among students.

The Windsor-Severance school board rejected drug testing last month, even though a slim majority of parents approved of the idea.

But the results of an online survey of parents indicated less than broad backing for a potentially controversial program. About 51 percent favored drug testing, the district said.

"The district really wanted to move forward with something that would have plenty of community support rather than start something that would have a divisive effect," said Dave Nicholl, chairman of the district's safe and healthy lifestyles committee.

Nicholl helped gauge the viability of student drug testing as a way to head off abuse among the district's students. The proposal called for random testing of athletes and students involved in extracurricular activities.

The district also surveyed teachers and students and held community forums. There was a disparity between what was said at the forums and what showed up during the anonymous surveys, Nicholl said.

"Especially in the parent community groups, there was a vocal majority not in favor of it," Nicholl said. "We had lots of people voicing opposition for a variety of reasons."

The district's accountability committee of parents and school officials told the school board that the survey showed 55.5 percent of district staffers supported drug testing, as did 42 percent of students.

The committee noted that a similar proposal in the rural Holyoke school district showed 81 percent supported drug testing.

"A divisive tone was evident in our community with the introduction of the potential (drug testing) proposal," the committee said. "This polarization undermines the positive focus that the district is trying to establish with other prevention efforts."

There were other objections to drug testing, according to the committee. They included the singling out of students in extracurricular activities, that the district could be targeted for lawsuits and that classroom time would be cut short because of testing.

Other programs geared toward prevention, meanwhile, seem to be working, the district said.

"Those seem to be the types of things the whole community would get behind," Nicholl said.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Study Finds Blacks Blocked From Southern Juries

In late April in a courthouse in Madison County, Ala., a prosecutor was asked to explain why he had struck 11 of 14 black potential jurors in a capital murder case.
The district attorney, Robert Broussard, said one had seemed “arrogant” and “pretty vocal.” In another woman, he said he “detected hostility.”
Mr. Broussard also questioned the “sophistication” of a former Army sergeant, a forklift operator with three years of college, a cafeteria manager, an assembly-line worker and a retired Department of Defense program analyst.
The analyst, he said, “did not appear to be sophisticated to us in her questionnaire, in that she spelled Wal-Mart, as one of her previous employers, as Wal-marts.”
Arguments like these were used for years to keep blacks off juries in the segregationist South, systematically denying justice to black defendants and victims. But today, the practice of excluding blacks and other minorities from Southern juries remains widespread and, according to defense lawyers and a new study by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit human rights and legal services organization in Montgomery, Ala., largely unchecked.
In the Madison County case, the defendant, Jason M. Sharp, a white man, was sentenced to death after a trial by a jury of 11 whites and one black. The April hearing was the result of a challenge by defense lawyers who argued that jury selection was tainted by racial discrimination — a claim that is difficult to prove because prosecutors can claim any race-neutral reason, no matter how implausible, for dismissing a juror.
While jury makeup varies widely by jurisdiction, the organization, which studied eight Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee — found areas in all of them where significant problems persist. In Alabama, courts have found racially discriminatory jury selection in 25 death penalty cases since 1987, and there are counties where more than 75 percent of black jury pool members have been struck in death penalty cases.
An analysis of Jefferson Parish, La., by the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center found that from 1999 to 2007, blacks were struck from juries at more than three times the rate of whites
click here for the rest of the story NY TIMES

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Pro-pot protesters take on Town Center - News - Aurora Sentinel

Pro-pot protesters take on Town Center - News - Aurora Sentinel
AURORA | Wearing T-shirts spouting a variety of pro-marijuana messages, a group of about 40 marijuana advocates quietly strolled into Town Center at Aurora on Saturday in support of a man banned from the mall last week after wearing a similar shirt.

Unlike the man banned last week, 28-year-old John Gailey, Saturday’s group wasn’t asked to leave the mall or change their attire.

Instead, the group walked from store to store like any other shoppers.

Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation, which organized the event, said his group hoped the event would make it easier for other marijuana advocates to wear pro-marijuana shirts without problems.

“We find it ridiculous that a young gentleman was harassed and banned from the Aurora mall for wearing a T-shirt,” he said.

Mall officials and police insisted last week that Gailey wasn’t banned from the mall for one year for wearing the T-shirt, but rather for the scene he created when mall officials asked him to remove it because of the mall’s family night function that night.

Fairness of mandatory sentencing called into question - The Denver Post

Fairness of mandatory sentencing called into question - The Denver Post

Luisa Baylon waited in a truck with her 1-month-old son while agents say they saw her husband hand a kilo of cocaine over to a buyer in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Commerce City.

Now she could face a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 40 years in federal prison if she is convicted by a jury this week in Denver.

Cases such as Baylon's are at the heart of an ongoing debate over whether mandatory sentences are appropriate for certain defendants or whether alternative sentencing could play a role in rehabilitating some offenders.

Congress directed the U.S. Sentencing Commission — a panel that sets federal sentencing policy — to investigate and write a wide-ranging report on mandatory minimums that is due in October.

Advocates for defendants hope the directive from Congress indicates a trend in amending the sentencing guidelines to alleviate disparities.

The commission already voted in 2008 to amend crack-cocaine sentencing guidelines because they had a disparate impact on African-American defendants over other defendants convicted on powder-cocaine charges.

"Judges cannot dispense justice in every case when there is an automatic punishment that may or may not be appropriate for every person," said Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

The last time the commission conducted research on mandatory minimums was nearly 20 years ago, but Stewart said she hopes the panel will look at the data and research available to them and make adjustments to the guidelines.

"Every crime is different, every defendant is different, and when you just apply a cookie-cutter sentence to each crime, you are not going to be sentencing people to their appropriate sentence in every case," she said. "Some people are going to get too much time."

Colorado U.S. Attorney David Gaouette would not discuss Baylon's case because it was pending but agreed to speak generally about the prosecution of mandatory-minimum cases.

Gaouette said the vast majority of drug cases in the district involve mandatory-minimum sentencing. He said prosecutors are not targeting low- level drug users.

"We deal with the large- scale drug trafficking organizations or large-scale quantity drug transactions," he said.

Judge William K. Sessions, chairman of the commission, said he wants to hear a wide variety of testimony on the impact of mandatory minimums.

"Congress is asking us to give them advice on how they should work and how they relate to the sentencing structure and the sentencing policy in a broader sense, and they will make an assessment if our advice is to be followed or not," he said.

Any suggestion that the inquiry will lead to changes in drug policy is immature, he said.

"We are not advocating one way or another," Sessions said. "It's just a very general area of inquiry."

As for Baylon, she does not have a criminal history that makes her eligible for a "safety valve," allowing Judge John L. Kane to consider a sentence below the mandatory 5-year minimum if she is convicted.

Baylon, 20, who has pleaded not guilty, found herself facing significant time because of the quantity of the drugs.

Her 21-year-old husband, Armando Jaramillo Aguilar, was charged with distribution of a kilo of cocaine. A warrant is out for his arrest.