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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inmate who sued over conditions in '70s dies. - The Denver Post

Inmate who sued over conditions in '70s dies. - The Denver Post

An inmate whose lawsuit led to tens of millions of dollars in improvements in Colorado prison conditions over a span of decades beginning in the 1970s has died.

Fidel Ramos was sent to Denver Health Medical Center with a brain hemorrhage, according to David Miller, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who filed the class- action lawsuit in the late 1970s.

Ramos, who had been held at Sterling Correctional Facility, died Friday night of natural causes, said Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections.

U.S. District Judge John Kane stunned state officials in December 1979 when he ordered prison officials to improve "Old Max" in Cañon City or shut it down.

Read more: Inmate who sued over conditions in '70s dies. - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_16452592#ixzz13f2OY5G8

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

State Supreme Court upholds Riverside County's dismissal of criminal cases - latimes.com

State Supreme Court upholds Riverside County's dismissal of criminal cases - latimes.com\

A shortage of judges in Riverside County has led to the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases, a practice the California Supreme Court upheld on Monday and blamed on the state's budget woes.

In unanimous ruling, the state high court said Riverside County's dearth of judges represented a "chronic" problem that was the fault of the budget-strapped state.

The case before the court involved an accused burglar, one of 18 criminal defendants whose cases were dismissed on the same day after they invoked their rights to speedy trials. Two of the 18 were charged with felonies.

Riverside County Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek said Monday's ruling also would end prosecution for as many as 300 other defendants whose cases were on appeal after being dismissed for lack of judges. But Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Tate said his office would fight to prosecute the most serious of the dismissed cases.

"There are quite a few very serious allegations, some involving dead bodies — vehicular manslaughter, assault on police officer, assault with deadly weapon, crimes against children," said Tate, who argued the case before the Supreme Court.

The judiciary has long insisted that California needs more judges, but nowhere has the shortage been more dramatic than in Riverside County.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for the court, said in Monday's ruling that "the lack of available courtrooms and judges was attributable to the Legislature's failure to provide a number of judges and courtrooms sufficient to meet the rapidly growing population in Riverside County."

Riverside prosecutors challenged the dismissals, arguing that the court should have made every judge in the courthouse, including those in juvenile, family law and probate, available for the cases.

But the state high court said Riverside County already was giving criminal cases priority over civil disputes, and the court was not required to halt proceedings in civil cases to make room for criminal matters.

An absolute rule giving precedence to all criminal cases could force a court "to abandon entirely its responsibility to provide for the fair administration of civil as well as criminal matters," George wrote.

Aging Prison Population Poses Uniques Challenges

Aging inmates often require special care, which drives up the cost of incarceration. NPR's police and prisons correspondent Laura Sullivan and Jonathan Turley, director of the Project on Older Prisons, discuss the options available to prison systems in dealing with thousands of inmates growing old behind bars.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Jennifer Ludden, in Washington.
An elderly man in a wheelchair, a woman who requires dialysis: These probably don't fit your image of the typical prisoner. But as prison rolls grow, so do the ages of inmates. Crime reforms of the 1980s and '90s meant mandatory sentences and reduced parole. That means more people growing infirm and dying in prison, and taking care of them is expensive.
Many states now operate geriatric prisons, some with round-the-clock care. Some are experimenting with early release programs, arguing that a convicted felon may no longer be so dangerous in his 80s or 90s.
Joining us this hour in Studio 3A is Jonathan Turley. He directs the Project for Older Prisons at George Washington University. And also NPR's police and prisons correspondent, Laura Sullivan.
Welcome to you both.
Mr. JONATHAN TURLEY (Director, Project on Older Prisons, George Washington University): Thank you, Jennifer.
LUDDEN: Later in the hour, a Tuesday mini-edition of the Political Junkie. We'll talk with the Republican and Democratic House candidates from Colorado's Fourth District.
But first, aging in prison. We'd like to hear from those of you with direct experience with this issue, in law enforcement, the prison system or families of older inmates. Tell us your story. Should states grant parole to aging inmates?

We begin with Jonathan Turley for an overview here. Tell us: How many people are we talking about?
Mr. TURLEY: Well, there's no single source of data to show us the exact numbers of older prisoners across the country. What we do know is that it's the fastest-growing segment of prison populations.
States are reporting that the number of older prisoners - which are often measured at 50 older. At POPS, we set it at 55 and over. But they are the fastest-growing segment.
To give you an idea of that growth, in Virginia, you have just one prison reporting that they had 900 inmates in 1990, and today, they have 5,000 that would fall into this category. So you have that's just one state.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Smoke and Horrors

NY Times

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s recent chest-thumping against the California ballot initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana underscores how the war on drugs in this country has become a war focused on marijuana, one being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.
According to a report released Friday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project for the Drug Policy Alliance and the N.A.A.C.P. and led by Prof. Harry Levine, a sociologist at the City University of New York: “In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half-a-million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially men.”
For instance, the report says that the City of Los Angeles “arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.”
This imbalance is not specific to California; it exists across the country.
One could justify this on some level if, in fact, young blacks and Hispanics were using marijuana more than young whites, but that isn’t the case. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young white people consistently report higher marijuana use than blacks or Hispanics.
How can such a grotesquely race-biased pattern of arrests exist? Professor Levine paints a sordid picture: young police officers are funneled into low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods where they are encouraged to aggressively stop and frisk young men. And if you look for something, you’ll find it. So they find some of these young people with small amounts of drugs. Then these young people are arrested. The officers will get experience processing arrests and will likely get to file overtime, he says, and the police chiefs will get a measure of productivity from their officers. The young men who were arrested are simply pawns.
Professor Levine has documented an even more devious practice in New York City, where possessing a small amount of marijuana is just a civil violation (so is a speeding ticket), but having it “open to public view” is a misdemeanor.
According to a report he issued in September 2009: “Police typically discovered the marijuana by stopping and searching people, often by tricking and intimidating them into revealing it. When people then took out the marijuana and handed it over, they were arrested and charged with the crime of having marijuana ‘open to public view.’ ”
And these arrests are no minor matter. They can have very serious, lifelong consequences.
For instance, in 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a provision that made people temporarily or permanently ineligible for federal financial aid depending on how many times they had been arrested and convicted of a drug offense. The law took effect in 2000, and since 2006 lawmakers have been working to soften it. But the effect was real and devastating: the people most in need of financial aid were also being the most targeted for marijuana arrests and were therefore the most at risk of being frozen out of higher education. Remember that the next time someone starts spouting statistics comparing the number of black men in prison with the number in college.
The arrests also have consequences for things like housing and employment. In fact, in her fascinating new book, “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander argues that the American justice system is being used to create a permanent “undercaste — a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society” and to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics in the same way that Jim Crow laws were once used to discriminate against blacks.
This wave of arrests is partially financed, either directly or indirectly, by federal programs like the Byrne Formula Grant Program, which was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to rev up the war on drugs. Surprisingly, this program has become the pet project of Democrats, not Republicans.
Whatever his motives, President George W. Bush sought to eliminate the program. Conservative groups backed his proposal, saying the program “has proved to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources.”
But Democrats would have none of it. In the last year of the Bush administration, financing had been reduced to $170 million. In March of that year, 56 senators signed onto a “bipartisan” letter to ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to restore nearly $500 million to the program. Only 15 Republicans signed the letter.
Even candidate Obama promised that he would restore funding to the program.
The 2009 stimulus package presented these Democrats with the opportunity, and they seized it. The legislation, designed by Democrats and signed by President Obama, included $2 billion for Byrne Grants to be awarded by the end of September 2010. That was nearly a 12-fold increase in financing. Whatever the merits of these programs, they are outweighed by the damage being done. Financing prevention is fine. Financing a race-based arrest epidemic is not.

Denver truancy court's careful help leads kids back to classrooms - The Denver Post

Denver truancy court's careful help leads kids back to classrooms - The Denver Post

Denver Magistrate Howard Bartlett had a question for the 15-year-old girl standing behind the lectern in his courtroom during a recent truancy- court hearing.

The girl, who did not want to be identified, missed 40 percent of the 2009-10 school year with unexcused absences and had been sentenced to wear an ankle monitor so officials could track her whereabouts — the most serious consequence handed out in Denver's truancy court.

"Do you have any goals in life?" Bart lett asked.

"No," answered the girl.

"I'm going to order that you think about that," the judge said. "You have to have goals or you are a ship blowing around the ocean without a rudder."

Bartlett ordered the girl to write a paper about her plans, told her she must spend 60 more days with the ankle monitor and asked the Denver Department of Human Services to investigate her family situation and examine whether the girl should be removed to foster care or another placement outside the home.

Twice a month, students ages 6 to 17 whose unexcused school absences are out of control are called into Denver District Court, accused of breaking Colorado's Attendance Law and forced to give officials a chance to help them.

In Denver, a student is truant after at least four unexcused absences in a month or 10 over the course of a school year.

But only students with more than 20 unexcused absences are called to court.

Truancy courts are a last resort for school districts after all school-level interventions have failed.

Predicting dropouts

Today, districts are focusing more on attendance problems as research has shown a clear correlation between students who drop out and the number of unexcused absences they accumulate.

A 2009 Johns Hopkins University study on dropouts in five Colorado districts found half or more of dropouts had 20 or more unexcused absences in the ninth grade.

Districts have set up a variety of truancy-intervention programs, including the taxpayer- supported specialists in Aurora who work with children who begin to miss too much school and mediation-support groups in Denver for families to fix problems before going to court.

The last resort is hauling the student and the parents in front of a magistrate. But often that is a scared-straight solution, said attorney Matt Ratterman, who handles truancy cases for Littleton and Englewood schools.

"It's a level of seriousness that for some families gets them to pay attention to what they are doing," he said.

Students can face mandatory drug and alcohol screening, community service or up to 45 days of incarceration in a juvenile-detention center.

Their parents can even be jailed up to 180 days. In some cases, parents have been ordered to attend school for the entire day with their children.

Read more: Denver truancy court's careful help leads kids back to classrooms - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16425102#ixzz13NN30U5v

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Activist Charged With False Reporting

The Coloradoan

An activist who accused Colorado Attorney General John Suthers of assaulting him at an Oct. 12 political rally has been accused of false reporting to authorities, according to a news release Friday from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

Brighton resident Robert Trucker of Safe Streets Colorado, which supports a controversial ballot measure opposed by Suthers and Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden, said Friday afternoon that he absolutely, unequivocally stands by his story.
"The sheriff in essence poo-pooed the report," he said. "He said it didn't seem to have any merit. It shouldn't be a big surprise it's coming down this way."
Trucker previously said Suthers got physical with him during a conversation regarding Proposition 102 at Loveland's Old Fashioned Political Rally. He said Suthers, who is running for re-election, poked him in the chest and pushed his video camera toward the ground.
Trucker filed his complaint the day after the incident.
Suthers campaign manager Andrew Cole said Suthers is glad that witnesses corroborated his depiction of the events.
"It's sad that these guys had to resort to this kind of behavior to get some media attention for their cause," he said.
Trucker said both Suthers and Sharon Winfree with anti-Proposition 102 group Citizens to Protect Colorado Communities, who witnessed the incident, are bald-faced liars.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bloody Vomit, Medical Neglect and More...

Complaints of substandard health care in the Colorado prison system are nothing new, but a newly filed lawsuit by one inmate, alleging that he was neglected in his cell while vomiting blood for three days, makes for particularly interesting reading.
For one thing, Matt Mallory's federal suit was filed by University of Denver law students led by supervising attorneys Brittany Glidden and Laura Rovner -- the same team that's taking on the state system over treatment of mentally ill inmate Troy Anderson .
Rovner, Glidden and company are also challenging federal prisoner Thomas Silverstein's 26-plus years of solitary confinement.
Mallory's complaint also presents a detailed account of the deadly mix of over-prescribing, misdiagnosing and profound indifference that constitutes medical care in the Colorado Department of Corrections -- and in his version, contributed to a gastrointestinal bleed that was then simply ignored
His attorneys say DOC personnel provided Mallory with "copious amounts" of Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs after a back injury two years ago -- despite a 2005 medical audit that indicated the system was over-prescribing such drugs, with little attention to their side effects, including ulcers and GI damage. When Mallory began vomiting blood in his cell last fall, he claims he was told to "put a wet washcloth on his head" until medical staff could get around to seeing him.
But no doctor ever came. After two days of vomiting, Mallory claims he was "examined" by a nurse "through the small opening in the steel pod door." The nurse told him he could have the swine flu and suggested a liquid diet. (Bloody vomit, Mallory's complaint notes, is not a flu symptom.)
The following day, the complaint continues, Mallory was too weak to go to the cell door to get his food. An officer told him, "This place isn't like Burger King where you can have it your way." Mallory collapsed trying to reach his food -- and ultimately ended up being taken to one hospital, then another, where he was found to have "a massive upper gastrointestinal bleed secondary to duodenal ulcer, profound anemia, and hypovolemic seizures."

Medical-marijuana grower busted by DEA pleads guilty - The Denver Post

Medical-marijuana grower busted by DEA pleads guilty - The Denver Post

Christopher Bartkowicz walked out of a federal courtroom in handcuffs Thursday after pleading guilty to drug charges stemming from a raid on his medical-marijuana-growing operation.

In what is believed to be the first federal conviction of a medical-marijuana grower in Colorado, Bartkowicz, 37, pleaded guilty to three counts related to the operation, which he ran from his Highlands Ranch home and showed to a television news crew just before his arrest.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, Bartkowicz is expected to receive five years in prison and a fine when he is sentenced. If the judge does not accept that sentence, Bartkowicz can change his plea again and go to trial.

"That sentence is appropriate and proportionate given the circumstances of this specific crime," U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement following the hearing.

Bartkowicz did not comment when entering the federal courthouse before the hearing but said he would make a statement once the hearing was over. However, Judge Philip Brimmer, at the prosecution's urging, ordered Bartkowicz to be detained at the end of the hearing.

Bartkowicz's attorney, Joseph Saint-Veltri, protested, saying immediate detention wasn't part of the agreement and suggesting the prosecution had ulterior motives for Bartkowicz's detention. Afterward, Saint-Veltri declined to comment other than to hint that Bartkowicz's statement to the media wouldn't have been kind to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Read more: Medical-marijuana grower busted by DEA pleads guilty - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_16402868#ixzz135y1fWlZ

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Colorado OKs medical-pot help for poor - The Denver Post

Colorado OKs medical-pot help for poor - The Denver Post

The Colorado State Board of Health on Wednesday approved a program through which poor medical-marijuana patients can apply to the state registry for free and not have to pay sales tax on their cannabis purchases.

But the standard the board approved for determining who is poor enough to qualify for the program upset medical-marijuana advocates, who said some indigent patients will still be stuck with a bill. And even some board members expressed frustration that the health department — which has received millions of dollars in application fees since the medical-marijuana program began — couldn't put together a program that includes more patients.

"I just think with however many millions of dollars, we could have done a better job," said board member Joelle Riddle.

The program was prompted by a bill passed in the legislature this year telling the health department to come up with a way for indigent patients to avoid paying the $90 fee when they apply to the state's medical-marijuana registry. Patients who qualify also will receive a special mark on their registry cards that shows they don't have to pay sales tax.

To determine who qualifies, the department decided to rely on other measures of indigence, such as whether the patient receives Supplemental Security Income or food stamps. Ann Hause, the department's director of legal and regulatory affairs, said the health department doesn't have the staffing to do unique evaluations of patients.

"We thought we needed to start somewhere, and this is where we decided to start," she said.

But medical-marijuana advocates said the standard misses some poor patients, including those who receive Social Security disability payments, veterans and others.

Damien LaGoy, a medical-marijuana patient with HIV, said he makes $14 a month too much to qualify for the necessary programs to receive a fee waiver. Each month, LaGoy said, rent, food, health and marijuana payments leave him with too little money left over to afford the application fee.

"In two days, my license expires," LaGoy told the State Board of Health. "I don't have the $90. I have $1.15 in my bank."

The board, on a split voice vote, approved the department's proposal but vowed to revisit the issue to see whether the standards should be expanded.

Read more: Colorado OKs medical-pot help for poor - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_16392197#ixzz12zrWzERv

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DU law clinic sues Colorado Dept. of Corrections - The Denver Post

DU law clinic sues Colorado Dept. of Corrections - The Denver Post

The University of Denver Law Clinic filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Colorado Department of Corrections, alleging a prison failed to give adequate medical care to an inmate who vomited blood for days.

The suit claims Matthew Mallory, 29, of Lochbuie did not see a doctor for four days and was "subjected to cruel and unusual punishment" in October 2009 when he was jailed at Centennial Correctional Facility in Cañon City.

"After days of suffering, Matt collapsed to the concrete floor of his pod after an officer refused to help him get his food. Matt had to undergo an emergency procedure to repair a hole in his intestines the size of a quarter," according to a press release from the university.

He was hospitalized for 10 days.

Mallory served five years in prison for car theft, trespassing and receiving stolen goods from November 2005 to April 2010, when he was released on parole, according to court records.

The suit against the prison system and its administrators seeks an unspecified amount of money for compensatory and punitive damages.

The case was brought by Anika Sjoholm and Dorothy Whitehead, students at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, who are supervised by attorneys Brittany Glidden and Laura Rovner.

Read more: DU law clinic sues Colorado Dept. of Corrections - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16390357#ixzz12xNnZpWB

Proposition102 Profits Bail Industry

Opinion Coloradoan

Out-of-state special interests promoting Proposition 102 want even more money from Coloradoans. Proposition 102 will lead to higher jail populations, which means more tax dollars to house defendants, charged but not yet convicted who would be required to buy their way from jail. Statements by Proposition 102 supporters are untrue — misleading Colorado voters.

They are selling it as “Safe Streets Colorado,” but it’s quite the opposite. Pretrial programs contribute to public safety by supervising and monitoring appropriate defendants in the community. Proposition 102 doesn’t make communities safe; it just requires every defendant supervised by pretrial services to buy their way out of jail by paying the bail bondsman a non-refundable fee. If risk assessment determines a defendant is too great a threat to society, they should be held without bail.
The bail industry only cares that the defendant shows up for court so they don’t have to pony up the promised bail, not what risks may be posed to the community. Proposition 102 actually allows a defendant accused of a violent crime to be released on a non-monetary bond — as long as they don’t have any supervision by a professional pretrial program!

Prop 102 Compromises the Judicial System - Letter to the Editor

This is the time for letters to the Editor to be submitted. 

Dear Editor:

This election brings some very interesting choices for Colorado. None leads with fear more that Proposition 102 promoted by Safe Streets Colorado. The proposition would take from judges the ability to utilize pretrial services programs designed by judicial districts to relieve indigent small offenders of the need to post bond at an un-reimbursable cost of $1,000-plus for a $10,000-plus bond. This will force an impoverished second offender of a minor crime to remain in jail at a cost to taxpayers. Or become indentured to a loan company.

The bill was written by the Allegheny Casualty International Fidelity Associated Bond Co. and is backed by Bail USA. It is estimated that it will cost taxpayers $2.8 million a year in unnecessary incarcerations while giving the bond industry a cash cow of small offenders. The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition recommends that we vote “no” on Prop 102.

John Hoffmann


Colo. programs target fastest-growing criminal segment: teen girls - The Denver Post

Colo. programs target fastest-growing criminal segment: teen girls - The Denver Post

Guadalupe Herrera was an eighth-grader at Skyview Middle School, a tough girl with attitude and a gang wardrobe, when she learned another girl was spreading rumors about her. One day, she walked by the girl, who pointed at her and began whispering.

"I said, 'If you've got something to say to me, say it to my face,' " said Guadalupe, who turned and walked away. "I wasn't even 5 feet away from her when she said, 'That psycho border-hopper.'

"It was like a spit in the face," Guadalupe said. "I was born and raised here. I'm just as American as she is. My blood zoomed up. I started shaking."

Guadalupe's violent reaction, which ended with her arrest after pummeling her tormenter on a field outside the school, made her

part of the fastest-growing criminal segment at both the state and federal levels: teenage girls.

"I hit her hard, with everything I had," Guadalupe said. "I was bombing on her."

In Colorado, while overall violent crime by girls has gone down, the number of assaults — such as Guadalupe's fistfight — has gone up about 5 percent a year since 2001, said Lisa Pasko, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Denver.

Pasko has just completed a two-year study of violent middle-school and high-school girls in Colorado's juvenile-justice system, funded by a grant from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, to find out how best to reduce the number of girls in the system and prevent recidivism. The report, scheduled to be presented to the state's Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Task Force on Dec. 1, shows a spike in the number of girls in the system.

Between 2003 and 2006, the commitment rate for girls ages 12 to 17 increased 52 percent, while the detention rate increased 28 percent. Commitment is long-term incarceration, similar to prison, while detention is for shorter terms, like a county jail.

Read more: Colo. programs target fastest-growing criminal segment: teen girls - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16382378#ixzz12u6vcvaw

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Denver police officer arrested as sex assault suspect - The Denver Post

Denver police officer arrested as sex assault suspect - The Denver Post

A Denver police officer has been arrested as a sex assault suspect.

Hector Paez, 31, a patrol officer who worked in District 4, was arrested Monday and is being held at the Douglas County Jail, according to Denver District Attorney's Office media release.

The suspect, who was in uniform and working at the time of the alleged May 16 incident, came in contact with the victim, a 36-year-old woman, and ran a background check on her finding an outstanding arrest warrant out of Jefferson County, said Lynn Kimbrough, a Denver district attorney's spokeswoman.

Paez then allegedly took the woman to an isolated area and coerced her into "performing a sexual act to avoid being taken to jail," the DA's office said.

An investigation by the Denver Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau led to the arrest. Paez will be charged later this week with kidnapping, sexual assault and attempt to influence a public servant, all felonies, prosecutors said.

Paez appeared in Denver County Court this morning at a first advisement hearing. His bond has been set at $100,000.

Paez was hired by the department in 2006.

He was suspended, with pay, since May 19 when allegations were made against him. He remains suspended, now without pay, after his arrest Monday.

The charge of attempt to influence a public servant alleges that Paez lied about his contact with the victim when he was interviewed by internal affairs, the release said.

His next court date will be scheduled after charges are formally filed this week.

Read more: Denver police officer arrested as sex assault suspect - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/ci_16377856#ixzz12rhsZjQj

Prison Advice

THE Westword
Here at the Criminal Affairs Desk, we get letters from inmates. Boy, do we get letters. But one recent missive from a Colorado prisoner offers some of the best advice we've ever heard for negotiating a long stretch in the state prison system. Such as: Don't ask, don't snitch. Keep an eye out for shanks. Never, ever, ever trust a guard. And act like that male prisoner is actually female.
Our correspondent doesn't want his name used. "It would be better for my health if my name is not published," he writes. He's still got way too much time to go inside the Colorado Department of Corrections.
"I see the parole board for the fourth time this year, having 19 years credit on a 32-year sentence," he continues. "On my third hearing I spent a year to get outside contacts, housing and medical care arranged, as well as contacting Washington, D.C., when my case manager refused to help, so I could get my birth certificate and ID. Prisoners should expect to do all these things themselves and not wait for help. I have never received any type of response to any question asked DOC HQ."
Our man has had battles with prison authorities over mental health treatment and has spent time in the San Carlos prison (designed for the mentally ill) and the Colorado State Penitentiary (the supermax that houses many prisoners with untreated mental disorders, as detailed in my 2006 feature "Head Games"). In several high-security prisons, he claims, up to a third of the inmates "argue with voices when the CO [correctional officer] is not around. Fear of being made worse by incompetent doctors stops them from getting help."
But he also has more general concerns about the snitch culture inside prison, the worthlessness of many of the educational and therapeutic classes offered ("Completion certificates do not mean anything to parole, I have an even dozen") -- and the always simmering violence.
He narrowly missed the riot at the Crowley private prison a few years back, and he was in an office at Arkansas Valley back in 2001 when 52-year-old inmate Louis Mayfield barged in, pleading with a sergeant "to put him in protective custody because a gang was planning to murder him for ratting out a CO for having sex with inmates. The sergeant said she wanted to see what they do to him first, since the other CO was her friend.
"On 12/12/2001 eight inmates entered Mayfield's cell with socks and locks, and murdered him. Internal affairs took my statement and asked if I recorded the conversation with the sergeant. Since I had no recording, it was strongly suggested that I don't spread rumors, or I would be charged with filing false reports."
All of which has led our correspondent to offer the following ten "lessons learned" from his time inside:

1. To be a perfect pessimist. 2. Offender is our name, to show that we are subhuman.
3. Don't snitch. If other inmates don't get you, the CO will.
4. Expect to fight upon entry to a new facility.
5. Do not tell others that that is not a girl when asked if she is pretty. Just say you have bigger worries and have not looked. (Yes, it's a man with makeup.) You will be beaten if you say they are gay for having sex with that "girl." They say, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do while inside."
6. Want to fit in? Watch Cops on TV and join discussion on how criminal could have avoided capture, or killed pig, or kept drugs.
7. Sneak attacks with shanks are manly. Watch yourself.
8. Lots of recipes for drugs and bombs are available.
9. Any admission of a crime in any group can send you back to court.
10. If you must fight (and you do), fight to hurt them.
More from our News archive: "'Labia lift' strip searches: ACLU action gooses prison officials into changing degrading policy."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Adams County Jail inmate dies, investigation ongoing - The Denver Post

Adams County Jail inmate dies, investigation ongoing - The Denver Post

A 27-year-old woman serving a 45-day sentence in the Adams County Jail died in custody last week.

Bernadette Jaquez, who was serving a sentence for theft, died last Tuesday, according to the Adams County Sheriff's Office.

At about 8:50 p.m., during a routine check, Jaquez was found "unresponsive" in her cell at the jail's medical unit, said Sgt. Candi Baker, a sheriff's spokeswoman. Jaquez received medical assistance and was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead about an hour later.

Jaquez had been in jail since Oct. 8.

"The cause of death is under investigation but there is no indication of foul play at this time," the sheriff's office said in a media release.

The coroner's office is awaiting test results, which could take between four to six weeks, before declaring an official cause of death.

Jaquez has a prior criminal record in the state, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records, including a 2007 conviction on possession of a controlled substance in Denver, as well as 2004 arrest in Denver for possession of narcotic equipment, injection devices.

Read more: Adams County Jail inmate dies, investigation ongoing - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16369736#ixzz12koRv7hQ

Prop 102 Undermines Pretrial Services

The Coloradoan

Proposition 102 on the Colorado ballot is about a lot of things; but more than anything, it is about money.
The proposition, if passed, would benefit the private bail bonds industry - its leading proponent - by requiring courts to prevent the release of most people arrested on unsecured bonds under the supervision of pretrial services. If secured bonds are required, defendants often turn to the bail bonds industry for those services.
But this issue is also about the money it could cost local taxpayers.
Proposition 102 speaks to local residents, in particular, because Larimer County is one of 10 Colorado counties that use a pretrial services program, in which judges can release suspects without a secured bond. Pretrial services assesses each defendant and makes recommendations that include alternatives to incarceration while a defendant is awaiting court action, including counseling, home visits, drug testing, telephone contacts, mental-health or substance-abuse treatment and home-monitoring devices. The idea behind using pretrial services is two-fold: It allows many defendants the opportunity to continue working while in the court system, and it saves the county by not requiring defendants to spend that time waiting in jail.
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office said that, if passed, Proposition 102 could cost the county in excess of $5 million annually. The sheriff's office said accommodating the new requirement would mean an additional 37,926 bed days or 114 beds. At a minimum, the sheriff's office estimates, the increased number of inmates would require the county to hire 12 additional deputies and another nurse and to pay for additional food and other operating costs.
Another concern with Proposition 102 is that those defendants who cannot afford to post a bond may stay in jail longer than those who can afford to bond out.
Proposition 102 offers a blanket solution on a statewide basis when programs, such as in Larimer County, may be cost effective and efficient. This is an issue much more appropriately decided by local voters than a statewide ballot initiative.
Vote no on Proposition 102.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Giving troubled inmates a way out - The Denver Post

Giving troubled inmates a way out - The Denver Post

For Eric Miracle, 40, the past four years have been . . . well, a miracle.

Miracle had spent almost 10 years in and out of prisons and jails, his methamphetamine addiction fueling thefts and family turmoil.

His three small children grew up without him, their mother struggling to provide for them. His wife was pregnant with his second child when he did his first stint in the Colorado Department of Corrections. When he was released from prison in 2002, he went right back to drug use, the wrong crowd and getting in trouble.

When confronted with prison again, his family wrote letters and pressured the court to send Miracle to an addictions program at Arrowhead Correctional Center in Cañon City. It was called Crossroads to Freedom.

Instead, the judge sentenced him to prison for theft and told Miracle he'd have to figure out a way to get into the program if it was really what he wanted.

He did. Although there was a waiting list, he kept writing staff at the addictions therapeutic community. Eventually, he was admitted.

"You have to be willing to give up your way of thinking, give up everything, and trust someone else. If it wasn't for that program, I wouldn't be where I am today," Miracle says.

Today, he is a graduate of the program at Arrowhead, as well as Peer I, a therapeutic community in Denver, where he chose to continue his treatment instead of being put on parole. "Peer I taught me that even though you're a felon, it's not how you lived before. It's about how you live today and tomorrow."

Miracle is four years into his goal of becoming a journeyman electrician in Denver. And last month, he married his second wife, who is equally committed to sobriety. His children, now teens, spend summers with him.

Participation in a therapeutic community in prison and then in the community reduces recidivism, thus saving money in an already distressed economic environment. It also greatly reduces generational criminal and addictive behavior. Combined treatment in prison and then in the community is cost-effective, and studies show that the treatment works. For every $1 invested in treatment, there is a $7 return to the community.

In his 2008 budget report to the Colorado legislature, Department of Corrections executive director Ari Zavaras wrote, "In 1998, a department outcome study found that therapeutic community participants who stayed in treatment at least six months had a 43 percent reduction in recidivism rates when compared to control groups."

Further, "A continuation study completed in 2004 has shown that the outcome effect is dramatically improved when prison treatment is combined with the community Peer I TC [therapeutic community] and parole supervision."

The recidivism rate for offenders who did not participate in any form of therapeutic community was 45 percent. With the prison therapeutic community alone, the rate dropped to 37 percent. With prison and community programs combined, recidivism rates dropped to 8 percent.

Zavaras cited this data when asking for increased funding for prison and community corrections substance abuse treatment. The state increased funding, but not at the level requested.

The prison and community corrections programs focus not only on addiction treatment, but also on behavior modification, cognitive behavioral approaches designed to promote positive social attitudes, and emotional growth and development. Participants focus on changing criminal thinking errors that led them to incarceration.

Read more: Giving troubled inmates a way out - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_16342043#ixzz12gKO2AuY

Ballot brings 40 votes on allowing medical-marijuana dispensaries - The Denver Post

Ballot brings 40 votes on allowing medical-marijuana dispensaries - The Denver Post

Voters in at least 40 jurisdictions will decide in this election whether they want medical-marijuana dispensaries in their communities.

The wave of ballot measures will provide the best insight since the state's medical-marijuana boom began into how a broad spectrum of Colorado voters feels about the current system. But medical-marijuana advocates insist that any decisions to ban dispensaries should not be viewed as a broader indictment of medical marijuana.

"If a large number of these measures pass, it's not because people want to deny medicine to their neighbors," said Betty Aldworth, executive director of the pro-dispensary group Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation. "It's that we haven't effectively educated voters on the needs of their neighbors."

The elections are an outgrowth of a bill the legislature passed earlier this year that gives cities and counties explicit authority to either ban or regulate dispensaries. Since Gov. Bill Ritter signed that bill into law, officials in 25 cities have decided to ban dispensaries, while officials in 19 other cities have enacted dispensary regulations, according to a list compiled by the Colorado Municipal League.

Voters in 26 cities — from tiny Hillrose in eastern Colorado to Aurora, the largest Colorado city currently without a dispensary — will have a choice on the ballot whether to allow dispensaries. Voters in 14 counties will also decide on allowing dispensaries in the unincorporated parts of the county.

A coalition of medical-marijuana- connected businesses has filed a lawsuit in El Paso County seeking to get that county's ballot initiative tossed out. Because the county first decided to regulate dispensaries — after which several opened — and now might ban them, attorney Jessica Corry said the measure amounts to a "regulatory taking" that would force existing, lawful businesses to close shop.

"We're fighting for not just the constitutional rights of patients but for that long-cherished Colorado ethos of live and let live," Corry said.

Other unresolved lawsuits argue that local bans are illegal, advocates say, because dispensaries are protected by the Colorado Constitution.

El Paso County's measure has drawn perhaps the most interest. A group called Citizens for Safer Communities has taken in about $3,800 in contributions — many from dispensaries — to fight a ban. Meanwhile, a group organized by Fountain resident Kenneth Lippincott to support bans in El Paso County and Fountain has collected about $2,400. That group's largest donor is St. Dominic Catholic Church in Security.

Read more: Ballot brings 40 votes on allowing medical-marijuana dispensaries - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_16359091#ixzz12cnJq77I

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vote No on Prop 102

Wash Park Prophet
this posting from my friend over at Wash Park!
Colorado Proposition 102 makes it harder to be released pending trial when you are arrested in Colorado.

It is supported by the bail bond industry. It is opposed by District Attorneys in Colorado. It would increase spending on local jails by about $2.8 million per year, which would have to come from tax increases or cuts to other local government spending. It will also increase future jail construction costs.

Specifically, Colorado Proposition 102 asks voters to amend the Colorado statutes to prohibit the release of anyone arrested for a felony or violent misdemeanor, and anyone who is a repeat nonviolent misdemeanor offender on a unsecured bond under the supervision of pretrial services.

A secured bond means that the defendant pays money to the court as security for showing up at trial. Most defendants can't come up with the entire amount, so, instead, they go to a bail bondsman who takes a 10% non-refundable fee, posts the bond, and finding guarantors or collateral like a house. They bail bondsman then tries to make sure that the defendants show up to court, with bounty hunters, if necessary. In an unsecured bond, the bond amount is a fine incurred for failing to appear in court.

There has been controversy recently in Denver over bail bondsmen avoiding having to pay bond, despite the fact that defendants don't show up in court.

The measure would increase the average stay in jail for someone facing criminal charges by about eight days while they attempt to obtain a secured bond, and about 30% of defendants are indigent and forced to stay in jail until their trial.

You should vote no on Proposition 102.

Releasing defendants to pre-trial services on unsecured bonds was one of the major advances of empirical legal studies in the 1960s, starting by a Vera Institute study that started the ball rolling. It was one of most effective criminal justice reforms adopted.
(Click on the title to read the entire post)

Judge tosses prison-killing conviction - The Denver Post

Judge tosses prison-killing conviction - The Denver Post

A Lincoln County trial judge has set aside the murder conviction of a Limon prison inmate, ruling that District Attorney Carol Chambers' office withheld evidence that could have boosted David Bueno's defense.

Chambers' assistant district attorney said Wednesday that the defense had the information in question available to them at trial "and sat on this for strategic reasons."

Chambers had sought the death penalty when Bueno stood trial in 2008 for the 2004 stabbing death of inmate Jeffrey Heird.

Bueno, 46, was convicted but sentenced to life in prison. He was serving a 24-year sentence for burglary at the time of the slaying and remains in prison for that conviction.

In his ruling, District Judge Douglas Tallman did not find misconduct on the part of prosecutors.

"The Trial Court cannot say with certainty the District Attorney acted in bad faith by withholding relevant and possibly exculpatory evidence," he wrote in the ruling.

Bueno's attorneys had argued that Heird was a white supremacist and informant probably killed by other white supremacists who pinned the killing on Bueno and inmate Alejandro Perez, who is awaiting trial.

Minutes after the discovery of Heird's body, a prison nurse found a letter allegedly from the Aryan Brotherhood Nation threatening to "exterminate" white inmates who "refuse to accept their proud race."

Two days later, another white inmate, David Hollenbeck, was found dead from blunt-force trauma to his chest, a death ruled "suspicious."

Hollenbeck lived in the same area of the prison as Heird and allegedly was an Aryan Brotherhood target.

"This was a death penalty case. This man's life was on the line, and this was not peripheral information by any means," said Derek Samuelson, a former public defender who represented Bueno at the trial. "This was a piece of evidence that was not only exculpatory but at the heart of David's defense."

Read more: Judge tosses prison-killing conviction - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16333734#ixzz12KxZywFd

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No On Prop 102

Aurora Sentinel

For more than 200 years, Americans have been struggling to strike a balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of the community.

When it comes to finding such an accord for those accused of crimes, however, Proposition 102 works against all sides.

The measure clearly sought to protect the public by ensuring that dangerous criminals aren’t allowed to leave jail while awaiting trial.

Proposition 102 fails on all fronts.

It not only doesn’t really accomplish balance, it’s likely that Proposition 102 would instead lead to already overcrowded jails becoming even more dangerously packed. More importantly, it would mean two systems of justice in Colorado: one for the rich and one for the poor.

When someone’s accused of a crime, the legal system has to persuade a court that enough evidence exists to warrant a trial. Once that happens, the defendant is advised of charges and in most cases allowed to work out an agreement with the court to ensure the suspect returns for a trial rather than skip town. Courts can have the choice of forcing a suspect to either promise to return to court or pay a fine, or in cases where the crime is more serious or the suspect more sketchy, the court can require a suspect to put up cash before the trial, or work a deal with a bail bondsman to post a bond.

In either case, the courts in Colorado rely on a host of pretrial service agencies to assess whether the suspect is potentially dangerous to the public, and whether the suspect will actually show up in court to face charges. In addition, these agencies help monitor suspects who are “free on bail,” to ensure they keep court dates.

Proposition 102 would restrict those allowed to post an unsecured bond on most second felony offenses. Most poor suspects are unable to come up with thousands of dollars of cash and don’t own real estate and other items to use for collateral for a bail bondsman. That means that the majority of poor suspects will wait in jail for court dates, a proposition they can ill afford and one that will cost taxpayers dearly.

Legislative experts estimate the change would cost Colorado taxpayers about $3 million a year from the get go as suspects who would have made it to trial under the current system are forced into lengthy jail stays.

While it’s clear that getting suspects to court has always been a problem, the numbers show that the pretrial services system is far more efficient at keeping risky suspects off the streets and ensuring justice is served. Vote no on this wrongheaded proposal.

Chief Whitman transfers two officers after secret recording - The Denver Post

Chief Whitman transfers two officers after secret recording - The Denver Post

Two officers involved in secretly videotaping a supervisor were reassigned last week to new jobs by Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman, further dividing a department already in turmoil over discipline controversies.

Sgt. Bryan O'Neill surreptitiously filmed Cmdr. John Burbach, the head of internal affairs, in an effort to expose what O'Neill believed to be a pattern of bias against his officers. Lt. Daren Ciempa, O'Neill's supervisor, reportedly approved of the use of a video recorder disguised as a pocket pen in the effort.

Whitman said through spokesmen that he can't discuss personnel issues and can't publicly detail his reasons for transferring O'Neill and Ciempa out of District 6, which oversees downtown patrols.

The chief also said that in following Police Department policy, he could not talk about an ongoing internal affairs investigation into their actions.

The chief sent Ciempa, who started with the force in 1996, to Denver International Airport, where officers primarily work traffic detail.

Whitman sent O'Neill, an 11-year veteran, to the department's identification bureau, where officers verify by fingerprint the identity of those arrested.

"It's clearly a personnel matter, and he made the decision in this matter and felt it was something he had to do," Lt. Matt Murray said on the chief's behalf.

Ciempa declined to comment, saying his superiors had instructed him not to make public statements about his transfer. O'Neill also declined to comment. Burbach did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Police insiders who support Ciempa and O'Neill said the transfers are roiling a department already in an uproar following the August resignation of Safety Manager Ron Perea. Perea resigned under pressure less than three months after taking the job of running the city's police, fire and sheriff departments after civic leaders complained that he was issuing light discipline to police officers accused of using excessive force.

Many officers privately say they have grown so disenchanted following Perea's resignation that they now are doing fewer officer-initiated actions. Statistics the department released last month show that performance measure is, indeed, on the decline. Department insiders say officer-initiated actions are sure to plunge even further.

Whitman could not be reached Tuesday afternoon to address morale among his officers.

Seen as insubordination

Supporters and detractors of Ciempa and O'Neill who are familiar with the case said the transfers followed a dispute with Burbach. While the recording of the supervisor was legal, that act also is being viewed by top police brass as a major case of insubordination.

Multiple individuals familiar with the case, who asked for anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak, gave the following account:

Burbach had forwarded a complaint of failure to protect a prisoner to District 6 for handling as an informal matter. Such a referral is done when internal affairs deems an issue as not needing a full-blown investigation by internal affairs investigators or by the police district.

Under department protocol, O'Neill, as the commanding sergeant, was expected to take care of the issue by advising and counseling his officers on proper department protocol.

Instead, about 2 a.m., O'Neill sent an e-mail to Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal, who oversees investigations into police misconduct and who has earned the ire of many rank-and-file officers by pushing for stiffer discipline if they misbehave. In the e-mail, O'Neill demanded as part of an investigation a statement from Rosenthal. At the same time, O'Neill called Burbach seeking a statement from him.

Read more
Publish Post
: Chief Whitman transfers two officers after secret recording - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16323747#ixzz12FANsaAC

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Passing Prop. 102 would be a crime - The Denver Post

Passing Prop. 102 would be a crime - The Denver Post.

It's not too often that a ballot measure earns an all but unanimous denunciation the way that Proposition 102 has.

The initiative would throw a monkey wrench into the good systems that have been developed to supervise criminal defendants who are awaiting trial by forcing them into the hands of bail bondsmen.

We hope voters will shoot it down.

Proposition 102 is worded in such a way that voters might be led to believe they are supporting increased public safety by voting in favor of it.

That's just not true.

In Colorado, if someone is arrested for a crime, one of the first things that frequently happens is a judge orders a defendant to be assessed by pretrial services. These government professionals interview the defendant, look at his or her criminal and personal history, and make recommendations about how and whether the defendant could be safely supervised while awaiting trial.

Often, a judge will look at the recommendations and order pretrial supervision and what is called a personal recognizance bond. That is essentially a promise to appear, and it is usually given to defendants with a stable residence and a job. No money is involved.

This system is good for the community because the defendant is supervised by professionals, is able to continue working, and the public isn't paying to keep these lower-risk defendants in already overcrowded jails. Also, defendants don't have to ante up bond, which is good for people who may not have the means to post a cash, property or surety bond.

The goal is to keep communities safe and ensure defendants show up for their court dates.

Now, back to Proposition 102. It is sponsored by bail bondsmen and would effectively force more defendants into using their services.

The initiative would prevent nearly all defendants from being supervised via the aforementioned pretrial services program unless they posted a bond. Instead, most of them would end up remaining in costly jail cells.

A coalition of Colorado prosecutors, defense lawyers, law enforcement and other judicial system professionals oppose Proposition 102.

These folks have various interests in opposing it. For instance, the sheriffs who have to keep an eye on their corrections budgets predict the change would flood their jail cells with people who could safely be in the community while awaiting the disposition of their cases.

Public defenders and defense lawyers see it as a way to force their clients, many of whom are of little financial means, to pay bail bondsmen a fee to have the bondsmen post their bail.

If defendants can't raise the cash to pay a bondsman, they'll go to jail, potentially lose their jobs and leave their families without support, causing a host of other problems.

Prosecutors tell us that bail bondsmen have no incentive to supervise defendants the way that pretrial services programs do.

In fact, it is to the benefit of bondsmen if their clients commit another crime. Another arrest means another bail bond to be posted and another fee for bondsmen to collect.

Proposition 102 is a thoroughly bad idea and we hope voters will see through it and vote it down.

Read more: Passing Prop. 102 would be a crime - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_16312026#ixzz12Adg4jzL

Prop. 102 would force defendents to pay to remain free before trial - The Denver Post

Prop. 102 would force defendents to pay to remain free before trial - The Denver Post

Colorado voters will decide this November whether to pass a proposal into law that would result in more criminal defendants having to put up cash to secure their pretrial release from jail.

Supporters say Proposition 102 will ensure defendants will be more likely to show up for court dates because their own money or their family's money will be at stake.

"They will have skin in the game, so to speak," said Mike Paul Donovan, a Douglas County resident who is pushing the proposal, and is a lobbyist for Seneca Insurance, which has a bail-bond division.

But a coalition of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and defense lawyers is urging voters to defeat the proposal.

Opponents say Proposition 102 is really a

carefully disguised plan to shore up the bail-bond industry. State officials say there are about 500 registered bail-bond firms in Colorado, and critics of the proposed proposition say the industry generates revenue in excess of $50 million annually in the state.

Proposition 102 prohibits the release of a defendant on an unsecured bond to supervision by a pretrial-services program unless that defendant was arrested for a first-offense nonviolent misdemeanor.

Under current law, judges have the option to require pretrial services for a myriad of defendants with an unsecured bond — essentially, a defendant's promise that they will show up in court.

Secured bonds require defendants or their families to pledge assets as a promise that they will comply with court appearances. If the defendant fails to show up, the assets are forfeited. Bail-bond firms receive revenue through secured bonds by charging up to 15 percent of the pledged assets and acting as an agent that assures the court that the defendants will comply with court appearances.

Donovan criticizes pretrial services as a publicly funded program that is wasteful and unnecessary.

"These programs are just not sufficient in getting people to return to court," he said.

The bail- bond industry has pushed similar legislation in other states without success. Proposition 102 marks the first time the industry has taken its case directly to voters.

Many prosecutors, law-enforcement officials, defense lawyers and other government officials defend the pretrial service programs, which are operating in the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa, Pueblo and Weld. Officials in El Paso County disbanded a pretrial program in 2008 to save about $267,000 annually.

Pretrial service programs are charged with assessing a defendant's risk to public safety and the likelihood they will show up for court. They also provide community-based supervision of defendants before their trials through drug treatment and other services.

Critics of the proposition predict its passage would cause costs to escalate, because indigent defendants wouldn't be able to afford the bonds and would end up staying longer in jail. Some of those who post the bonds also would end up having to seek representation from publicly funded lawyers, they add. Jails also would clog due to an increase in the time needed to process the additional bonds, they predict.

The Colorado Blue Book estimates the proposition would cost jails in Colorado $2.1 million more annually, a figure that supporters of the proposition dispute.

Read more: Prop. 102 would force defendents to pay to remain free before trial - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/election2010/ci_16314388#ixzz129L3BxmR

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Medical pot presents puzzling picture of illegal grow sites - The Denver Post

Medical pot presents puzzling picture of illegal grow sites - The Denver Post

DIXIE NATIONAL FOREST, Utah — The hike through the woods, the hardened federal drug agents confess, has them a little intimidated.

The route pierces thick tangles of fallen trees before heading along a boulder-strewn creekbed and then directly up the side of a V-shaped canyon. On a topographical map, the terrain looks like a bowl of ramen noodles, full of squiggling lines turning back on themselves.

But at the very top of the canyon, where the lines squeeze closest together, is the reason for making the trek: a field of marijuana several thousand plants large, squatting on federal land.

"Regardless of where one stands on the marijuana issue," DEA Special Agent Arthur Street said the day before, "the big issue here is the damage to our public lands and the threat to public safety."

This is the other marijuana industry in America, the business of clandestine pot that supplies some of the estimated 16.7 million regular marijuana users in the country. Hidden in remote corners of land, concealed in underbrush, smuggled into the underground supply chain and sold on the street, it's weed done the old-fashioned way.

But its presence in the forests of southwestern Utah — a state with one of the lowest marijuana- use rates in the country and sandwiched between two medical-marijuana states — also raises a perplexing question. In a nation where more people have pathways to obtaining legally grown and sold marijuana, why are all these black-market pot plants still here?

Cannabis advocates often say the legitimate medical-marijuana industry has weakened the underground marijuana economy.

"We're making a dent in the black market," Josh Stanley, the owner of Denver dispensary Budding Health, told Colorado lawmakers during a legislative hearing this year. "The black market is now coming to us (to try to sell marijuana)."

But both federal marijuana-use statistics and law enforcement seizure and eradication numbers portray a different situation.

Federal estimates show the number of people shopping on the black market is rising, including in states with medical-marijuana programs. In some cases, though, subtracting medical-marijuana users from state data lowers the growth rate of black-market customers in medical-marijuana states.

Read more: Medical pot presents puzzling picture of illegal grow sites - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/ci_16300366#ixzz11xoiORb5

Friday, October 08, 2010

Vote 'no` on bail proposition - Boulder Daily Camera

Vote 'no` on bail proposition - Boulder Daily Camera

Yet another dog of an issue on the state ballot this year, Proposition 102 is sponsored by the bail bonds industry and will benefit pretty much no one at all, except for those who make money in the bail bonds industry.

The Camera editorial board joins just about everyone (except for those in that particular industry) in saying "no" to Proposition 102.

Judges in Colorado set the amount and type of bond suspects must pay. Proposition 102 would "prohibit the release of a defendant on an unsecured bond to supervision by a pretrial services program unless that defendant is arrested for his or her first offense that is also a nonviolent misdemeanor."

In other words, it would take away the power of Colorado counties to manage any pre-trial supervision programs, and hand a large number of them over to the profit-driven companies that deal in bail bonds. Not that there is anything wrong with profits -- until those profits are used to pass a law to line an industry`s wallet at taxpayer expense.

The nonpartisan legislative staff determined that the measure would likely cost Coloradans at least $2.8 million more per year in incarceration costs.

Pre-trial programs run through the counties keep people out of jail. Our justice system decides which suspects pose a considerable risk, and who could be managed through professionally run pre-trial supervision. So a suspect may have to stay in jail. Or require the services of an insured bail bondsman. Or could be released on an unsecured bond, with a drug monitoring requirement. It`s up to the judge.

As Sheriff Joe Pelle put it: "The result is that the jails are less crowded with pre-trial defendants who cannot afford bail, the community remains safe, and the savings to taxpayers is huge. These defendants can continue to work, make their payments, support their families, and stay off of government provided benefits."

Under Proposition 102, a significant number of suspects would instead be forced into the offices of the bail bond sellers. If they cannot afford it, they will go to jail to be housed and fed at our expense instead.

And at the risk of being redundant, we would appreciate a measure that would make it harder for small, well-funded special interest groups to fiddle with Colorado ballots in the best cases, or amend our state Constitution and statutes in the worst.

Proposition 102 is a bad idea far outshadowed by the worst ideas in 2010: The "bad three" Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101. All of these measures would all come at a dear price to Coloradans, if passed. We need to make it harder for people with wild, costly ideas to use our lax ballot procedures to their advantage.

-- Erika Stutzman, for

the Camera editorial board

Read more: Vote 'no` on bail proposition - Boulder Daily Camera http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_16279976#ixzz11loFeTn1

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Prop 102 Editorial

Pueblo Editorial

DENVER — Proposition 102 seeks to limit the circumstances under which a person accused of a crime can be released on bail in Colorado.

The citizen-initiated measure would prohibit the release of a defendant on an unsecured bond to supervision by a pretrial services program, unless they’ve had no prior offenses and are accused of a nonviolent crime.

Courts presently may order a defendant released on an unsecured bond. That means the defendant can be released from jail on a promise to appear at future court dates. If they fail to appear, they are liable for the bond amount.

Defendants obtain secured bonds either by paying, promising to pay through a commercial bail bondsman or posting an interest in property in order to be released from jail while they await trial.

Under current law, defendants released on either kind of bond can qualify for release to a pretrial services program. These programs assess a defendant’s risk to public safety and report that to the court in addition to monitoring a defendant's compliance with bond conditions through visits, drug testing and other measures.

Pueblo is among the Colorado counties where pretrial services are offered.

If Proposition 102 passes, pretrial services programs only would be an option for defendants who post secured bonds or those free on unsecured bonds who are accused of a crime for the first time, provided the charge they are facing is a nonviolent misdemeanor.

Legislative Council’s analysis of the proposition identified among its benefits the increased likelihood of defendants appearing in court if they are required to post a secured bond, and more effective use of the tax dollars that go to pretrial services.

The arguments against the proposition identified by Legislative Council include the effective track record to date of pretrial services and the advantage wealthier defendants would hold over poorer ones in the likelihood that they would be able to post bail.

Longer pretrial jail stays also would result. Legislative Council reported that defendants saddled with a secured bond on average take eight days longer to finance their bail than those with an unsecured bond. About 30 percent of defendants with secured bonds never make bail.

Consequently, Legislative Council determined, based on the state reimbursement rate to local jails of $50.44 per-person per-day, that the annual statewide cost for local jails beginning this fiscal year would increase by $2.8 million.

Prop 102

Pueblo Chieftain

PROPOSITION 102 would limit most people’s ability to get out of jail without posting a bond backed by cash or collateral.

Under Prop 102, state law would limit pretrial service programs to nonviolent, first-time misdemeanor defendants. All other misdemeanor defendants would have to post bail, and release of felony suspects on bail still would be the decision of a judge.

The proponents say this measure would give all defendants the incentive to appear for trial. But in reality, this measure, backed by bail bondsmen, is just a way to drive more business their way.

Opponents rightly point out that some poor suspects who cannot afford bail, even if they are arrested for a second misdemeanor, would have to remain in jail. Meanwhile, people of more means would be able to gain their release.

Legislative Council researchers say Prop 102 would increase local jail costs statewide by about $2.8 million a year, offset by a slight reduction in spending on pretrial release programs. Jail overcrowding is already a problem in many jurisdictions, and Prop 102 would exacerbate that problem.

Vote NO on Proposition 102.

Boulder County law enforcement opposes bail proposition - Boulder Daily Camera

Boulder County law enforcement opposes bail proposition - Boulder Daily Camera

If a statewide proposition to amend the criteria for setting bail passes, Boulder County law enforcement leaders fear the jail would become overcrowded, their costs would increase and the success rate for inmates would decline.

But supporters of Proposition 102 -- which would require a bond for anyone arrested unless it's a first offense and a nonviolent misdemeanor -- argue that its passage would keep dangerous criminals from being released and would make suspects more likely to appear in court.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said the current system already keeps dangerous criminals from being released and lets others who have jobs and families and are not dangerous out of jail as long as they promise to appear in court. Those released on a personal recognizance bond -- which allows a defendant to go free without posting money up front -- can have court-ordered requirements to keep them from being a danger, such as sobriety monitoring and orders to stay away from victims or weapons.

Placing someone on monitored sobriety, for example, is likely in many cases to be more successful than keeping that person behind bars, Pelle said. And, he said, such pre-trial programs are cheaper than keeping people in jail.

Pelle said he's concerned Proposition 102 would hit low-income people the hardest, and he said many of the state's top law enforcement leaders believe the measure has been proposed as a moneymaker for bail bondsmen.

"It's a real shady thing when a private industry is able to use the political process to benefit their own pocketbooks," he said.

District Attorney Stan Garnett said Proposition 102 "takes away the flexibility that courts need to deal with cases individually."

Read more: Boulder County law enforcement opposes bail proposition - Boulder Daily Camera http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_16272247#ixzz11gri3Nn2

Rosen: The good, the bad, the Ugly 3 - The Denver Post

Rosen: The good, the bad, the Ugly 3 - The Denver Post

I'm flattered by the call for help from rational Republicans and unaffiliated conservatives (lefties don't value my opinion) too busy making a living and paying taxes to wade through the 70-odd pages in the State Ballot Information Booklet (aka, the Blue Book). The citizen initiative process, a good idea in theory, isn't so good in practice. Along with some worthwhile additions, the state constitution has become a morass of unnecessary and conflicting amendments. Mercifully, of the almost 100 ballot initiatives originally proposed this year, only nine made the final cut.

First, the good:

Amendment 63 (Health Care Choice) protects Coloradans from being compelled by government to buy health insurance. It may turn out to be merely symbolic if the issue is ultimately decided in federal courts. In the meantime, this and similar measures in more than 30 other states give a majority of Americans a chance to express their opposition to Obamacare.

The indifferent:

Amendments P, Q and R are all referred amendments from the state legislature, as compared to all the rest, which are citizen initiatives. These are mostly housekeeping measures. P deals with administrative changes in licensing and regulation of games of chance, like bingo and raffles. Q establishes a process for moving Colorado's seat of government temporarily from Denver to someplace else (hopefully not Boulder) during a disaster emergency. R eliminates property taxes for low-value government property used for private benefit, like cattle grazing, where the cost of administration often exceeds the revenues collected.

It's hard to get excited over any of these. Flip a coin or go with the legislature's recommendation to approve them.

Read more: Rosen: The good, the bad, the Ugly 3 - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_16271136#ixzz11gNWm5EI