Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Denver council wrangles over medical-pot growing facilities - The Denver Post

Denver council wrangles over medical-pot growing facilities - The Denver Post

Denver City Council members are locked in a battle over whether to allow medical-marijuana grow facilities to continue to operate in areas where the zoning has changed.

Some councilors say grow facilities must be phased out because they ruin any prospect of future development.

Others say the operations that were legally established should remain unless they cause problems — even though they may be nonconforming under the new zoning rules.

"This is going to be hand-to-hand combat," said Councilman Charlie Brown, who chairs the special issues committee that meets today to hammer out a decision.

A year ago the council unanimously approved a broad set of regulations for the city's booming medical-marijuana industry.

State legislators last year passed a law tightening rules around medical marijuana, requiring counties and cities to come up with regulations by July 1 and demanding that dispensaries grow at least 70 percent of their product.

That created a real estate grab for warehouses in Denver as an estimated 1 million square feet for grow operations were snapped up.

Around the same time, the city changed its zoning, leaving some warehouses in areas where grow facilities are now not allowed.

The council is to decide today whether to grandfather in those warehouses under the new zoning or force them out.

Council President Chris Nevitt, whose district has a number of grow facilities, is offering an amendment to the Denver Medical Marijuana Code to require grow facility operators to appear in front of the excise and licensing department within two to four years to renew their licenses.

Nevitt's amendment would allow neighbors to air their opinions about the facilities that would be judged on four criteria:

• Whether they have negatively impacted the neighborhood.

• Whether crime rate has increased.

• Whether they have a negative impact on the health and welfare of the area.

• Whether there is any evidence that the licensed premises could be used for something else.

Read more: Denver council wrangles over medical-pot growing facilities - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17245965#ixzz1CgM5GxMn
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

States Help Ex Inmates Find Jobs

NY Times

Faced with yawning budget gaps and high unemployment, California, Michigan, New York and several other states are attacking both problems with a surprising strategy: helping ex-convicts find jobs to keep them from ending up back in prison.
The approach is backed by prisoner advocates as well as liberal and conservative government officials, who say it pays off in cold, hard numbers. Michigan, for example, spends $35,000 a year to keep someone in prison — more than the cost of educating a University of Michigan student. Through vigorous job placement programs and prudent use of parole, state officials say they have cut the prison population by 7,500, or about 15 percent, over the last four years, yielding more than $200 million in annual savings. Michigan spends $56 million a year on various re-entry programs, including substance abuse treatment and job training.
“We had a $2 billion prison budget, and if you look at the costs saved by not having the system the size it was, we save a lot of money,” said Patricia Caruso, who was Michigan’s corrections commissioner from 2003 through 2010. “If we spend some of that $2 billion on something else — like re-entry programs — and that results in success, that’s a better approach.”
All told, the 50 states and the federal government spend $69 billion a year to house two million prisoners, prompting many budget cutters to see billions in potential savings by trimming the prison population. Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released nationwide, but studies show that two-thirds are re-arrested within three years.
“An exorbitant amount of money is dedicated to incarcerating people,” said Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “There are ways you can go about reducing the number of people incarcerated. The best way to help them successfully integrate into society and become independent, law-abiding citizens is to make sure they get a job.”
Pushed by faith-based organizations and helped by federal stimulus money, California, Michigan, New York and other states expanded jobs programs in recent years to give prisoners a second chance and to reduce recidivism. The nation’s overall jobless rate is 9.4 percent, but various studies have found unemployment rates of 50 percent or higher for former prisoners nine months or a year after their release.
Many states remain enthusiastic about the re-entry programs, but in a few states facing deficits, like Kansas, officials are cutting them back, partly because of the curtailment of federal stimulus dollars that helped finance them.
“There’s a lot of national momentum to expand strategies to reduce recidivism, and a lot of that is focusing on connecting people to jobs,” said Michael Thompson, director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a research organization for state policy makers. “At the same time, some states that want to accomplish those goals are concerned about cutting money where they can and are putting some of these programs on the chopping block.”
Brian Vork, executive director of 70 Times 7 Life Recovery, a faith-based nonprofit in Holland, Mich., that helped place 60 former prisoners into jobs last year, said he had seen firsthand what a difference a job can make. His organization, whose name refers to a biblical passage in which Jesus speaks of how many times to forgive sinners, has set up a construction company — part apprenticeship program, part life-skills mentor — that allows him to size up the offenders who participate.
“You get some people who really want to change, and then you get some people who want all the bad things to stop happening to them regardless of their behavior,” Mr. Vork said. “What makes it all worthwhile is when you see the light bulb go off in some people.”
Take Robert Satterfield, 46, who spent five and a half years in prison on embezzlement and other charges. After being released, he spent several fruitless months searching for work and then turned to 70 Times 7 for guidance and training. Mr. Vork recommended him to Premier Finishing, a metalworking company with 16 employees.

Colorado public defenders' workload growing even though criminal filings have fallen - The Denver Post

Colorado public defenders' workload growing even though criminal filings have fallen - The Denver Post

Despite steep drops in criminal filings, attorneys for the state's poorest defendants anticipate their highest-ever caseload by the end of the fiscal year.

State Public Defender Doug Wilson expects to break the 100,000 mark in new cases by the end of June, and he attributes the bump in the number of indigent defendants to the downturned economy.

He said growing caseloads have exacerbated other long-standing staffing and pay problems plaguing his office.

At risk is the quality of time Wilson said his staff can give to any individual case.

"Somebody before may have been able to hire private counsel on a misdemeanor. They're no longer able to do that, because they don't have a job," Wilson said. "When caseloads are high, it becomes substantially more difficult to provide that service."

Public defenders provide constitutionally mandated representation to defendants who establish that they can't afford their own lawyers.

Since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, prosecutors have filed about 20 percent fewer felony and misdemeanor cases as the number of crimes committed decreased, but public defenders are being called upon to represent a larger percentage of those defendants.

Tom Raynes, head of the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, said it's not just public defenders but the entire judicial system that's struggling, pointing out that the 21st Judicial District in Mesa County recently laid off all its criminal investigators.

"Nearly every district and almost all the counties are asking for DAs to cut their budgets," Raynes said. "Everybody is getting crunched."

Still, the growth in the number of misdemeanor defendants who can't afford counsel is extraordinary.

Public defenders were appointed in 31,466 new misdemeanor cases in fiscal year 2008. By the end of this year, they expect to open 44,675, a 42 percent leap.

The legislature has authorized the office to hire 37 new lawyers, but it's not just the number of cases that has increased, it's also the number of hours the office's 386 attorneys spend on indigent cases that continues to increase.

Statistics show that defenders spent a little more than eight hours per Class 4 felony case in 2002.

By 2008, the last time information was gathered, increasingly complex cases meant they spent just over 11 hours on the same level of crime.

Read more: Colorado public defenders' workload growing even though criminal filings have fallen - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17210847#ixzz1CEnma3u5
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ads driving calls to new metro mental-health hotline - The Denver Post

Ads driving calls to new metro mental-health hotline - The Denver Post

Since catchy highway-sign-style ads for the Metro Crisis Line were plastered on buses and billboards throughout the seven-county metro region Jan. 3, the number of daily calls for help has doubled and the number of website hits has tripled.

"The majority of calls are from people who really, really need care and know it, but they just can't figure out where to find it," said Daniel Ward, chief executive of Metro Crisis Services, the region's first coordinated system of 24-hour emergency care for people suffering from behavioral health problems.

The signs provide the road map to help, offering such destinations as the "State of Depression: Pop. 15 million" and "Now Entering the State of Relief."

The simple but catchy public-service announcements include the phone number for the Metro Crisis Line, a free 2 4/7 hotline staffed by licensed mental-health professionals.

Since the signs debuted, they've helped people suffering from conditions as varied as alcoholism and anxiety find the help they need.

The biggest service has been referrals from the organization's electronic Rolodex of 900 mental-health-service providers in the seven-county region.

According to statistics from the federal government, of the 2.7 million people living in the seven Denver-metro counties, nearly 112,000 adults are living with serious mental illness, and at least 277,792 people have substance-use disorders.

Read more: Ads driving calls to new metro mental-health hotline - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17199237#ixzz1C9ASjxUL
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Kentucky learns from Texas how to reduce inmate population - WAVE 3 News - Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky learns from Texas how to reduce inmate population - WAVE 3 News - Louisville, Kentucky

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - In the last 10 years Kentucky's prison population has increased 45 percent, which is more than three times the national average. It's causing facilities to fill up and costing the state big bucks. Wednesday afternoon the Pew Center on the States offered findings and suggestions about how to limit it, recommending lawmakers take a page out of Texas's playbook and take a look at drug offenders.

The Texas criminal justice system has shifted away from prison time and moved towards building up probation and parole programs.

"They not only saved millions upon millions of dollars, tax payer dollars, but they made communities safer," said Rep. John Tilley Chair of the Judiciary Committee. "Their crime rate went down. They drove their crime rate down by cutting correction costs and being smarter and tougher on crime."

Tilley brought in Texas state Rep. Jerry Madden, who was in leadership when the state made major reforms to its Corrections Department. He is nicknamed the "Correctionist."

"We've saved in Texas now, the latest numbers we've had--well over a billion dollars since 2007," said Madden.

Reforms aimed at drug crimes. One quarter of Kentucky's nearly 21,000 inmates are being held on drug offenses

"We built additional secure facilities called substance abuse treatment facilities," said Madden as an alternative to incarceration. "Instead of setting-up for two or five or 10 years, they would take them for the six months and put them in substance abuse (programs), then put them on probation."

Recommendations from the Pew Center include probating sentences for treatment instead of incarceration, creating a scale of penalties for how much you possess or sell, and making a second offense the same penalty as a first.

"What we're trying to do is differentiate between those users, handlers, and traffickers."

Tilley said the goal is to cut down on the incarcerated population and save money.

The Pew Center and Madden testified in front of a joint committee with both representatives and senators. Tilley says he hopes the members will come to a consensus and file similar bills in both chambers when lawmakers reconvene on February 1st.

Medical-marijuana dispensaries' effect on crime unclear - The Denver Post

Medical-marijuana dispensaries' effect on crime unclear - The Denver Post

The would-be thieves — captured on surveillance video at the Colorado Springs medical-marijuana dispensary they were trying to burglarize — made for a fitting symbol of the connection between dispensaries and crime.

Prevented by locked doors in front of them from getting what they came for and prevented by locked doors behind them from getting away, they were stuck in the muddled middle.

With a calendar year of data now available, local law enforcement officials face a similar predicament.

Crimes connected to medical marijuana have undoubtedly increased since the beginning of Colorado's cannabis boom.

Robbers target the expanded number of people legally growing marijuana. Burglars break into dispensaries that didn't exist 18 months ago. Police have publicly linked incidents of violence and even a homicide to medical marijuana.

"Across the state, we're seeing an increase in crime related to dispensaries," said Ernie Martinez, a Denver police detective who is president of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. "And that's just the crime that's being reported to us."

But so far, there is no statistical evidence that medical-marijuana businesses have made neighborhoods less safe overall.

A Denver police analysis completed late last year of areas around dispensaries showed that the number of crimes in those pockets dropped in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009. The drop, 8.2 percent, was marginally less than the city's overall drop in crime of 8.8 percent, according to police.

Meanwhile, a Denver Post analysis of crimes committed in the first 11 months of 2010 found that some Denver neighborhoods with the highest concentration of dispensaries per capita saw a bigger decrease in crimes than did some neighborhoods with no dispensaries.

What these numbers mean, though, and whether dispensaries have played any role in the changes is unclear.

"It's not like I have seen excessive reports" involving violence linked to medical marijuana, said Steve Fox, director of public affairs for the National Cannabis Industry Association. "It's no different from any normal business. You always will have robberies and break-ins where someone believes there are valuables."

Dispensaries as targets

Read more: Medical-marijuana dispensaries' effect on crime unclear - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_17178820#ixzz1BxRkTouY
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alex Landau Was Pulled Over For Making a Left Hand Turn...

Westword  *click here for the whole article
Wonderin' why, feelin' baffled
I was handed to the system like a ticket in a raffle
My brothers and sisters are getting hassled
By a bunch of assholes with badges and needin' counsel
After being falsely accused and abused by these scoundrels
Alex Landau noticed the flashing lights in his rearview mirror right after he turned off Colfax onto Emerson. Landau and his passenger, Addison Hunold, were on their way to the Wendy's just down the street for some late-night burgers, but they never made it there that cold January night in 2009. Instead, Landau pulled his '84 white Lincoln Town Car to a stop near the corner of 16th Avenue and Emerson, and the cop car pulled in behind.
The officer who came to Landau's window said he'd made an illegal left turn and asked for his license and registration. The nineteen-year-old explained that he'd left his wallet at home, but offered his proof of insurance on the car and his Social Security number. The cop took the information back to his squad car while Landau sat in the Lincoln, feeling nervous. They'd just come from a house where folks had been smoking pot. Not only that, but 21-year-old Hunold had a pill container full of weed in his pocket, and there was more in the trunk. Landau had a feeling the telltale odor was in the air.
Sure enough, the cop returned a few minutes later and asked the two to get out of the car to be searched. Figuring it would be discovered anyway, Hunold handed over the marijuana before he was patted down. The cop took the weed and told Hunold to go stand by the front of his cruiser, then asked Landau if he could search his car.

Colorado inmates train wild mustangs to help guard the nation's rugged borders - The Denver Post

Colorado inmates train wild mustangs to help guard the nation's rugged borders - The Denver Post

It is, to say the least, an unlikely alliance.

The horses arrive without names or manners. They are taught to behave by Colorado inmates serving time for robbery, burglary and other crimes. The horses are then deployed along the nation's borders to stop crime — helping catch 500 illegal immigrants in one stretch of the Mexican border alone.

So far, this combination of the untamed and confined has worked well for law enforcement. The horses are well- trained by inmates who learn a trade in the process, and the horses' unique skills allow Border Patrol agents to visit rugged stretches with few provisions.

The wild horses are prized for their toughness. Rocks? Not a problem. No pastures? Anything green or brown

will do. Frozen lakes and rivers? They'll eat snow.

"The mustangs never had a water trough," said Dick Graham, patrol agent in charge of the U.S. Border Patrol station in Oroville, Wash., northwest of Spokane. "It shows you how self-sufficient they are."

As he spoke, Shorty chomped big bites of fresh snow off the ground as a U.S. Border Patrol wrangler saddled him up for a day of work along the U.S.-Canada border.

Mustangs like Shorty were molded by trials. They fended off mountain lions using large hooves or more likely galloped safely away from them on thick- boned, sturdy legs through rocky, cactus-choked ravines infested with rattlesnakes.

The mixed-breed, mangy horses descended from ancestors that escaped from Spanish explorers, U.S. cavalry soldiers, gold miners and ranchers.

All Shorty needed to channel generations of wilderness experience to become a valuable Border Patrol mount was some gentle coaxing by horse trainers.

That's where prisoners at Four Mile Correctional Center in Cañon City came in.

Lessons in training horses

Four years ago, now-retired Border Patrol supervisor Lee Pinkerton called Colorado prison officials and asked whether the

inmates who had been training wild mustangs since 1986 to become working ranch horses could also train them to chase down drug and human smugglers.

Pinkerton's idea has since evolved into a nationwide program called Project Noble Mustang. At the time, Shorty was still roaming the Western plains.

The Bureau of Land Management rounded up him and dozens of other mustangs from four wild herds in Colorado and from herds across the West for the Border Patrol.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Finding new hope, life after addiction at Denver's CeDAR - The Denver Post

Finding new hope, life after addiction at Denver's CeDAR - The Denver Post

Reported crimes drop 5 percent in Denver - The Denver Post

Reported crimes drop 5 percent in Denver - The Denver Post

The number of reported crimes in Denver decreased an average of 5 percent in the past year, dropping to levels not seen since the turn of the century, authorities say.

The total number of murders dropped 13 percent, from 38 in 2009 to 33 in 2010, according to police. The number of aggravated assaults and sexual assaults also dropped.

"We're obviously pleased," said Lt. Matt Murray, Denver police spokesman. "We're always doing things to decrease crime with new techniques and technology. Clearly we're doing things right. But it wouldn't be fair to speculate on all the factors that contributed to the reduction."

Overall, the crime rate across the country is dropping, he said, and societal changes are contributing to the decline.

According to the Denver Police Department's Data Analysis Unit, crimes against persons declined by 1.4 percent and property crimes dropped by 4.1 percent.

The new figures do not take into account population increases, Murray said. The comparisons are strictly based on total numbers of reported crimes, he said.

The number of burglaries dropped by 6.3 percent, robberies by 5.6 percent and motor-vehicle thefts by 8.9 percent.

Murray said Denver uses DNA to solve burglaries, a factor that can dramatically reduce crime. When the department takes one prolific burglar off the street, it can prevent 30 additional burglaries, he said.

One area that bucked the trend was larceny, which went up by 7.4 percent, police said.

Crimes for which police officers have increased the frequency of patrolling also went up.

The number of prostitution arrests, for example, went up by 73 percent, and child pornography arrests jumped by 15 percent.

Read more: Reported crimes drop 5 percent in Denver - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17142095#ixzz1Ba8zjvXw
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For Ex prisoners a haven from the streets

This year, the United States will release nearly three-quarters of a million people from prison, a record high.   Nationally, 2.3 million people are in prison in the United States, and 95 percent of them will, at some point, get out and go home.
Society has a strong interest in keeping them home — in helping them to become law-abiding citizens instead of falling back into their old ways and returning to prison.  But American programs for newly released prisoners echo the typical follies of our criminal justice system:  our politicians usually believe that voters only want the emotional satisfactions of meting out maximum punishment, even if these policies lead to even more crime.
The usual package granted to someone released from prison in New York state is $40, a bus ticket and the considerable stigma that follows an ex-offender.  Since prisoners are often held far away from their families and states charge astronomical rates for prison phone calls, prisoners often lose touch with their loved ones and may not have anyone to take them in when they get home.  They may arrive in their home cities with no plans, other than — worrisomely — those hatched with fellow prisoners.  They have little prospect for jobs or housing.  Since many don’t get effective drug treatment in prison, they might still crave a fix, which costs money.  It is little wonder that some former prisoners fall back into crime within hours or days.

Suit against Denver cop cleared for trial - The Denver Post

Suit against Denver cop cleared for trial - The Denver Post

A Denver police officer who was once a contestant on "American Gladiators" will face a federal jury that will decide whether she roughed up the manager of a Grease Monkey after he had asked her to move her police cruiser.

The lawsuit filed against Officer Vickie Ferrari is scheduled to go to trial Monday before U.S. District Judge Walker Miller.

David Kraus, manager of the Grease Monkey shop at 15077 E. 43rd Ave. in northeast Denver, sued Ferrari in 2008, alleging use of excessive force and violation of his civil rights.

"This incident occurred four years ago, and we ask the public to give us the benefit of the doubt and refrain judgment until they hear all the facts," said police Lt. Matt Murray.

Kraus' attorney, David Lane, described his client as an honorably discharged Vietnam War veteran, as well as a Boy Scout and church leader, who asked the officer to move her car.

The lawsuit alleges Ferrari parked her cruiser in the entryway to the shop, blocking traffic and customers from the business on June 27, 2007.

At the time, she was providing cover for officers who were nearby.

Kraus asked Ferrari twice to move her cruiser, and she declined, the suit says.

He then asked for her business card and claims she got angry and arrested him in a violent manner.

Ferrari is accused of cranking down the handcuffs, causing permanent nerve damage to Kraus' hand when she arrested him.

An interference charge against Kraus later was dismissed.

Kraus' complaint against Ferrari was not sustained during an internal-affairs investigation.

"Although no violations of policy or procedure were sustained against Officer Ferrari, it is understood that this incident could have been handled in a more efficient, positive manner," Cmdr. Deborah Dilley wrote in a 2008 letter to Kraus. "This incident and how to better handle similar incidents in the future has been discussed and documented with Officer Ferrari by her lieutenant."

Read more: Suit against Denver cop cleared for trial - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17122696#ixzz1BOCDwZyX
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Denver mayor wants quick resolution in probe of jail death - The Denver Post

Denver mayor wants quick resolution in probe of jail death - The Denver Post

Recently sworn-in Denver Mayor Guillermo "Bill" Vidal said he is pushing for quick resolution of the investigation into the July jailhouse death of inmate Marvin Booker.

"This is high-priority for us," Vidal said after Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Marade. "The longer we take, the answer won't feel right because it took so long."

Moments before the march, former Mayor Wellington Webb called for a quick resolution in the Booker case before activists shouted at city officials to complete the investigation.

Vidal said he would like to see a resolution before his term ends in July.

Booker, 56, was jailed on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia. After he got into a scuffle with a booking deputy and ignored her orders, deputies shocked him with a Taser, put him in a carotid "sleeper hold" and lay atop him in an effort to control him. He later stopped breathing.

The coroner's office ruled that his death was a homicide. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey refused to charge the deputies, who remain on paid leave.

The case is under internal investigation by the sheriff's office with oversight from the Office of Independent Monitor and final review by the manager of safety.

A surveillance tape that shows the altercation that led to Booker's death has not been released because it is part of the investigation.

Read more: Denver mayor wants quick resolution in probe of jail death - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17122678#ixzz1BOBiTQTj
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Difficult solutions to Colorado's $1 billion problem - The Denver Post

Difficult solutions to Colorado's $1 billion problem - The Denver Post

The governor and state lawmakers should focus on cost-saving measures in health care, which include exploring options in home health care as opposed to care delivered in institutional settings; care delivery through community health care clinics; and encouraging adequate follow-up care as a way to improve outcomes and reduce the need for future additional care.

The state must continue to explore reforms in corrections to reduce prison populations. All four panelists support changes in parole guidelines and enhancing rehabilitation programs and community-based offender treatment. The majority supports exploring sentencing reform as well.

Restore the state's homestead exemption for seniors, but only if means testing is added to determine financial eligibility.

Read more: Difficult solutions to Colorado's $1 billion problem - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17090479#ixzz1BJLonDCY
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Boulder court's caring touch and rewards help drug rehabilitation stick - The Denver Post

Boulder court's caring touch and rewards help drug rehabilitation stick - The Denver Post

A year ago, nobody would have called the now 50-year-old Patty McParland — 30 years addicted to drugs and alcohol, homeless and a frequent squad-car passenger — a success story.

That's what made the $200 voucher for substance-abuse treatment and the free movie passes that Judge Thomas Mulvahill handed down as praise for her new sobriety so meaningful.

McParland beamed as she exited Boulder County's Courtroom I that recent Tuesday morning in December accompanied by the applause of 15 of her peers.

"You get praise. It boosts morale. It helps a lot with that," said McParland, now a year sober and in transitional housing. "A lot of times, even on regular probation, you're doing a great job and the only thing you hear from those people is what you're doing wrong."

Drug courts aren't new — Colorado has 21, including the first opened in Denver in 1994 — but the gift certificates, grocery cards, movie tickets and other goodies this court uses make it stand out, according to District 20 Chief Judge Roxanne Bailin, who launched Boulder's court four years ago.

"One of the critical parts of a successful drug court program is the immediacy of sanctions and the immediacy of rewards," Bailin said. "Tangible rewards maximize success. It relates to the fact that people who are addicted to drugs are really people for whom immediate gratification is important. That's what drug use is."

The system also helps close what can be gaps of months between a failed urine test and a court sanction.

Boulder's success rate has made it a model for other districts exploring problem-solving courts and has prompted Bailin to apply the same gentler approach in a new DUI court and drug courts for families and juveniles.

Positive interactions

With few exceptions, hearings in Courtroom I feel more like counseling sessions than criminal proceedings. Mulvahill's conversations with offenders are open and intensely personal.

He asks one man about recent marital troubles. Another woman answers questions about her father's alcoholism. Friendships, dating lives, job prospects and parenting — nothing is off-limits in the open court.

"I worry when things start to pile up on you," Mulvahill tells a father of five who has turned to a synthetic marijuana substitute called Spice in the past. "You told me you were using that in part to deal with stress."

For many offenders, this can be a rare positive interaction with an authority figure.

Parole officers recom

Read more: Boulder court's caring touch and rewards help drug rehabilitation stick - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17109344#ixzz1BGTyXuOP
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Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday: Is the drug war then next civil rights issue?

With Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday approaching, we are forced to draw connections between the war on drugs and the disintegration of low-income and black communities in America. As Dr. King so poignantly reminds us in his critique of the Vietnam War, "a time comes when silence is betrayal." With many communities disparately impacted by the drug war, many of us working for justice have come to the realization that America's war on drugs is really a war on families and communities. In the spirit of Dr. King, we must now ask: Has this assault on the poor and the marginalized has become the next big civil rights struggle?

Civil rights advocates are honoring Dr. King's legacy by standing up against the "new Jim Crow" - mass incarceration and the racially disproportionate war on drugs. It is impossible to talk frankly and honestly about racism without talking about the drug war. Few U.S. policies have had such a devastating effect on Blacks, Latinos and other racial minorities than the drug war. Every aspect of the war on drugs - from arrests to prosecutions to sentencing - is disproportionately carried out against minorities.

One great example of this is the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity that has reinforced our country's historically racist attitudes toward minorities. For two decades, a person with just five grams of crack cocaine received a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. The same person would have to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same punishment. This discrepancy, known as the 100-to-1 ratio, was enacted in the late 1980's and was based on the myth that crack cocaine was far more dangerous than powder. The 100-1 ratio caused many problems, including perpetuating racial disparities which targeted low level offenders, especially blacks. Advocates pushed to eliminate this disparity for many years and only recently managed to convince law makers to reduce the 100-1 disparity to 18-1. The repeal also eliminated the five year minimum for simple possession for five grams of cocaine. This was the first repeal of a mandatory minimum drug sentence since the 1970's and has reduced the federal prison population and saved an estimated $42 million in criminal justice spending over the first five years.

The crack/cocaine disparity laws bring a host of questions to mind. Why are black men imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of white men despite equal rates of drug use and selling across races? How do we begin to address the connections between astronomical rates of incarceration, disintegration of black families, and the war on drugs?

These questions and many more will be addressed at a town hall forum at First Baptist Church in Washington, DC on Friday, January 14. The forum - "Ending the 40 Year Drug War: Promoting Policies That Rebuild/Reclaim Our Families and Communities" - will bring together a diverse group of scholars, community activists, social service providers, and religious and political leaders. They will discuss viable alternatives to the quagmire of the misdirected war on drugs, which has torn apart the fabric of many communities.

Hopefully the legacy of Dr. King will be carried on in an attempt to solve the problems associated with the black community. Our goal is that both panelists and attendees will be guided to action by Dr. King's wisdom: "If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight".

For more information please contacty cadore@drugpolicy.org

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Colorado's bill would ease state's medical-pot law - The Denver Post

Colorado's bill would ease state's medical-pot law - The Denver Post

Colorado's medical-marijuana laws could be relaxed to make it easier for felons to own dispensaries and exempt long-standing pot shops from buffer rules around schools.

A bill unveiled this week at the state Capitol makes a number of changes to Colorado's medical- marijuana laws that are friendly to the cannabis industry.

The bill also would ease rules for doctors with restricted licenses who want to recommend medical marijuana and would allow patients to shop in a dispensary immediately after sending in their medical-marijuana applications. It also would limit state residency requirements only to dispensary owners.

State Rep. Tom Massey, a Poncha Springs Republican who is the bill's House sponsor, said the proposal

came from listening to medical-marijuana business owners, state regulatory officials and law enforcement officers.

"We're trying to do everything we can to make this a more workable system for the state," Massey said.

House Bill 1043 also contains provisions creating new regulations. Caregivers — small- scale providers of medical marijuana to patients — would have to register with the state. The locations of commercial marijuana-growing facilities would be made public. And a cap would be placed for the first time on the number of plants a marijuana-infused-products maker could gro

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Lawsuit alleges unjustified cop beating, coverup - The Denver Post

Lawsuit alleges unjustified cop beating, coverup - The Denver Post

Denver police waited months to open a full investigation into a claim that officers — including one involved in another excessive-force case — beat a man senseless during a routine traffic stop.

The department's Internal Affairs Bureau originally reviewed the case but refused to begin a formal investigation into Alexander Landau's claim that he was beaten on Jan. 19, 2009, according to a source familiar with the case.

The bureau finally launched the investigation when new information surfaced, Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said Thursday. He declined to provide additional details, citing the ongoing probe.

Landau has now sued the three officers in U.S. District Court in Denver, saying they tried

to cover up the unwarranted attack. The 37-page lawsuit claims Internal Affairs routinely ignores serious complaints of "race-based or other violent retaliation and fabrication of evidence by the police force."

Among the officers is Cpl. Randy Murr, who also is the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation in the videotaped beating of Michael DeHerrera in Lower Downtown in April 2009, almost three months after Landau's arrest.

Neither case resolved

Though the second anniversaries of both incidents are approaching, neither has yet been resolved by Denver police.

Also named in Landau's suit are officers Ricky Nixon and Tiffany Middleton, Police Chief Gerry Whitman and the city and county of Denver.

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Cruel and Unequal

Sojourners Magazine
So much about our racial reality today is little more than a mirage. The promised land of racial equality quivers just out of our reach in the barren desert of our new, "colorblind" political landscape. It looks so good from a distance: Barack Obama, our nation’s first black president, standing behind a podium in the Rose Garden looking handsome, dignified, and in charge. Flip the channel and there’s the whole Obama family exiting Air Force One, waving to the crowd -- a gorgeous black family living in the White House, cheered by the world.
Drive a few blocks from the White House and you find the other America. You find you're still in the desert, dying of thirst, wondering what wrong turn was made and how you managed to miss the promised land, though you reached for it with all your might.
A vast new racial undercaste now exists in America, though their plight is rarely mentioned. Obama won't mention it; the Tea Party won't mention it; media pundits would rather talk about anything else. The members of the undercaste are largely invisible to those of us who have jobs, live in decent neighborhoods, and zoom around on freeways, passing by the virtual and literal prisons in which they live.
But here are the facts: There are more African-American adults under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. In major urban areas such as Chicago, Oama’s hometown, the majority of working-age African-American men have criminal records and are thus subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. Millions of people in the United States, primarily poor people of color, are denied the very rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement: the right to vote, to serve on juries, and to be free from discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits. Branded "criminals" and "felons," such people now find themselves relegated to a permanent second-class status. They live in a parallel social universe: the other America, where they will stay for the rest of their lives.
We, as a nation, are in deep denial about how this came to pass. On the rare occasions when the existence of "them" -- the others, the ghetto dwellers, those locked up and locked out -- is publicly acknowledged, standard excuses are trotted out. We're told black culture, bad schools, poverty, and broken homes are to blame. Almost no one admits: We declared war. We declared a war on the most vulnerable people in our society and then blamed them for the wreckage.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sentencing Reform in th 2011 Legislature

Huffington Post
State spending does not drive the prison population. Rather, just like an entitlement, the prison population drives state spending. The legislature's ability to affect the prison caseload, and thus the corrections budget, rests in its prerogative to write, and when necessary, re-write the state's criminal sentencing and parole laws and policies.
So the Independence Institute is teaming up with the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and the Pew Center on the States to throw a panel event on February 8 to find out what is on tap for sentencing reform in Colorado this year.
In 2010, Colorado lawmakers passed and Governor Ritter signed a half-dozen sentencing and other criminal justice-related bills that were generated out of the work of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). All of these bills were fairly modest in scope (an appropriate enough approach to most criminal justice reform efforts), but taken together it was the most significant effort at sentencing reform, and thus prison spending reform, in Colorado in the last twenty-five years. Indeed, the last time the Colorado legislature took this big a swipe at sentencing was in 1985 with House Bill 1320, which not only increased the minimum sentences for crimes of violence, but also doubled the maximum penalties for all levels of felony crimes, regardless of the nature of the crime, in Colorado's presumptive sentencing range. Colorado taxpayers have been paying the price of runaway prison spending, with a less-than-clear public safety benefit, ever since.
The CCJJ is still meeting and working, and there will be both more recommendations, and more sentencing and criminal justice-related bills in the 2011 Colorado General Assembly. The event is Tuesday, Feb. 8 from 5-7:00 PM at the University Club, just north of the Colorado State Capitol. Panelists include State Representative and CCJJ commissioner Mark Waller; State Senator and CCJJ drug task force member Pat Steadman; Christie Donner, Executive Director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and CCJJ task force member; Richard Jerome from the Pew Center on the State's Public Safety Performance Project and myself from the Independence Institute.
Senator Steadman and Representative Waller were both sponsors of last year's controlled substance statute reform bill, HB 1352.
Event details are available here. And if, after you RSVP, you want to get prepped for the event, check out the sentencing reform section of the Independence Institute's Citizens' Budget project.

Meth flourishes despite tracking laws - The Denver Post

Meth flourishes despite tracking laws - The Denver Post

ST. LOUIS — Electronic systems that track sales of the cold medicine used to make methamphetamine have failed to curb the drug trade and instead created a vast, highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the- counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.

An Associated Press review of federal data shows that the lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld over the past few years.

"It's almost like a subcriminal culture," said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. "You'll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They'll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit."

Inside their vehicles, the so-called "pill brokers" punch out blister packs into a bucket and even clip coupons, Boggs said.

At the height of the meth epidemic, several states turned to the electronic systems, which allowed pharmacies to check instantly whether a buyer had already purchased the legal limit of pseudoephedrine — a step that was supposed to make it harder to obtain raw ingredients for meth. But it has not worked as intended.

In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.

Because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.

The tracking systems "invite more people into the criminal activity because the black- market price of the product becomes so much more profitable," said Jason Grellner, a detective in hard-hit Franklin County, Mo., about 40 miles west of St. Louis.

"Where else can you make a 750 percent profit in 45 minutes?" asked Grellner, former president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association.

Since tracking laws were enacted beginning in 2006, the number of meth busts nationwide has started climbing again. Some experts say the black market for cold pills contributed to that spike. Other factors are at play, too, such as meth trafficking by Mexican cartels and new methods for making small amounts of meth.

AP reviewed DEA data spanning nearly a decade, from 2000 to 2009, and conducted interviews with a wide array of police and government official

Read more: Meth flourishes despite tracking laws - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_17061276#ixzz1AjvDAKmD
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Johnson: Reverend's pardon shows others they can turn their lifearound - The Denver Post

Johnson: Reverend's pardon shows others they can turn their lifearound - The Denver Post

I never knew. I have known the man for 14 years. Never knew.

When I tell the Rev. Leon Kelly this, he raises his hands, palms up, and shakes as he laughs that deep, booming laugh of his.

His pardon for a crime I never knew he committed hangs in a silver frame on a wall just outside his office. I thought it maybe would be longer, a little more elaborate, festooned with some color and, perhaps, some ribbon.

No, it is just a couple of paragraphs long on the governor's letterhead, a gold seal stamped just above Bill Ritter's signature.

It's easy to understand why Leon Kelly received his pardon. Over a little more than two hours, nearly two dozen people come into his office.

There is the family from Ohio who had heard of him. He rises to greet each of them, hugging them warmly.

Another is a man, 37 years old, bespectacled and neatly dressed from neck to feet. He had been released from prison exactly four days ago. He had done five years this time, and nearly 20 in all.

"With all that I have done, the one man who still was always there for me, more than my own parents, it was him," the man says, pointing at Kelly before hugging him goodbye.

Kelly walks over to a photograph of him with football great Jim Brown and a young boy, maybe 10 years old.

"That is him," he explains, pointing at the door. "I love them all like my own children. Some you can reach . . . "

He has run Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives in Lower Downtown since 1986, working with thousands of elementary school-age children, trying to keep them away from gangs.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Press Release: Grants 28 Pardons & Commutations

Press Release: Grants 28 Pardons & Commutations


Gov. Bill Ritter today approved 28 pardons and commutations, including commutations for four individuals who were juveniles when they committed their crimes.

“After carefully reviewing each of these cases, I believe it serves the interests of justice − without compromising public safety − to grant these pardons and commutations,” said Gov. Ritter, who spent two decades as a criminal prosecutor, including 12 years as Denver's district attorney.

Gov. Ritter established the nation's first Juvenile Clemency Board in 2007 to review commutation requests from offenders who, as juveniles, were tried, convicted and sentenced as adults. Today's commutations are the first issued under this new system.

Juvenile Clemencies

Charles E. Limbrick Jr., who in 1989 was sentenced to life for first-degree murder. In 2006, Gov. Owens granted him parole elibility in 2016. Today's action awards parole, for the maximum allowable term of five years, effective July 1, 2011.

Dietrick Mitchell, who in 1992 was sentenced to life for first-degree murder. Eligible for parole in 2031, his sentence is now commuted to 32 years and his parole eligibility date will be recalculated.

Sean Steele, who in 1997 was sentenced to 48 years for second-degree murder, 32 years for robbery and in 2004 to 15 months for drug possession. Eligible for parole in 2031, his eligibility date will be recalculated based on a single 48-year sentence.

Sean Taylor, who in 1990 was sentenced to life for first-degree murder. Eligible for parole in 2029, he is granted parole, for the maximum allowable term of five years, effective July 1, 2011.


Jesse I. Cluff, who in 1994 was sentenced to prison for 48 years for aggravated robbery. Eligible for parole in 2014, he is granted parole, for the maximum allowable term of five years, effective July 1, 2011.

Gary E. Izor, who has served time since the 1970s for homicide, DUI and escape. Eligible for parole in 2016, he is granted parole, for the maximum allowable term of five years, effective July 1, 2011.

Christopher S. Kemp, who in 1993 was sentenced to prison for aggravated robbery. Eligible for parole in 2031, he is now eligible on Dec. 31, 2013.

Jennifer Reali, who in 1992 was sentenced to life for first-degree murder and 24 years for conspiracy to commit murder. Eligible for parole in 2030, she is now eligible on June 25, 2011.

Stanley Reese, who in 1995 was sentenced to 48 years for burglary, 24 years for theft and one year for criminal mischief. Eligible for parole in 2013, he is granted parole, for the maximum allowable term of five years, effective July 1, 2011.

Robert F. Willner, who in 1991 was sentenced to life without parole for first-degree murder. In 2003, his sentence was modified to life with the possibility of parole in 40 years. He is now granted parole elibility on Dec. 8, 2015.


Ginger Sue Carmichael, who in 2004 pleaded guilty to drug charges and has completed her sentence.

Alan Edwin Fahrenbruch, who in 1962 was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery and has completed his sentence.

William Rolland Fitzwater, who in 1991 was convicted of drug possession and has completed his sentence.

Joseph Matthew Gallegos, who in 1998 was convicted of domestic-violence assault and menacing and has completed his sentence.

Antasia Giebler, who in 1998 pleaded guilty to vehicular eluding and being an accessory to the crime and has completed her sentence.

Desiree Greeno, who in 1990 pleaded guilty to theft and has completed her sentence.

Courtney Morgan Hart, who in 2000 pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a financial transaction device and has completed her sentence.

David Sean Herron, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to theft and has completed his sentence.

Joshua M. Karp, who in 2001 pleaded guilty to a municipal domestic violence offense and has completed his sentence.

Gary Lee Levi Sr., who in 1966 pleaded no contest to a felony charge of short check and has completed his sentence.

Kevin B. Reeves, who in 2009 was charged with felony criminal impersonation and has completed the terms of a deferred judgment and sentence.

Shannon Louise Robledo, who in 1997 pleaded guilty to larceny and has completed her sentence.

Elizabeth Helen Schmidl, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft and has completed her sentence.

Michael J. Schneider, who in 1993 was convicted of criminal trespass, attempted escape and third-degree assault and has completed his sentence.

Brian Andrew Severson, who in 1989, while a juvenile, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault on a child and has completed his sentence.

Patricia M. Sweeney, who in 1996 pleaded guilty to assault and administration of a drug and has completed her sentence.

Doyle T. Tobel, who in 1984 pleaded guilty to attempted sale of a narcotic and has completed his sentence.

Kevin Turnock, who in 1988 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor shoplifting and has completed his sentence.

Hickenlooper names homeland-security, public-safety chiefs - The Denver Post

Hickenlooper names homeland-security, public-safety chiefs - The Denver Post

Hickenlooper announced that FBI agent Jim
Davis will be executive director of the
Department of Public Safety. Davis now oversees
the Denver division of the Federal Bureau of

"Certainly I will miss the FBI, but I have had a
great career and I am ready to move on and try
some new challenges," Davis said.

Hickenlooper also said Barbara Kelley will
remain executive director of the Department of
Regulatory Agencies. Ritter appointed her in
November 2009.

The Department of Regulatory Agencies —
nicknamed DORA— works to promote a fair and
competitive business environment in Colorado. It
includes the insurance and civil-rights divisions,
as well as the Public Utilities Commission.

James H. Davis has been named Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Denver Division of the FBI. Most recently, Mr. Davis served as Legal Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Mr. Davis entered on duty with the FBI in March 1985. Upon completion of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he was assigned to the Richmond Division, where he primarily worked white collar crime investigations in addition to recruiting and applicant matters.

In March 1989, Mr. Davis was transferred to the Chicago Division and was assigned to an undercover operation involving fraud in the commodities markets. He was assigned to the Public Corruption Squad in April 1991, where he was the case agent on a three-year undercover operation, Silver Shovel, which resulted in over two dozen convictions, including six City of Chicago Aldermen. Mr. Davis was promoted to supervisor of that squad in 1996.

Mr. Davis was transferred to FBI Headquarters in August 1998, where he was responsible for supervising FBI agents assigned to the independent counsel investigation of Secretary of the Interior Bruce Edward Babbitt. In September 1999, he was promoted to Unit Chief of the National Press Office. In July 2001, Mr. Davis was named Chief of the Governmental Fraud Unit and served in that capacity until he was appointed Assistant Section Chief of Financial Crimes Section in September 2002.

In February 2003, Mr. Davis was named Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Division. His responsibilities included program management of all FBI criminal investigations in Indiana. During his tenure there, he served two extended temporary duty assignments in the Middle East. From November 2003 to January 2004, Mr. Davis served as the Deputy On-Scene Commander of the FBI's Baghdad Operations Center in Baghdad, Iraq, with oversight responsibilities for post-war counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations. From December 2004 to February 2005, he served as the On-Scene Commander for the FBI in Afghanistan, where he led FBI operations there in the hunt for al Qaeda operatives and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mr. Davis was selected to serve as Legal Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, in July 2006. He was responsible for the strategic, executive-level oversight of all non-terrorism FBI operations and personnel in the Iraqi Theater of Operations and effectively serving the interests of the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq as the senior FBI representative in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Mr. Davis was born in Detroit, Michigan, and graduated with an accounting degree from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, in 1982. Before entering on duty with the FBI, he worked as a Certified Public Accountant in Chicago, Illinois.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

December 2010 Monthly Population Reports

Nice drop in population last month.  We are down to minus 40 for the year.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Durango Herald 01/03/2011 | Colorado prisons shed inmates

The Durango Herald 01/03/2011 | Colorado prisons shed inmates

DENVER – The number of inmates in Colorado prisons is falling for the first time in years, and economists predict a steeper slide because of new state laws.

However, some previous forecasts have been off, and Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said the department is being cautious about the projections.

Since fiscal 1993, state prison populations rose from about 9,200 to about 23,000 in fiscal 2009, according to data from the Department of Corrections.

That fell 1.4 percent to 22,860 inmates as of last June. It was the first decline in years but still was short of the state Division of Criminal Justice’s projection for a 3.9 percent decline. The division said there were fewer discretionary parole releases than expected.

Legislative economists predicted in December that there would be just 21,058 inmates in June 2013 because of a combination of recent trends and new state laws. That would represent an average annual decrease of about 2.7 percent.

The Division of Criminal Justice predicts about 21,282 inmates in June 2013.

Sanguinetti expected the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee would scrutinize the numbers more this month because the projections help determine the department’s budget.

State officials have credited recidivism programs, slightly higher release rates, decisions by the parole board and fewer new court convictions for the decline in inmates.

Legislative economists said bills passed in 2010 to reduce penalties for certain repeat offenders and crimes will help shrink the prison population, along with bills addressing earned time and where parolees can be placed.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Outlawed, cell phones are thriving in prisons

ATLANTA — A counterfeiter at a Georgia state prison ticks off the remaining days of his three-year sentence on his Facebook page. He has 91 digital “friends.” Like many of his fellow inmates, he plays the online games FarmVille and Street Wars.
He does it all on a Samsung smartphone, which he says he bought from a guard. And he used the same phone to help organize a short strike among inmates at several Georgia prisons last month.
Technology is changing life inside prisons across the country at the same rapid-fire pace it is changing life outside. A smartphone hidden under a mattress is the modern-day file inside a cake.
“This kind of thing was bound to happen,” said Martin F. Horn, a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The physical boundaries that we thought protected us no longer work.”
Although prison officials have long battled illegal cellphones, smartphones have changed the game. With Internet access, a prisoner can call up phone directories, maps and photographs for criminal purposes, corrections officials and prison security experts say. Gang violence and drug trafficking, they say, are increasingly being orchestrated online, allowing inmates to keep up criminal behavior even as they serve time.
“The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison,” said Terry L. Bittner, director of security products with the ITT Corporation, one of a handful of companies that create cellphone-detection systems for prisons. “The smartphone is the equivalent of the old Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of other things with it.”
The Georgia prison strike, for instance, was about things prisoners often complain about: They are not paid for their labor. Visitation rules are too strict. Meals are bad.
But the technology they used to voice their concerns was new.
Inmates punched in text messages and assembled e-mail lists to coordinate simultaneous protests, including work stoppages, with inmates at other prisons. Under pseudonyms, they shared hour-by-hour updates with followers on Facebook and Twitter. They communicated with their advocates, conducted news media interviews and monitored coverage of the strike.

Timing couldn't be better for Colorado prison reforms

Timing couldn't be better for Colorado prison reforms

For those who think regular news about the state’s budget woes is nothing but esoteric rhetoric, the recent snow storm should give you a taste of what’s to come if Colorado lawmakers don’t do something soon.

Anyone out on the metro area roads the last few days couldn’t help but notice that even major interstates didn’t get the usual snow removal treatments, leaving snow-packed and icy roads and bridges for nature and traffic to finally clear. Much of that has to do with the state using fewer resources to clear roads in hopes of saving money.

Welcome to a leaner, meaner Colorado state budget. While state transportation officials will argue that public safety isn’t at risk, we’d argue that cutting state spending just about anywhere except the Colorado roads budget should be everyone’s goal. These are, however, tough times that are about to get tougher.

Despite repeated cuts during the past few years, Colorado must find ways to lop about $1 billion off its $8-billion annual budget. An Associated Press story points to a place the state can cut and still preserve important services such as road maintenance.

For the first time in almost 20 years, the state’s prison inmate population has finally quit growing, even as the state’s total population moves ahead. Since 1993 under a shortsighted and misguided conservative state government, Colorado’s prison population mushroomed from 9,300 inmates to a whopping 23,000 inmates in 2009. At a staggering cost of almost $30,000 to house each inmate every year, it’s no wonder that so much of the state’s resources are needed to feed one of the state’s fastest growing industries and leave less and less for things such as roads, education and health care.

The problem is that the state has been incarcerating drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill and petty criminals and turning them into lifelong residents of the state’s prison systems at exorbitant taxpayer expense. Almost half of these men and women are imprisoned because of drug habits, alcoholism, conspiracy or other nonviolent offenses. We’re not suggesting that people don’t need to be policed and punished for violating laws, but study after study shows that by treating or preventing people from becoming mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics, taxpayers save big by having those future cell mates be productive, taxpaying citizens.

Colorado inmates catch useful trade in raising fish for food - The Denver Post

Colorado inmates catch useful trade in raising fish for food - The Denver Post

CAÑON CITY — Douglas Jay checks the salinity of water in a giant tank of tilapia swirling in schools of hundreds.

Jay darts from one fiberglass tank to the next in a giant greenhouse, working with enthusiasm rarely found where he lives — in prison.

He understands that taking good care of fish and working hard could never compensate for raping, fatally shooting and throwing 22-year-old Lisa Ann Pekas from his moving car. But for Jay, who has served 22 years and is now working in an innovative Department of Corrections program, raising fish represents a sea change that he hopes will lead to more productive endeavors.

"Considering what I did — I took a life — I'm doing something now that feeds people," Jay said.

The DOC fish program provides tilapia fillets with no hormones to a business that sells thousands of pounds of fish to Whole Foods Market, which then distributes them to 27 stores in the Intermountain West.

The tilapia program gives Jay and nearly 100 other inmates at minimum- security Arrowhead Correctional Center in Cañon City something to do for a nominal wage.

Pat Henry, 48, wears surgical gloves as he gently sticks his finger inside the mouth of a fish and coaxes hundreds of eggs out into a bucket.

On the other end of the commercial fish/prison enterprise, Frederick Richardson, 43, of Colorado Springs holds a razor-sharp knife in his hand in a warehouse where everyone must walk through a small pool of antiseptic to kill germs.

Read more: Colorado inmates catch useful trade in raising fish for food - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16996263#ixzz19yjS3dYi
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