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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Measure to limit some bail releases will go to voters - The Denver Post

Measure to limit some bail releases will go to voters - The Denver Post

In November, Coloradans will get to vote on whether some criminal defendants should not be released from jail without bail.
Secretary of State Bernie Buescher's office said Monday it had certified that backers of an initiative petition to rework the bail process had collected the necessary valid signatures of 76,047 registered voters.
The statutory measure, designated Proposition 102, would prohibit the release of a defendant on an unsecured bond under a pretrial-services program unless the suspect is a first- time, nonviolent offender. A fiscal analysis indicates the measure would cost local jails $2.8 million.
Eight other initiatives and referenda have been approved for the ballot.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Report By BOJ: Sexual Victimization in Prisons

Between October 2008 and
December 2009, BJS completed
the second National
Inmate Survey (NIS-2) in 167 state
and federal prisons, 286 jails, and 10
special confinement facilities operated
by Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Military,
and correctional authorities in Indian
country. The survey, conducted by
RTI International (Research Triangle
Park, NC), was administered to 81,566
inmates ages 18 or older, including
32,029 inmates in state and federal
prisons, 48,066 in jails, 957 in ICE
facilities, 399 in military facilities, and
115 in Indian country jails.
The NIS-2 is part of the National
Prison Rape Statistics Program, which
collects administrative records of reported
sexual violence, and allegations
of sexual victimization directly from
victims, through surveys of adult inmates
in prisons and jails and surveys
of youth held in juvenile correctional
facilities. Administrative records have
been collected annually since 2004.
Reports by victims of sexual victimization
have been collected since 2007.
The NIS-2 survey consisted of an
audio computer-assisted self-interview....
Prevalence of sexual victimization
ƒƒ An estimated 4.4% of prison inmates and 3.1% of jail
inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents
of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff
in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility,
if less than 12 months. Nationwide, these percentages
suggest that approximately 88,500 adults held in prisons
and jails at the time of the survey had been sexually
ƒƒ About 2.1% of prison inmates and 1.5% of jail inmates
reported an incident involving another inmate. An
estimated 1.0% of prison inmates and 0.8% of jail inmates
said they had nonconsensual sex with another inmate
(the most serious type of acts), including unwilling
manual stimulation and oral, anal, or vaginal penetration.
ƒƒ About 2.8% of prison inmates and 2.0% of jail inmates
reported having had sex or sexual contact with staff. At
least half of the inmates who experienced staff sexual
misconduct (1.8% in prison and 1.1% in jail) said that they
willingly had sex or sexual contact with staff.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Protest Against Denver Police

DENVER - About 150 protesters marched through the streets of Denver on Saturday, demanding that more action be taken in the recent rash of alleged police and jail guard misconduct.

The marchers carried signs that read "Police get up early to beat the crowds" and "All police are murderers."

The first stop was at a sidewalk in Denver's Lodo district, where 23-year-old Michael Deherrera was captured by a city security camera being beaten by police.

They also gathered at a spot where Mark Ashford was beaten by police after shooting video of a police traffic stop.

The protesters do not believe the resignation of Denver's Safety Manger Ron Perea was enough.

"This is a first step, but only a first step," said Glen Spagnuolo, an organizer of the demonstration.

The marchers ended in front of the new Denver jail facility in downtown.

There they demanded justice for Marvin Booker, an inmate who died at the new facility.

Booker was tased and restrained by officers following a scuffle in the holding cell July 9 where a female sheriff's deputy was also treated for injuries suffered during the altercation.

Spokespersons for the Denver Police and the Denver Police Protective Association said they were not aware of the protest.

They added they can not comment on any ongoing investigations.

Arapahoe County inmate dead after being found hanging by bedsheet - The Denver Post

Arapahoe County inmate dead after being found hanging by bedsheet - The Denver Post

A 21-year-old Arapahoe County Detention Facility inmate was found hanged by a bedsheet in his cell this morning, only about 40 minutes after he was last seen chatting casually with other inmates, Sheriff Grayson Robinson said.

Jeffrey Wayne Purcella of Aurora died about an hour after a guard on routine morning inspections found him in his single-occupancy cell, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Purcella on July 23 pleaded guilty by reason of insanity to an allegation he attacked a relative in his parent's home in 2008, according to court records.

Purcella had been in the jail since March 2008 on a $50,000 bond on charges of second-degree kidnapping, sexual assault and third-degree assault.

Purcella was housed in general population, and Robinson knew of no problems with Purcella's conduct or behavior in the jail, or any recent behavior to suggest he was a risk to himself.

"Those are some of the things we're investigating, his conversations, we're looking into his recent phone calls, everything," he said. "We're giving it a thorough investigation."

Purcella was found just after 10 a.m. Sunday and was still alive, according to the Sheriff's Department. He died at 11:03 a.m. in the emergency room at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree.

Friday, August 27, 2010

CSP Opens Wednesday

Pueblo Chieftain

CANON CITY — Some badly needed administrative segregation prison space will open up Wednesday, helping to relieve a backlog of dangerous prisoners and beef up security for the Department of Corrections.

DOC officials on Wednesday dedicated the state's newest $162 million prison. Formerly referred to as Colorado State Penitentiary II, the prison is now officially a part of neighboring Centennial prison at the East Canon Prison Complex.

Although the new prison consists of 948 administrative segregation beds, just one tower, which will house 316 inmates, will be opened. Because of budget constraints, there are no immediate plans to open the other two towers.

"On Sept. 1, we will start getting 15 inmates a day," said Lt. Chris Barr, intelligence supervisor for the prison. “We will be taking 150 inmates off the state-wide administrative-segregation waiting list and another 166 inmates from Colorado State Penitentiary."

The freed-up bed space at Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City will go to mentally ill prisoners, where eventually all 361 beds will be filled by mentally ill inmates, Barr said.

"It is all about having the right inmate in the right bed with the right programs," said Ari Zavaras, DOC executive director. "These are difficult economic times and we always need to be prudent with the resources we are given.

“We know this was a very difficult decision for the Legislature way back when it was first approved and more recently when they agreed to fund the opening of one tower. They knew the issues we were facing — it is about safety for the inmates and the staff," Zavaras said.

CSP to open on September 1

Canon City Daily Record
After years of waiting and building, one tower of the expanded Centennial Correctional Facility is ready for its first round of inmates. “There’s a lot of history with this from lawsuits to being our own supervising agent on the project,” said DOC Executive Director Ari Zavaras on Wednesday at the dedication ceremony. “There are a lot of things that went into it.”
The expansion, which was originally built under the name Colorado State Penitentiary II, is a high security prison. When the facility is fully open, it will house 948 administrative segregation inmates.
The one tower that is currently opening — no plans are yet in place to open the other two towers — will house 316 inmates by Sept. 30. Beginning Sept. 1, the facility will begin accepting 15 inmates a day through the end of the month. About half the inmates, 150 will come from the statewide administrative segregation wait-list and 166 will come from the Colorado State Penitentiary, making room for that facility to house the system’s mentally ill inmates.

The expansion’s opening has been bumped several times throughout the past seven years — most recently because of funding issues during the state’s budget crisis, which would have prevented staffing it.
This spring, the General Assembly approved $10.8 million to open the tower. As a consequence, the state’s only boot-camp prison program for adult inmates, located in Buena Vista, has been closed, saving the state almost $1 million.
Ground was broken on the facility in August 2007 after lengthy court battles challenging legislation signed by then-Gov. Bill Owens authorizing the construction in 2003.
Attorney General John Suthers said the opening was overdue and that adequate high security beds are absolutely essential for the safety of everyone — inmates and officers — in Department of Corrections.
The expansion, Suthers said, is a “much needed addition to the Colorado Department of Corrections.”
“We will all be a lot better off with this facility,” Zavaras said. “We have a very solid program in place. This is an essential tool.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Drug cartel suspected in massacre of 72 migrants - The Denver Post

Drug cartel suspected in massacre of 72 migrants - The Denver Post
MEXICO CITY—A Mexican drug cartel massacred 72 Central and South American migrants within 100 miles of the U.S. border that they were trying to reach, according to an Ecuadorean survivor who escaped and stumbled wounded to a highway checkpoint where he alerted marines, official said Wednesday.

The marines fought the cartel gunmen at a ranch in the northern state of Tamaulipas on Tuesday, a battle that left one marine and three suspects dead. They found the bodies of 58 men and 14 women in a room, some piled on top of each other.

The Ecuadorean migrant told investigators that his captors identified themselves as members of the Zetas drug gang, said Vice Adm. Jose Luis Vergara, a spokesman for the Mexican Navy. Authorities believe the migrants were from Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil and Ecuador.

It is the biggest massacre to date in Mexico's drug war and the most horrifying example yet of the dangers faced by immigrants trying to get to the U.S.

"It's absolutely terrible and it demands the condemnation of all of our society," said Alejandro Poire, the government's security spokesman.

Authorities did not say why the gang killed the migrants. Mexico's drug cartels frequently kidnap migrants and threaten to kill them unless they pay fees for crossing their territory. Sometimes, gangs contact relatives of the migrants in the U.S. and demand they pay a ransom.

The bodies were discovered Tuesday when Marines manning a checkpoint were approached by a wounded man who said he had been attacked by gang gunmen at a nearby ranch. Officials said he identified himself an illegal migrant and said that he and other migrants had been kidnapped by an armed group and taken to the ranch in San Fernando, a town about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Brownsville, Texas.

The scale of the massacre of migrants appeared to be unprecedented even by the gruesome standards of Mexican drug cartels.

It was unclear if all 72 were killed at the same time—or why. A federal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators believe the victims were killed within recent days.

The Navy said it dispatched aircraft to check out the man's report and when the gunmen saw the marines, they opened fire and tried to flee in a convoy of vehicles. One marine and three of the suspects were killed in the shootout.

Death penalty stands for Nathan Dunlap, who killed four - The Denver Post

Death penalty stands for Nathan Dunlap, who killed four - The Denver Post

Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora in 1993, lost his federal death-penalty appeal Tuesday.

His attorneys will appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court.

Dunlap filed a habeas corpus petition with the court in 2008 arguing that his trial attorney was ineffective for not presenting a defense on his childhood abuse and mental-health issues.

"In the final analysis, Dunlap was competently represented, fairly tried, and duly sentenced to death for having committed four vicious murders of three teenagers and a mother of two children for no intelligible reason at all," wrote Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane. "The processes of the law have been exhausted, the defendant's guilt is uncontestable and the penalty . . . meets every requirement of the law." Felisa Cardona, The Denver Post

Garcia Says Imprisoned Son Still Part of Life

Pueblo Chieftain
DENVER — Monday through Saturday, Joe Garcia tends to his business as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo and campaigning as a candidate for lieutenant governor, but on most Sundays he goes to prison.
That’s where he visits his adopted son, Joaquin Garcia.
“We’re still a close family, and we’ll always try to support each other,” Joe Garcia said. “We visit him when we can and encourage him to take classes and participate in different programs. My kids have all accomplished different things.”
Garcia is the father of a daughter who followed his path and graduated from Harvard Law School. Her twin brother holds a degree in economics from Colorado College, and their little brother is attending college in Colorado Springs.
Joaquin Garcia, 25 (just a few months younger than his twin siblings), took his own route and now finds himself about halfway through a 12-year prison term that was imposed in April 2006.
He was convicted of aggravated robbery, aggravated motor-vehicle theft and misdemeanor theft in El Paso County for crimes committed in 2004 and 2005, according to Colorado Department of Corrections records.
Joaquin Garcia is housed at Arrowhead Correctional Center in Canon City, a minimum-security setting that focuses on therapeutic treatment of prisoners.
“For the most part, he’s in therapy all day,” said DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti. “He has a key to his room and can come and go.”
Joaquin Garcia began his prison term at Crowley County Correctional Facility with a medium-security designation. Next he was shipped to North Fork prison in Oklahoma, before being returned to Crowley County Correctional Facility in November 2007.
In March he was transferred to Arrowhead.
“Probably for good behavior, he’s gotten himself there,” Sanguinetti said, citing his graduation to minimum-security classification.

When a Strip Search Isn't Enough: Denver's Degrading Use Of Body Cavitites

TAKE ACTION: Email Ari Zavaras [3], Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and tell him to put an immediate end to the new body cavity searches at DWCF.

Today the ACLU and ACLU of Colorado called upon the Colorado Department of Corrections to abandon a new policy that subjects prisoners to degrading body cavity searches.  According to press reports and letters sent to the ACLU by prisoners at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (DWCF), prisoners now must hold open their labia as correctional officers, sometimes using a flashlight, sometimes positioning their faces only inches away from a prisoner’s genitals, conduct an inspection.  Reports even indicate that some prisoners have been forced to pull back the skin of their clitorises.  These searches occur even when the guards have no particularized reason to suspect concealment of contraband – correctional officers search prisoners’ body cavities on a frequent basis, after work assignments and visits from friends and family.  Guards apparently have threatened prisoners who resist with pepper spray.

One prisoner describes the new procedure as follows in a letter to the ACLU:

The lift is treated differently by officers, but generally involves spreading your legs and parting your outer labia so an officer can do a visual inspection of your genitals.  I have had to perform this procedure simply standing; from a sitting position with my legs spread eagle and having a flashlight shined at my genitals; from a standing position with a foot perched on a toilet and an officer’s face inches from my genitals; in front of multiple officers and once in front of an officer and two Life Safety trainees"

High rates of prior sexual abuse among women prisoners no doubt compound the suffering inflicted by the new procedure.  According to one prisoner at DWCF:

Being a survivor of sexual trauma the new labia-lift procedure encouraged my post-traumatic stress disorder.  I had periodic flashbacks …. I have also witnessed women literally crying when they were subject to the labia lift...
Aside from the suffering and humiliation they inflict upon prisoners, the searches are unnecessary.  They occur without any particularized reason to suspect that a prisoner is attempting to conceal contraband.  On top of that, the new requirement that prisoners hold open their labia adds little to existing procedures that already required invasive searches designed to uncover any contraband.  One prisoner describes the difference between the old and new policies as follows:

The “proper” search (before the labia lift came about) is as follows:  Remove all clothes, as an officer searches the seams/pockets/waistband and stand completely naked.  Open the mouth; sweep fingers around tongue and along gum line.  Fold forward ears while turning the head to expose behind them.  Run fingers through hair, removing any ties or combs and if needed, bend over to shake long hair.  Lift arms and if breasts are large, lift breasts.  Turn around; lift each foot, wiggling toes.  Turn your back to the officer, bend over, squat, and grab buttocks while coughing.  The addition of the “labia lift” is to stand or sit, facing the officer, while spreading the labia open wide.

In short, the new requirement that prisoners hold open their labia adds little to the search procedure – other than additional humiliation and suffering for DWCF prisoners.  It’s time for the Department of Corrections to abandon the new policy.
TAKE ACTION: Email Ari Zavaras [3], Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and tell him to put an immediate end to the new body cavity searches at DWCF.

Related Documents

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Denver City Council to review trends of litigation over police use of force - The Denver Post

Denver City Council to review trends of litigation over police use of force - The Denver Post

The Denver City Council, concerned about the pace of lawsuits alleging excessive force by police officers, has initiated a review of litigation trends over the past five years.

The city's safety department, which oversees the Police Department, and the city attorney's office will report findings to the council Sept. 14 during a council committee meeting.

"It does seem like there has been a proliferation of these claims lately," Councilman Charlie Brown said Monday as the council approved paying out $20,000 to settle another federal lawsuit alleging excessive force by police.

In that lawsuit, James Watkins, 20, alleged he told two police officers that "cops suck" while walking downtown last year. He said Sgt. Randy Penn and Denver police Technician John Ruddy then beat him after he took out a cellphone to record them.

In court documents, the lawyers for the city said Watkins, who had a felony record, was intoxicated that night and "chest bumped" Penn. Watkins was charged with second-degree assault on a police officer, but prosecutors later dismissed the charge.

The city annually sets aside $2 million in a litigation fund to handle such claims. In a typical year, the city spends about $500,000 out of that fund, according to preliminary estimates from Deputy Safety Manager Mel Thompson.

"It's unfortunate the kind of circumstances that have arisen in the media and that are filling the airwaves," said Councilman Paul Lopez.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Perea resigns as Denver safety manager - The Denver Post

Perea resigns as Denver safety manager - The Denver Post

Denver Manager of Safety Ron Perea, who has come under fire for his decisions in two police discipline cases, has resigned his post effective Aug. 31, the city announced this afternoon.

"Ron came to Denver with all of the right credentials and experience to lead the Department of Safety," Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said in a release. "He feels that the events of the past few days have limited his ability to gain community confidence. "

On Saturday The Denver Post reported Perea, who was hired earlier this year, was being criticized for a ruling in an abuse case that the city's Independent Police Monitor and Citizen Oversight Board worried could undermine a new discipline system.

He met Friday in a closed-door session with the board and independent monitor Richard Rosenthal to defend his decision to give Officer Eric Sellers a suspension of 45 days without pay for "inappropriate force" and "commission of a deceptive act."

The board unanimously decided to issue a report disagreeing with Perea's discipline of Sellers. The board never publicly criticized the decisions of former Safety Manager Al LaCabe during the seven years he held the post.

Roxane White, the mayor's chief of staff, said late Friday that Perea was "seriously reconsidering his decision."

David Bruno, the lawyer for the Denver Police Protective Association said Sellers met with Perea earlier today and was told that the earlier decision had been rescinded. He said Sellers was not told what the new decision was.

Bruno said that in his more than 30 years representing police officers in discipline cases, he had never seen one where a decision was rescinded or reopened for investigation.

Perea earlier this month came under fire in a separate, highly publicized case in which he issued light discipline in a police beating caught on video.

Perea previously worked in the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Secret Service and was special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Denver field office, which is responsible for protective and investigative operations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. While in Denver, he was the special agent in charge during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Deputy Manager of Safety Mary Malatesta will take over as interim Manager of Safety until a new Manager can be found, the Mayor's office said. No timeline has been created for a search process.

Too Many Laws, Too Many Prisoners

http://www.economist.com/node/16636027   (CLICK HERE FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE)
THREE pickup trucks pulled up outside George Norris’s home in Spring, Texas. Six armed police in flak jackets jumped out. Thinking they must have come to the wrong place, Mr Norris opened his front door, and was startled to be shoved against a wall and frisked for weapons. He was forced into a chair for four hours while officers ransacked his house. They pulled out drawers, rifled through papers, dumped things on the floor and eventually loaded 37 boxes of Mr Norris’s possessions onto their pickups. They refused to tell him what he had done wrong. “It wasn’t fun, I can tell you that,” he recalls.
Mr Norris was 65 years old at the time, and a collector of orchids. He eventually discovered that he was suspected of smuggling the flowers into America, an offence under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This came as a shock. He did indeed import flowers and sell them to other orchid-lovers. And it was true that his suppliers in Latin America were sometimes sloppy about their paperwork. In a shipment of many similar-looking plants, it was rare for each permit to match each orchid precisely.
In March 2004, five months after the raid, Mr Norris was indicted, handcuffed and thrown into a cell with a suspected murderer and two suspected drug-dealers. When told why he was there, “they thought it hilarious.” One asked: “What do you do with these things? Smoke ’em?”
Prosecutors described Mr Norris as the “kingpin” of an international smuggling ring. He was dumbfounded: his annual profits were never more than about $20,000. When prosecutors suggested that he should inform on other smugglers in return for a lighter sentence, he refused, insisting he knew nothing beyond hearsay.

Ritter to announce how Colorado will bridge $60 million budget gap - The Denver Post

Ritter to announce how Colorado will bridge $60 million budget gap - The Denver Post

Gov. Bill Ritter today will announce plans to bridge a more than $60 million shortfall in the current state budget.

The plan is likely to entail some one-time solutions such as using cash-fund balances or delaying expenses.

It also could include spending cuts, but Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said there would be no additional cuts to public schools or higher education.

In the previous fiscal year, which ended in June, the state's budget- balancing actions included eight furlough days for state employees, which allowed for $16 million in general-fund savings. Ritter has not called for furloughs in the current year, though he has not ruled them out.

Ritter, a Democrat, will have to take the newest budget-balancing actions as a result of Congress appropriating less in enhanced funding for Medicaid than originally thought.

Colorado and dozens of other states wrote their 2010-11 budgets based on the belief that Congress would extend an enhanced federal match to Medicaid from January to June, covering the second half of the 2010-11 fiscal year, which ends in June.

For Colorado, the additional funding was worth nearly $212 million, and it looked for a time during the summer that a Congress weary of deficit spending would not approve the additional Medicaid funding. But Congress last week approved a compromise measure that will mean Colorado gets an estimated $144 million in extended aid.

That still leaves a budget hole somewhere north of $60 million, Ritter officials said.

"Over the past two years since the recession took hold in Colorado, we have cut spending and closed shortfalls of $3.5 billion," Dreyer said. "We'll release a new balancing plan that closes another shortfall of $60 million to $70 million, and that plan will contain the same strategies that we have utilized since 2008.

"We're going to maintain essential services. We're going to minimize pain. And we're going to use a shared-sacrifice and shared-solution approach."

Dreyer cautioned that the budget-balancing might not stop there. The state's next economic forecast will be released in September, and if the news is grim, there could be an October balancing plan, he said.

Protesters demand resignation of Denver safety manager - The Denver Post

Protesters demand resignation of Denver safety manager - The Denver Post

Just outside the walls of the new jail where inmate Marvin Booker was killed July 9, more than 200 people gathered Sunday to pray and demand justice for his death.

Topping their list of five demands is for Denver Safety Manager Ron Perea to resign or be fired by Mayor John Hickenlooper.

In a telephone interview, Perea repeated his statement that he will not resign.

Perea did, however, act Sunday on one of the protesters' demands by temporarily suspending the use of "carotid restraint" — the so-called sleeper hold — which was used on Booker.

The suspension is in place pending a review of use-of-force policies, said Gary Wilson, undersheriff and director of Corrections.

The Denver coroner said Friday that Booker's death at the jail was a homicide.

"We will not allow Marvin L. Booker's death to be in vain," said Timothy Tyler, pastor of Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Tyler organized the protest at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility with other community churches.

"They hurt one of ours, and it doesn't stop here," said Alvertis Simmons, a civil-rights activist. "We got a fight on our hands."

Those who spoke during the rally said they are offended by Perea's and Hickenlooper's lack of action.

Perea has refused to "either suspend or fire rogue officers," Tyler said.

"He continues to defend the actions of a few to the detriment of the entire community," he added.

Booker, 56, was being processed on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia when he was restrained after disobeying an order to not retrieve his shoes from a chair.

He was shocked with a Taser, placed in a sleeper hold and held to the floor as jail deputies piled on top of him.

Five jail employees are now on paid administrative leave.

Tyler said Hickenlooper is also defending Perea's actions.

"The mayor stated that Mr. Ron Perea was new to this job," Tyler said.

The group Sunday also demanded that Hickenlooper reach out to the Booker family to show concern for the death.

Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown said numerous contacts by the Denver Police Department's victim's assistance office and the city attorney's office have been made with the Booker family.

Brown also confirmed that Hickenlooper is still not considering firing Perea.

"We hear the community's concerns, and we share in the frustrations, but investigations for starters have to run their course," Brown said.

Tyler also asked officials to release the video of Booker's beating to the public and the family, and for officers involved in the jail death to be fired, disciplined and charged, if necessary.

"It's too premature to say the deputies in this case should be fired, and that's a decision for the manager of safety to make," Brown said.

Organizers of the protest said they will continue to speak out until the changes are made.

"We will be back," Tyler said.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

DJs in Buena Vista play for a truly captive audience - The Denver Post

DJs in Buena Vista play for a truly captive audience - The Denver Post

Carlos "Mr. Floppy" Rodriguez gazes through a window out beyond the razor-wire fence at cars whisking by and imagines that the drivers are bursting out laughing at his radio repartee.

The hip-hop prison DJ (doing nine years for escape) is actually cracking jokes in between songs for a truly captive audience at Buena Vista Correctional Facility. Rodri guez rattles off mock Coca-Cola advertisements and sometimes does it all in Spanish.

He is learning how to be a DJ in a unique radio-broadcasting program at the Buena Vista prison. Though he once believed his role in life was set in steel-reinforced concrete, he now dreams about ruling the airwaves.

The trouble is, making it big inside the Big House has yet to lead

to real-life DJ jobs at top-40 radio stations for hundreds of paroled convicts who have been enrolled in the program the past 21 years.

Promising talents like Rodriguez often can't get to the interview stage at a radio station after disclosing their criminal background.

Kevin Messick, director of the Buena Vista radio program, knows what it takes to make it in the real world after working as a DJ for several years at radio stations from Neillsville, Wis., to Amarillo, Texas, including KIKX in Colorado Springs.

"Some of these guys have such a gift of gab," Messick said. "There are guys who are very talented. I don't think employers even give them any consideration after learning their background."

Messick applied in 1989 for the job as an instructor of the radio program.

He teaches college-level broadcasting courses that are transferrable to Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs. His students can earn 30 college credits.

Whether Messick's inmate students ever land a job in radio broadcasting or not, he said he believes they learn valuable lessons in class.

"Many of them never had a job before that they had responsibility for," he said. "Here, if they don't show up, they get fired. We try to clean up their profanity."

Students tape radio spots for class credit in six studios, and the programs are later played on the prison's two stations.

"It sounds like it's live," Messick said.

He said the inmates learn how to write and make commercials, and they do research about artists they play.

They have much of the same equipment as at radio stations.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Second discipline case erupts for Denver safety manager - The Denver Post

Second discipline case erupts for Denver safety manager - The Denver Post

Denver Safety Manager Ron Perea's refusal to fire a police officer in yet another controversial abuse case could seriously undermine a new discipline system it took the city six years to put in place, critics said Friday.

For the second time in less than three weeks, Perea clashed sharply with Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal and the Citizen Oversight Board, this time over an officer found to have lied about the use of excessive force.

Perea, under fire in a separate, highly publicized case in which he issued light discipline in a police beating caught on video, met in a closed-door session with the board and Rosenthal on Friday to defend his decision to give Officer Eric Sellers a suspension of 45 days without pay for "inappropriate force" and "commission of a deceptive act."

The board unanimously decided to issue a report disagreeing with Perea's discipline of Sellers. The board never publicly criticized the decisions of former Safety Manager Al LaCabe during the seven years he held the post.

Roxane White, chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, said late Friday, "Ron is seriously reconsidering his decision."

In addition to meeting with the Citizen Oversight Board, Perea also met Friday with the city attorney's office to review his discipline of Sellers.

"The purpose was to meet with him and review the order from a legal perspective, and to analyze his decision under the terms of the new disciplinary matrix and new discipline handbook," said City Attorney David Fine. He added that he believes Perea has the power to reverse his decision in the Sellers case, something city officials expect him to do soon.

"It's the Wild West"

The push to fire Sellers was applauded by the man who filed the complaint in the case, Jared Lunn, 23, of Commerce City, a volunteer firefighter in Brighton.

He said Sellers put him in a choke hold, handcuffed him and treated him to a profanity-laden tirade after he criticized the officer for failing to press charges against someone who punched Lunn and knocked a pizza out of Lunn's hands on a Lower Downtown street on Nov. 23, 2008.

"Denver police, to me, are basically criminals with badges," Lunn said. "I have no respect for them. I somewhat fear them because it's Wild West out there for them."

Under a new police discipline system the city began using in October 2008, lying to internal affairs investigators, as Sellers was found to have done about his confrontation with Lunn, is a cause for "presumptive termination."

Many police departments consider such lying a fireable offense because it calls into question the ability for the officer to be believed when he testifies in court.

LaCabe spent years crafting a new discipline system to replace one that required officials to use past discipline decisions to determine punishments.

Under the new system, specific violations lead to specific presumptive punishments. Lying under oath is among the most serious of offenses in the new system. Such lying is included in a category of "egregious misconduct substantially contrary to the standards of conduct reasonably expected of one whose sworn duty is to uphold the law."

Despite the new discipline system, Perea decided to grant mitigation to Sellers, in part, because he believed it took too long for LaCabe to decide how to punish Sellers. Perea inherited the case when he became safety manager this year and assumed oversight of the city's police, sheriff and fire departments.

Perea has declined to publicly discuss his discipline of Sellers because Sellers has appealed his decision to a civil service hearing officer.

Coroner rules inmate's death was homicide - The Denver Post

Coroner rules inmate's death was homicide - The Denver Post

The Denver Coroner has ruled that the July 9 death of an inmate at the new jail was the result of homicide.

Marvin Booker was being processed on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia when he got into a scuffle with jail deputies. He was shocked with a Taser device and held to the floor.

Other inmates said Booker, 56, was then carried to the holding cell and dropped face first. He never recovered.

The coroner's finding means simply that another human being caused Booker's death instead of natural causes, suicide or an accident. It is not the coroner's role to determine who might have caused the death, or whether the homicide was justifiable.

The coroner ruled Booker's death was caused by "cardiorespiratory arrest during physical restraint." The coroner said deputies had their body weight on Booker's back continuously for four minutes while he was face down and put him in a "sleeper hold" for more than two minutes while shocking him with a Taser for 8 seconds.

An investigation is ongoing into the actions of the jail deputies who scuffled with Booker.

Five deputies were placed on paid leave last week, Denver Director of Corrections Gary Wilson said in a news conference this afternoon.

He also said the National Institute of Corrections will conduct an independent review of Denver's restraint policies.

Inmates who witnessed the event said Booker was trying to retrieve his shoes a short distance away when a jail deputy ordered him to immediately go to the holding cell. When he refused and tried to explain, he pushed the deputy and then was held down as several others dove on top of him, according to the witnesses.

A video captured the struggle, but has not been released while the investigation is underway.

The coroner's report describes what is on the video, which confirms the inmates' accounts of the scuffle.

"When he turned to return to the holding area for his shoes, the booking officer called him towards and isolation cell, and when he failed to come to her, she went to the holding area and placed her arms on his. He swung his arms to shake her off," the coroner's report says.

"The booking deputy was joined by three other officers who forced the decedent first to a chair, and then face down on the floor. Two officers struggled to cuff his hands behind his back; another tried to control his legs; a fourth lay across his upper back and applied a carotid "sleeper" hold around his neck.

"The decedent continued to resist, and the officer applying the neck hold requested a Taser. A fifth officer applied the Taser to his leg and discharged it for 8 seconds. The decedent ceased resisting shortly after the use of the Taser."

The sleeper hold was applied to him for two minutes and 30 seconds, but deputies said it was released intermittently to check whether Booker was still resisting.

After Booker was placed face down in the holding cell, a deputy remained on his back for another 90 seconds to two minutes.

A short time later, another deputy saw he was not breathing and began CPR.

Booker, who had a long, but largely misdemeanor criminal history, had cocaine in his bloodstream, but not at levels the coroner found would have been toxic.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lawmakers Heralded as Addiction Fighters

GENESEE — Colorado’s substance-abuse treatment community on Thursday honored two Southern Colorado lawmakers for their work in the Legislature to combat addiction.
The Colorado Providers Association, a professional organization of substance-abuse treatment agencies, named state Reps. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, and Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, its legislators of the year. The group feted the pair during its annual membership meeting held at Mount Vernon Country Club.
Pace was chosen because of legislation he carried that redirects corrections funds to treatment of technical parole violators as an alternative to returning them to prison. A technical violation — for instance missing a meeting with a parole officer or not submitting a change of address — does not involve a new crime.
Massey was honored for his law that steers money raised in association with medicinal marijuana operations to treatment for people suffering from a combination of mental illness and substance-abuse habits and to provide early intervention for substance abusers.
The idea behind Pace’s legislation, HB1360, was hatched during a visit this year to the therapeutic community run by Crossroad Turning Points in Pueblo.
The program, which celebrated its first year of operation two months ago, is at capacity and currently serves 60 clients, according to Leroy Lucero, Crossroads’ director.
“I’d be pleased if we got 10 more beds in the immediate future,” Lucero said. “I’d hope eventually to have up to 100 beds for clients in Pueblo, but I’d settle for 80.”
And Pace’s bill coupled with the demand for substance-abuse treatment services among Pueblo parolees makes either figure likely, Lucero said.
The program lasts up to 12 months and is aggressively regimented.
“The discipline that clients must demonstrate is almost on a par with the military,” Lucero said.
Pace said that when he learned the recidivism rate of participants in a similar program in Denver was 8 percent, compared with the overall recidivism rate of the Colorado prison system, which is about 50 percent, he saw an opportunity to make a difference.
The second facet of Pace’s bill is cost savings for the prison system. By sending parolees who commit technical violations to treatment rather than back to prison, his bill is expected to spare the state $15 million in corrections costs. More than $3 million of that savings is going to treatment programs.

Denver Police beating probe reopens amid outcry - The Denver Post

Denver Police beating probe reopens amid outcry - The Denver Post

The Denver Police Department is reopening an internal-affairs investigation into two officers implicated in the beating of a man in Lower Downtown.

Video of the incident and an earlier decision to keep the officers on the force have prompted an outcry, especially from Latino groups.

"Additional witnesses and new information has been made available to investigators," the department announced in a news release late Thursday. "As a result, the case has been reopened."

Department officials declined to reveal what new information was being investigated, but a person close to the investigation said witnesses had come forward who damaged the accounts of the two officers in the April 4, 2009, incident.

"We're trying to corroborate the evidence," said Safety Manager Ron Perea, whose original decision to keep the officers on the force had prompted calls for his resignation. "In any case, you can't discount evidence. You have to open it up."

The new information being probed included two people interviewed by 9News in a broadcast Wednesday night who said they saw Michael DeHerrera being beaten by an officer despite his re peatedly yelling that he was not resisting arrest.

Hasan Aoutabachai confirmed Thursday night that internal-affairs officers contacted him and his girlfriend, Vanessa Shaver. He said they were 2 feet from DeHerrera and saw an officer wrestle DeHerrera to the ground at 15th and Larimer streets.

"He did not do anything aggressive at all," Aoutabachai said of DeHerrera. "I know that for a fact. He was standing there not moving an inch, and he just got slammed to the ground like a rag doll."

Aoutabachai said he heard DeHerrera repeatedly yelling that he was not resisting arrest as the police officer pummeled him.

"He was just getting the (expletive) beat out of him," Aoutabachai recalled.

"I am completely ecstatic," DeHerrera told 9News on Thursday night. "I can't believe that the witnesses

Eric Brown, spokesman for Mayor John Hickenlooper, said in an e-mail that "the mayor completely supports police pursuing all leads and interviewing all witnesses in a case."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Latino leaders, Denver safety manager to examine beating - The Denver Post

Latino leaders, Denver safety manager to examine beating - The Denver Post

Latino leaders plan to tell Denver's new safety manager in a face-to-face meeting today that they fear he is taking a major step backward in oversight of the city's police force.

Prominent Latinos asked for the meeting following Safety Manager Ron Perea's decision to keep on the force two officers accused of covering up the beating of a 23-year-old Latino.

Concern over Perea's decision became so intense that it disrupted the conclusion of a reception Tuesday at Su Teatro honoring Perea's recent hiring. After the reception, which also honored the recent appointments of Tony Lopez as the new commander of Police District 6 and John Lucero as the city's deputy director of economic development, several people confronted Perea and demanded a meeting.

"People are extremely concerned that this could diminish police/community relationships," said Councilwoman Judy Montero, who will attend today's meeting. "People have worked so long, for decades, building trust within the community and the Police Department, and so folks felt it was appropriate to meet with the manager and express concern about his decision."

Perea, a Latino, docked the officers three days' pay each for filing inaccurate reports. He decided excessive force was not used even though video showed the man getting tackled to the ground and beaten for doing nothing but talking on a cellphone.

Perea, who said he believed the officers feared the man was going to throw a punch, said he will listen to the concerns during today's meeting, "and I'll respond accordingly."

News of today's 1 p.m. meeting quickly circulated among Latino activists, neighborhood groups and e-mail lists.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Son's beating by Denver police stuns Pueblo sheriff's deputy - The Denver Post

Son's beating by Denver police stuns Pueblo sheriff's deputy - The Denver Post

For 22 years, Anthony DeHerrera wore his law-enforcement uniform with pride.

The last thing the Pueblo sheriff's deputy ever thought he would have to do is spend a year and a half seeking justice on behalf of his son who was beaten by Denver Police officers.

He wants them to pay for what the videotape of their actions shows.

"If they were Joe Q citizens, they would be in jail," he says.

He says that what drives him are the memories of the sounds that came over the cell phone his son held that night.

The thuds. The sirens.

The words he heard in the background: "They're recording us. We've got to get rid of the phone."

And then the silence as the phone line connecting father to son

went dead.

DeHerrera, 45, a decorated veteran deputy, talked in an interview Tuesday about his memories of that April 4, 2009 night when his son Michael, then 23, called him in a panic.

He woke from a deep sleep to answer the telephone. He heard his son crying out: "Dad, they're beating Shawn. They're beating Shawn."

Officers had taken Michael's friend, Shawn Johnson, then 24, into custody after he was ejected from a LoDo nightclub for using a women's restroom.

The police officers have declined comment, but the police union is backing the decision by Safety Manger Ron Perea, who oversees the police department, to keep Officer Devin Sparks and Cpl. Randy Murr on the force but dock them each three days pay.

Union officials say Mayor John Hickenlooper's Monday decision to have the FBI review the actions of the officers is politically motivated. They are fighting the push for the firing of the officers by Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal, who reviews investigations into alleged police misconduct.

"This is a case where elected officials are using the media for political grandstanding," said Vince Gravito, vice president of the Police Protective Association.

A videotape taken

on the police department's own High Activity Location Observation surveillance system, released publicly last week, captures Michael as he made a telephone call to his father at 12:14 a.m. that night.

Then the video shows Sparks approaching Michael, tackling him to the ground and then repeatedly beating him with a department-issued sap, a piece of metal wrapped in leather. The officer then roughly picks him up and puts him in the back of a squad car, slamming the door on his shin.

But the night of the telephone call, the father knew none of this. He didn't even know where to go to check on his son. He only had his law-enforcement instincts and the knowledge that his son was in deep trouble.

Carroll: Denver's psychic safety czar - The Denver Post

Carroll: Denver's psychic safety czar - The Denver Post

John Hickenlooper must be wondering how he happened to appoint a psychic as Denver's manager of safety. When the mayor brought Ron Perea on board this summer, he seemed like a no-nonsense veteran of the Secret Service, a practical fellow who would carry on the disciplinary reforms of now-retired Al LaCabe.

Who knew Perea dabbled in mind-reading? Or that he would use this skill to justify a wrist slap for two cops who almost certainly lied in official reports to justify the takedown and sapping of a man they arrested?

No wonder Hickenlooper has asked the FBI to review the case. You would, too, if your longtime efforts to set a higher bar on police discipline were jeopardized by your new safety manager's first high-profile decision.

Perea acknowledges "inaccuracies" in both officers' reports of an arrest they made outside a LoDo nightclub. But Perea says he "personally views(s) the inconsistencies more as misperceptions" that do not rise to the level of "departing from the truth."

The officers may have told a cock-and-bull story, in other words, but please don't question their honesty. They basically meant what they said, Perea concludes.

It was a mere misperception for Officer Devin Sparks to believe that Michael DeHerrera "was about 1 foot away" and refused "numerous times to get back" before being arrested, even though that wasn't the case.

It was another misperception for Sparks to say DeHerrera "made a fist and spun to his left attempting to strike me in the face with a closed right fist," even though DeHerrera did no such thing.

And it was equally a misperception for Officer Randy Murr to assert repeatedly that DeHerrera attempted to strike Sparks, even though a police surveillance camera demonstrates clearly that he did not.

These misperceptions were not deliberate lies, in the psychic Perea's opinion, in part because the officers had to write their reports "immediately after the occurrence, without the benefit of reviewing a video multiple times and slowing it down."

If an officer's report matches the reality recorded on video, he's obviously telling the truth. But if his report fails to match the recording, he's also telling the truth, under Perea's standard, because he didn't have a chance to review the video first. Talk about a win-win!

Memory does, of course, play tricks on us all, and perhaps especially when it involves events occurring on a rapid-fire clock. But the reason Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal called for the officers to be fired is their accounts strayed from reality not just on details but on core facts. You may not agree with Rosenthal's recommendation, but docking them just three days' pay for false reports and unnecessary force is equivalent to a finger-wagging.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hickenlooper seeks FBI review into police beating - The Denver Post

Hickenlooper seeks FBI review into police beating - The Denver Post

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper on Monday moved to have the FBI review the actions of police officers accused of covering up the beating of a 23-year-old man outside a LoDo nightclub.

"To help ensure justice is appropriately served, the city has requested the FBI review this case in its entirety," the mayor said in a prepared statement.

The city's video of the beating appeared on national news broadcasts Monday and went viral on the Internet following local reports over the weekend.

The video, from a surveillance camera, shows Michael DeHerrera doing nothing but talking on a cell phone when Officer Devin Sparks takes him down, face first to the ground, and begins hitting him with a department-issued device called a SAP, a piece of metal wrapped in leather.

Hickenlooper met with Ron Perea, his new safety manager, and asked for the FBI review of the April 4, 2009 incident.

"The mayor asked if I would have an issue with it," Perea said. "I welcome the transparency, and I welcome the FBI looking at the case in its entirety and totality, the way I reviewed it."

Perea decided the beating was not excessive, but found that the officers filed inaccurate reports about it. Rather than fire them, however, he docked them three days pay, prompting an objection from independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal. Rosenthal, who monitors investigations into allegations of police wrongdoing, has said Sparks and Cpl. Randy Murr should be fired for lying about what happened.

The officers claimed that DeHerrera was the aggressor, and that DeHerrera tried to hit Sparks. The video does not show that.

Perea said he will turn over the entire internal affairs investigation over to the FBI for review.

Doctor faces four charges in marijuana sting - The Denver Post

Doctor faces four charges in marijuana sting - The Denver Post

An Aurora doctor whom police accuse of writing fraudulent medical-marijuana recommendations has been charged with four felony counts.

Manuel Aquino-Villaman faces two counts each of forgery of a government document and of attempting to influence a public servant. Aquino-Villaman was not, however, charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Conspiracy was listed as a possible charge on Aquino-Villaman's arrest booking sheet, but Arapahoe County District Attorney's spokeswoman Casimir Spencer contended that police didn't mention it when prosecutors debated which charges to formally file.

Aquino-Villaman was arrested in July after he wrote medical-marijuana recommendations for two undercover Aurora officers, citing pain as their qualifying condition. The officers told the doctor about vehicular accidents they were involved in but never mentioned being in pain, according to police.

Alaska inmate found dead in Weld County prison - The Denver Post

Alaska inmate found dead in Weld County prison - The Denver Post

Authorities from a number of agencies are investigating the death of an inmate from Alaska who was found unresponsive in his cell at Hudson Correctional Facility in Weld County Sunday morning.

Wesley Shandy, 44, of Ninilchik was serving a 19-year sentence for manslaughter in the death of his fiancee, felony drunken driving and witness tampering.

Hudson Correctional houses a number of Alaskan prisoners at the 1,250-bed medium security private prison operated by GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla.

The company released a statement this afternoon.

"The Hudson Correctional Facility is cooperating fully with the Alaska Department of Corrections, the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation," according to the statement.

A company spokesman citing the investigation said by e-mail he could not comment further.

Shandy's fiance, Roxanne Herndon, was killed in November 2005 — the day they announced their engagement — when he drove a four-wheeler with her aboard into the Ninilchik River. She fell off and drowned, according to the Homer News.

Prosecutors said Shandy urged witnesses to say Herndon was driving the four-wheeler.

Shandy's previous criminal record included the 1989 beating and suffocation death of a drug dealer in Redmond, Wash., according to the Anchorage Daily News.

He also had been convicted of domestic-violence assault, shoplifting, two other DUIs and, at the time of his last arrest, was on parole for unemployment benefits fraud.

"Just fate, just bad luck, just an accident — it's not that," Superior Court Judge Donald Hopwood of Homer said at Shandy's sentencing in January 2009, according to the Homer News.

Hopwood told Shandy another conviction after his release could mean a life sentence.

"You don't have to live a life in the criminal justice system," Hopwood said. "I just hope that you make decisions in the future that are more thoughtful."

Support comes from surprising places for ex-CU player - The Denver Post

Support comes from surprising places for ex-CU player - The Denver Post

PUEBLO — Former University of Colorado starting quarterback Bernard Jackson understands that a two-word summary hangs over him, follows him around, perhaps is unshakable.
As he prepares to play NCAA Division II football for the Colorado State-Pueblo ThunderWolves this season, Jackson is a "convicted felon," out of jail for less than a year and on probation until late 2014.
Jackson and former CU teammate Lionel Harris were convicted on felony charges of second-degree burglary and menacing in January 2009 in connection with a Boulder apartment robbery of victims whom authorities characterized as small-time drug dealers.
"I know what happens," Jackson, 25, said. "People think someone is a good guy at first, then

they hear details and they pull back. They hear something and it's, 'Oh, he is?' and they pull away. I understand why they would feel the way they do about me.
"I definitely want people to know that my heart and my intentions are where they should be. My thing now is to continue to prove people wrong. My goal is to get my degree and to change one person's life, no matter how that might be. That's something I take very seriously, and I know I made a mistake and I wouldn't want anybody to go down the road I took."
Jackson, a sociology major, said he is about 30 hours short of graduating. He is in Pueblo in part because of support he received from Broncos offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus and other former CU teammates, as well as from former CU coach Gary Barnett and CSU-Pueblo coach John Wristen and his staff.
Wristen was on Barnett's CU staff for the 1999-2005 seasons, so he knew Jackson well. As others spoke up for Jackson, lobbying Wristen to bring him on, the coach's major misgiving was that some people might interpret doing so as only a means to get a former Big 12 Conference starter into a program being built from the ground up. But Wristen decided that the important people involved, including the man he
saw in the mirror while shaving, knew his motives.
"I really felt like not everybody deserves a second chance, but Bernard Jackson deserves a second chance," Wristen said. "In his heart, I believe he's a good kid. He understands that he made a mistake, he's owned up to it, he's paid his dues to society."
Jackson moved to Pueblo in July. He's living in an apartment at the edge of campus. He has not played a down of football in nearly four years. So, ask Jackson and Wristen about whether the former CU quarterback can be a productive college football player this fall, even at Division II, and neither is certain.
Click to read the whole article.

Several Colo. cities put medical-marijuana question to voters - The Denver Post

Several Colo. cities put medical-marijuana question to voters - The Denver Post

LOVELAND — While several Colorado cities and towns have already banned or restricted medical-marijuana businesses, others will ask voters in November if they want pot dispensaries in their communities.

It's the type of do-or-die situation Tom Wilczynski has craved.

"Up until now, we've kept a low profile," said Wilczynski, the 47-year-old co-owner of Cannabis Care & Wellness Center. "But now we have an opportunity to show the community we are a legitimate business that truly helps people."

Wilczynski and the owners of 12 other dispensaries in Loveland have until Nov. 2 to persuade voters not to shut them down.

At least three other municipalities in Colorado have placed the same question on their November ballot, including Granby, where voters will face two medical-marijuana decisions on the same ballot.

They'll be asked to decide "no" or "yes" on dispensaries. If they vote "yes," then they will be asked if a 5 percent sales tax should be imposed on pot sales.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Warden, chief of security at escapees' prison resign

Warden, chief of security at escapees' prison resign

The warden and chief of security at the Kingman prison where three prisoners escaped last month have resigned.

A spokesman for the private prison confirmed Saturday that Warden Lori Lieder and her chief of security, who he didn't name, resigned earlier this week.

Carl Stuart, a spokesman for Management and Training Corp., based in Centerville, Utah which operates the medium security prison, said he couldn't provide additional information.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to search for escaped Arizona prison inmate John McCluskey and accomplice Casslyn Welch. They are suspected to be in western Montana, near the Canadian border, according to the US Marshals Service.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Denver officials clash over police discipline after brutal video released - The Denver Post

Denver officials clash over police discipline after brutal video released - The Denver Post

Denver officials are deeply divided over the proper level of punishment for a police officer who was seen on video tackling and beating a 23-year-old man who was doing nothing but talking on a telephone outside a LoDo nightclub.

The video of Officer Devin Sparks repeatedly hitting Michael DeHerrera of Denver with a department-issued piece of metal wrapped in leather, picking him up roughly and slamming a car door on his ankle has prompted Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal to push for the firing of Sparks and Corporal Randy Murr.

Rosenthal, who monitors police internal investigations, maintains Sparks and Murr are unfit for the force because they didn't tell the truth about the April 4, 2009 incident. Rosenthal also believes the use of force by Sparks was excessive. The Denver City Council earlier this year agreed to pay $17,500 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by DeHerrera alleging excessive force.

DeHerrera, in interviews, has described police as beating him unconscious. He said he woke up in a hospital bed, with stitches in his head, and a swollen head. He said he later was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.

"The video was so important because it showed everything that happened, regardless of reports or what's filled out," DeHerrera said in an interview. "The video speaks more than any of those words can."

He added: "I don't swing. I don't blade. I'm on the phone. The only thing I hold onto is my phone. When I go down, I'm out, and that's when he continues to 'get my compliance.'"

The incident was filmed by the police department's own High Activity Location Observation video surveillance system. Video released to the news media by the department shows DeHerrera doing nothing but talking on his phone with his father, a sheriff's deputy in Pueblo.

Rosenthal, in a report to be released on Monday, labels as "pure fiction" the police report from Sparks that describes his force as justified because DeHerrera "spun to his left attempting to strike me in the face with a closed right fist."

Safety Manager Ron Perea, who oversees the police department and has final say on discipline, has rejected Rosenthal's argument that the officers should be fired. He suspended Murr without pay for three days for submitting an "inaccurate report." Sparks also lost three days pay.

"The video, when viewed in isolation, seems to portray the subject officers as overly aggressive for the situation," Perea said. "There is no audio and it appears that there is a man on the phone ignoring but not being overtly aggressive towards the officer when the officer takes him down. The video, however, does not tell the entire story."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blogger offers inside look at Mexico's drug war - The Denver Post

Blogger offers inside look at Mexico's drug war - The Denver Post

MEXICO CITY — An anonymous, 20-something blogger is giving Mexicans what they can't get elsewhere — an inside view of their country's raging drug war.

Operating from behind a thick curtain of computer security, Blog del Narco in less than six months has become Mexico's go-to Internet site at a time when mainstream media are feeling pressure and threats to stay away from the story.

Many of the postings on the site, blogdelnarco.com, including warnings and video of a beheading, appear to come directly from drug traffickers. Others depict crime scenes accessible only to military or police.

The undifferentiated content suggests that all sides are using the blog —

drug gangs to project their power, law enforcement to show that it too can play rough, and the public to learn about incidents that the mainstream media are forced to ignore or play down.

In at least one case, Blog del Narco may have led to a major arrest — of a prison warden after a video posting detailed her alleged system of setting inmates free at night to carry out killings for a drug cartel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mississippi's Corrections Reform

Mississippi's Corrections Reform
n January 2002, Margaret Winter, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) National Prison Project, received a letter from Willie Russell, an inmate on Mississippi's death row.

"I am on a hunger strike to the death," the letter began. In highly idiosyncratic language, the letter then described conditions at the facility where death row was housed, Unit 32.

Unit 32 was one of seven prisons located on Mississippi's fabled penal institution, Parchman Farm. As described by Russell, it was also a lot like hell. Inmates were locked in permanent solitary confinement. In the summer, the cells were ovens, with no fans or air circulation. Russell's was even worse: He was in a special "punishment" cell with a solid, unvented Plexiglas door. The cells were also sewers, thanks to a design flaw in cellblock toilets that often flushed excrement from one cell into the next. Prisoners were allowed outside -- to pace or sit alone in metal cages -- just two or three times a week. Inside was a perpetual dusk: One always-on light fixture provided inadequate light for reading but enough light to make it hard to sleep.

Then there were the bugs. The only way to avoid being eaten alive, Russell wrote, was to wrap himself in clothes like a mummy, which made the brutal Delta heat even more unbearable. Worst of all, though, was the noise. Psychotic inmates screamed through the night. Conditions were so bad, Russell continued, that some dozen-odd other inmates -- about one-quarter of Mississippi's death row population -- had also joined the hunger strike.

"I had heard this sort of thing before," Winter says, "but I was gripped by the power of this letter. It was like something out of the Book of Genesis. It had a biblical grandeur to it. And I believed it." Winter hurriedly arranged a trip to Parchman Farm, where she met her correspondent for the first time. He was a giant of a man -- 6 feet 8 inches tall, 250 pounds. Though he was handcuffed, shackled, belly-chained and dressed in the distinctive, solid red jump suits worn by death row inmates, he clearly was a proud man, "fantastically imposing." But he already was visibly wasted by the hunger strike. His skin was ashen, his eyes bluish and dry.

"He didn't want false hope," she recalls. "He said he would stop if I would give him a solemn assurance that we could make changes -- significant changes. He didn't want to be strung along." He'd rather die now instead.

Winter told him that if she could corroborate what he was saying, she felt certain they could change conditions such that he would want to continue living and fighting his death sentence. Russell accepted the offer and agreed to end the hunger strike. Seven months later, in July 2002, the ACLU filed suit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) on behalf of Russell, five other inmates and those similarly situated. The ACLU alleged that "defendants knowingly subject the death row prisoners to barbaric and inhumane conditions, which wantonly inflict unnecessary pain and constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and 14th amendments to the Constitution of the United States."

But where Winter saw a noble giant, Parchman Farm staff saw the 41-year-old Russell as something else -- a murderer with a history of violent crime. In 1987, while serving an armed robbery sentence, Russell was sent to a Jackson, Miss., hospital for medical care. Once there, he kidnapped a guard and escaped, leading police on a high-speed chase that ended with a crash. He was sent to Unit 24 at Parchman Farm, a medium-security prison. Two years later, Russell broke out of his cell and killed a prison guard with a homemade shank. For that, a jury sent Russell to death row. In 2000, Russell shot at a prison guard with a homemade "zip gun." Not surprisingly, prison officials had little sympathy for him.

Many of the measures Russell decried were there (or not there) for a reason. Plexiglas on the cell doors was necessary to prevent inmates from flinging feces and urine at prison guards. Screens were missing because inmates used them to make shanks.

Kin demand access to video of jail death - The Denver Post

Kin demand access to video of jail death - The Denver Post

Family members of a man who died last month in the new Denver jail pressed their case Wednesday that city officials should release video of his last moments alive.

"All we wanted to do is heal," said the Rev. Spencer Booker, the brother of 56-year-old Marvin Booker, who died at the new Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility on July 9.

Several family members made a "pilgrimage" from Tennessee and Kansas to Denver this week hoping to see video of Marvin Booker's last moments, Spencer Booker said at a news conference Wednesday morning at the jail, 490 W. Colfax Ave.

There is no legally sound reason not to release video of Marvin Booker's death, attorney Darold Killmer said.

"This isn't a legal issue," Killmer said. "It's an issue of humanity. This family practically begged to see the last few minutes of Marvin's life. This city is giving this family a big kick in the stomach."

Witnesses have said that Booker was trying to retrieve his shoes when he was ordered into a holding cell. When he refused and pushed a corrections officer, he was restrained by several deputies and shocked with a Taser.

He was later placed face-down in the holding cell, according to two inmates who watched the incident unfold.

Booker was a homeless ordained minister who served the poor but also was a habitual criminal with a long string of arrests.

The Denver coroner's office is awaiting test results before completing the autopsy report and determining how Booker died, said Michelle Weiss-Samaras, spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mexican Presidents Talk About Drug Legalization

Stop The Drug War
Last Tuesday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon briefly opened the door to drug legalization, saying it was something that needed to be discussed, only to clarify in a press release hours later that he remained opposed to legalization. Now, Calderon's predecessor, former President Vicente Fox, has stepped up to call forthrightly for legalization.

The discussion comes as Mexico staggers through the fourth year of Calderon's war on the so-called drug cartels. Despite deploying nearly 50,000 soldiers and federal police in the fight, violence has only increased, with the death toll rising year after year. And the drug trade goes on, seemingly unimpeded by the campaign.

Fox's call came in a Saturday blog post in which the ex-president cited the "enormous cost" of fighting organized crime, beginning with the more than 28,000 people the government admitted last week had been killed in prohibition-related violence since Calderon came to power in December 2006. He also cited the cost of corruption among law enforcement and public officials, the loss of tourism, and the threat to foreign investment.

Race Factor in Death Sentences

Huffington Post
The release last week of a study conducted by two law professors at Michigan State University College of Law has reignited the debate over the question of what role race plays in North Carolina when defendants are facing a death sentence. After examining 5,800 cases in North Carolina that were eligible for the death penalty from 1990 through 2009, the study concluded that a defendant in North Carolina is 2.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death if at least one of the victims is white. Moreover, the study found that more than 40 percent of defendants on North Carolina's death row were sentenced to death by a jury that was either all-white or included only one person of color. It was also determined by researchers that, during the jury selection process, prosecutors statewide struck qualified blacks from the potential jury pool at more than twice the rate of whites.
Five death row inmates in North Carolina are challenging their sentences based largely on these findings.
The study underscores the importance of the one-year old N.C. Racial Justice Act which allows inmates the chance to challenge their death sentences if they believe race was a factor in their sentencing. This ground-breaking legislation was adopted to counteract the racial disparities in death sentencing which have been observed by capital defenders and death penalty litigation organizations for decades. While critics may try to argue that the study ignores such factors as the specific circumstances of the crime and a defendant's criminal record, it is undeniable that prosecutors in the Murrell case in Forsyth County eliminated 80 percent of qualified black jurors and only 26 percent of the of qualified white jurors. A similar study conducted by a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder last month concluded that someone accused of killing a white person in North Carolina was nearly three times as likely to get the death penalty as someone accused of killing a black person.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Colorado finally has a new U.S. Attorney - The Denver Post

Colorado finally has a new U.S. Attorney - The Denver Post

Denver lawyer John F. Walsh was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Thursday night to become Colorado's next U.S. Attorney.

Walsh, 49, must be formally sworn in before he takes office.

The confirmation came just hours before the Senate adjourned for the August recess. Walsh, who had bipartisan support, waited four months for the full Senate to agree to his confirmation.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet recommended Walsh for the job and President Barack Obama nominated him in April.

"I am honored to have been confirmed by the Senate to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, and am grateful for the opportunity to return to public service in that role," Walsh said in a statement. "I look forward to starting work soon with the dedicated team at the U.S. Attorney's Office, and with federal, state and local law enforcement throughout Colorado."

Obama had originally nominated Gov. Bill Ritter's former deputy chief of staff Stephanie Villafuerte but she pulled out of the running citing "political attacks" related to her role in the 2006 Colorado gubernatorial campaign.

Walsh grew up in Englewood and attended Stanford Law School. In 1987, Walsh began working as an assistant federal prosecutor in Los Angeles focusing on white collar crime. By 1993, Walsh was chief prosecutor of the major-frauds section.

Walsh came back to Colorado in 1995 and joined the firm Holland & Hart. In 1999 he moved to Hill & Robbins handling complex federal litigation, including cases concentrating in the antitrust, securities and environmental fields.

The Colorado U.S. Attorney's Office is currently headed by David Gaouette who has worked there for more than 20 years.

Gaouette took over after former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid stepped down to work in private practice in January 2009.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Linkhart leads the charge against $25 million jail expansion

At 2 p.m. today, Denver City Council members will be voting on a 384-bed expansion of the Smith Road jail, a bond-fueled construction contract worth about $25 million.
But expect at least one strongly dissenting vote from Councilman Doug Linkhart.

Over the past few months, Linkhart has bee beating a steady drum opposing the expansion. The former state lawmaker contends that the city's economy -- and the economics of crime control -- have changed dramatically since the project was first greenlighted five years ago.
The jail expansion was part of a bond package voters approved in 2005; it also included the funds to build the new downtown jail and courthouse. Efforts to relieve dangerous overcrowding in city jail facilities had been stymied for years before the measure finally slipped through, back in the salad days of Mayor John Hickenlooper's first term.
But during the years since, Denver's jail population has actually declined -- from an average daily population of 2,485 inmates in early 2006 to 2,077 inmates in the first quarter of 2010. The Smith Road expansion, when combined with the newly opened Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center downtown, would give the city a capacity of 2,750 jail beds. That's approximately a third more than are currently needed.
Like all turnkeys with a surplus of empty cells, the Denver Sheriff's Department doesn't see a problem here. Officials argue that they can always lease out the extra space to the feds (ICE or the Bureau of Prisons), the state prison system, whatever. And Mayor Hickenlooper is pushing the plan. But Linkhart believes the expansion is an ill-timed expense the city doesn't need, and that the money could be better spent in re-entry programs that would help reduce jail capacity further by getting chronically homeless and mentally ill offenders out of the system.
Do other council members buy into Linkhart's argument -- enough, anyway, to buck Hizzoner? We'll find out soon. For more of the councilman's dissent on the issue, see his rallying message below:

"Some disappointing news to those who have been involved in the debate about whether to build more jail space at Smith Road: the Mayor has decided to move forward with the new facility despite a lack of need for the space and a lack of a solid plan for how to use the space. The contract for the new building will be presented to City Council's Health & Safety Committee Tuesday morning. Denver's jail currently has 433 more beds than the average daily count of inmates for 2010 YTD. With the new building we will have 689 more beds than we need. With this additional building, we will have 33% extra capacity in a system that already houses too many people who are simply homeless, mentally ill or substance abusers.
The new jail building will cost the city over $5 million/year to operate at a time when our budget is already $100 million/year short. The notion of renting the beds to the federal or state governments has not been backed by any commitments or proof of feasibility.
Some of us had begun meeting with the Mayor's office and Sheriff's Department to see if there might be ways to use the new building for reentry programs by finding other savings at the Smith Road facility to fund these programs. The Mayor's office now says that any such savings would go toward our budget shortfall.
I am hopeful that my Council colleagues will join me in voting against this contract. I will be asking for a public hearing if the contract reaches the full Council, which would probably be in late August. In the meantime, please feel free to contact any of us about your position."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Talks on contract for new Denver jail annex locked up in committee - The Denver Post

Talks on contract for new Denver jail annex locked up in committee - The Denver Post

Denver City Council members deadlocked Tuesday over whether to move forward on a $22.5 million contract for a new 256-bed jail annex, with debate intense on whether the facility was a waste of money or a necessary step in protecting the public.

With council members at loggerheads, the proposal remained stalled, at least for now, in the council's Health, Safety, Education & Services Committee. The issue will return to that committee Aug. 17 for another discussion.

Councilman Doug Linkhart, the leading opponent of the project, said that during those two weeks, he will continue to try to forge a compromise with Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Linkhart argues that the project at Smith Road is not needed and that the jail system already has adequate capacity to handle future growth in jail populations.

"We can't afford it," Linkhart said. "We don't need it, and there are better alternatives."

Jail officials are equally adamant that the new annex is needed to ensure there is sufficient space to absorb future growth in inmate populations. Those officials also say the current jail space the annex would replace is dangerous, and that new construction is needed to support the type of innovative, rehabilitation programming sought by Linkhart.

The plans at Smith Road were approved by voters as part of a $373 million justice- center package that also authorized a new courthouse and downtown jail along with the annex. Corrections officials plan to tear down seven buildings at the Smith Road location that they view as antiquated and construct the annex, build a new parking lot and improve landscaping.

The council committee deadlocked over whether to move the proposal forward. Council President Chris Nevitt, Carol Boigon and committee co-chairwoman Marcia Johnson supported moving the issue to the full council for final approval. But Linkhart attracted the support of the other committee members — committee co-chairman Paul Lopez and Judy Montero — in his bid for the two-week delay.

Linkhart said that if the committee remains deadlocked, he'll push for a six-month delay.

The Hickenlooper administration still could choose to formally submit the contract with FCI Constructors Inc. to the council. If the council does not reject the contract within 30 days after such a submittal, the contract would go into effect. A council member also can move the contract forward to the full council without the blessing of the committee, but council members tend to avoid such moves.

ACLU sues Boulder County to ease curbs on prisoners' letters - The Denver Post

ACLU sues Boulder County to ease curbs on prisoners' letters - The Denver Post

Ever since a couple of inmates accused of sexual assault sent letters from the Boulder County jail to underage girls, jail officials decided to change their policy on prisoner correspondence.

Since March, inmates may no longer send enveloped letters out of the jail except legal mail to their attorneys or mail that is deemed official business — such as banking or medical correspondence, said Cmdr. Bruce Haas.

Otherwise, prisoners may only send a single 9-by-5 1/2-inch postcard, which can be read by anyone who sees it.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a federal lawsuit against Boulder County on behalf of five prisoners who say their free-speech rights are being violated.

"Gay prisoners have been chilled from expressing themselves when writing to their intimate partners," the lawsuit says. "Prisoners with HIV or hepatitis C have been chilled from corresponding with medical personnel or with family members or intimate associates about their medical conditions."

The lawsuit also says inmates who normally communicate through drawings or cartoons are unable to send art on the postcards. The policy prevents inmates from privately communicating with religious leaders, such as priests or imams, the suit says.

"When children may have access to the mailbox, parents are chilled from communicating with their spouses about marital problems, child-raising issues, and other matters they do not wish to disclose to their children," the suit says.

Haas said if inmates need to communicate with the media or send sensitive information that requires privacy, it can be considered "official mail" and won't fall under the postcard policy.

"It is not our intent to circumvent the inmates' ability to correspond," Haas said. "It is our way to control third-party mailings."

Boulder County is not the only jurisdiction using postcard mailings in jails. The idea to implement the policy came from the Pacific Northwest, Haas said, and he expects other jails in Colorado will adopt similar policies for public-safety reasons.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Parents: End the War on Drugs -- for Your Kids | Drugs | AlterNet

Parents: End the War on Drugs -- for Your Kids | Drugs | AlterNet

It's time for parents to say enough is enough. We are smarter, more educated than we used to be. We see what works and what doesn't - and the war on drugs just doesn't work.
As a person in long-term recovery and a drug treatment professional, I know a thing or two about drugs, addiction and the drug war. As a mother and a grandmother, I know more than I care to about how all of those things affect families - including my own. Addiction is a particularly painful health issue for any family to struggle with. Like most other chronic health conditions, like cancer and diabetes, it can be treated and managed. But unlike other chronic health conditions, our government is at war with it.

The sad truth is that the war on drugs is a war on people, and they can be people you love.

Twenty five years ago I was lucky enough to find sustained recovery after struggling with my own addiction. Now I'm a grandmother of seven and am watching my youngest son struggle with his own addiction. I am hopeful that he will find recovery as I have. Until then, he struggles against decades of stigma and harmful policies. We aren't just battling addiction; we're battling the barbaric policies that continue to criminalize this medical disorder that I share with my son - and tens of thousands of other Californians. In tight economic times, it's getting harder and harder to find a place where my son can access drug treatment.

Why is it so hard to find treatment, when - somehow - there always seems to be room in jail? Why, when our state has to cut spending, it cuts drug treatment but not incarceration spending? (Drug treatment costs less than $5,000 per person; a year in prison costs almost $50,000 per person.)

Our government's response to drug addiction has moved in the wrong direction. A century ago addiction once was something handled by one's private doctor and family. By the 1980s, somehow we had decided that people who struggled with drugs, including my younger self and my son, were criminals?

Unfortunately, our drug policies are still stuck in the stone ages of the drug war-crazy 1980s. They have the veneer of compassion, but, in the end, even when you've done no harm to any one else nor posed any significant risk (like by driving under the influence), the criminal justice system will incarcerate you because of your health problem. (click headline to read more)