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, March 31, 2011

We Understand But Parolees Have to Go Somewhere

Greeley Tribune
We understand where Jerry Garner is coming from.

Greeley’s top cop is concerned that convicted criminals, being paroled from prison, will be making their way back to Greeley and restarting their life of crime. He cites an increase in the number of parolees being released into Weld County.

Last year, 16 parolees were released back into Weld County in February. This year, the number of parolees was 37.

It’s a Catch-22 Greeley and every community in the state finds itself in. The state has to release parolees, not only because the parole board has deemed them safe to return to society, but because it simply can’t keep prisoners forever. The state prison system is expensive to operate, and budget cuts might mean the closing of some state prison facilities.

According to the Colorado Department of Corrections, the average cost of housing an inmate is $32,339 per year. As of the end of December 2010, the department reported it is housing 22,274 inmates. That’s roughly $720 million annually in taxpayer dollars going to keep people in prison.

DOC spokeswoman Katherine Senguinetti said the department is not releasing more parolees than normal and parole officers are managing cases effectively.

What’s difficult to determine is what Garner is predicting: that many of these parolees will commit new crimes. It is, of course, impossible to know which, if any, of the parolees will re-offend, but some likely will.

In 2009, 6.1 percent of adults were terminated from probation because they committed a new crime, according to a joint report from the Division of Probation Services, the State Court Administrator’s Office and the Colorado Judicial Branch. That was a slight decrease from the 6.3 percent reported in 2008.

The same report found that 6.7 percent of convicted criminals released from probation were charged with new crimes in 2009.

For some crimes, recidivism rates are much higher. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 48.4 percent of males convicted of sexual assault nationwide will be re-arrested within three years of release.

Paroling inmates is part of our judicial system. When it’s deemed that prisoners have served their time, and can safely be released, then they are. This makes room in the prisons for newly sentenced criminals.

Parolees have to go somewhere. Many return to where they came from. The more people from Weld County we convict of crimes, the more that will eventually return after they are paroled. That is just a fact of life.

While we understand Garner’s concerns, there simply isn’t a way we can close the gates and keep out all parolees.

And frankly, it seems overly pessimistic to believe they will all be a danger to the community. Some will probably go on to lead law-abiding, productive lives. Others will undoubtedly commit crimes.

We know this might create a challenge for law enforcement, but it’s also a reality they need to face. And as the state budget continues to be cut, it’s likely these challenges will only grow.

Chief Warns Of Parolees Returning To Greeley

The Greeley Tribune
A declining crime rate over the past few years, on top of five arrests of local gang leaders this week, was good news on the crime-fighting front, but the Greeley City Council was warned Tuesday night that the good times might not last.

Dozens of parolees — including registered sex offenders and people arrested in serious assaults — are being released from the state prison system back into Greeley. Although the state Department of Corrections said the number of parolees is not unusual, Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner warned the council Tuesday that problems could be coming.

Garner said this week that he believes the crime rate in Greeley is bound to increase again with the release of so many “serious” criminals back into the area.

“Many of these people will turn back into crime just to make a living,” Garner said. “And, the parole officers are thinly spread right now, so it will be difficult keeping up with all of the parolees.”

At the DOC, spokeswoman Katherine Senguinetti said that won’t be the case.

“This is not an unusual amount of parolees,” she said. “We usually release about 900 per month across the state. Our parole officers have a caseload that’s a little on the high side, but it’s manageable.”

Among those released was Renee Polreis, 57, who was convicted of child abuse resulting in death in 1997. In a trial that attracted national attention, Polreis was sentenced to 22 years in prison. In that case, Polreis was arrested following the death of her 2-year-old son, David, whom Polreis and her husband, David Sr., adopted from a Russian orphanage. Prosecutors and police said Renee Polreis beat her son with wooden spoons, a spatula and a hair brush, and he choked to death during the beating.

Defense attorneys had argued the boy inflicted the wounds on himself as a result of “reactive attachment disorder,” which some doctors said caused children to harm themselves.

Because it was the first time the disorder was used as a defense in a homicide, the case attracted national attention. Television news crews came to Greeley from New York and Los Angeles, and the case appeared on evening news shows across the country.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Closing prison the right decision | right, view, closing - OUR VIEW - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Closing prison the right decision | right, view, closing - OUR VIEW - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

The Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee has granted a six-month stay of execution for the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas, in southeast Colorado.

While it may be a good idea to slow down and examine all options for scaling back the state’s overblown correctional network, Gov. John Hickenlooper was wise to recommend the closure of at least one prison. Fort Lyon, an expensive and inefficient operation, seems like a good place to start.

The delay in closing Fort Lyon, and the controversy surrounding the closure, involves concerns about the economy of Las Animas and the surrounding region. “It’s going to devastate that community,” said Rep. John Becker, R-Fort Morgan, who’s a member of the Joint Budget Committee.

The 500-bed prison is a former Veterans Administration hospital that was sold to Colorado for $1 in 2001. Of the 487 prisoners who reside there today, 86 have serious medical needs that require routine transportation to and from Pueblo and other distant communities. The per-day cost is $106.61 for each inmate, which compares to $73.16 on average, at the state’s other medium-security prisons. At some private prisons, the daily cost of each inmate is as low as $52.69.

Colorado — like much of the country — simply has too many prisons. As the average age in Colorado rises, the violent crime rate drops. For the past two years, the prison population in Colorado has declined by more than 600.

In addition to decline in violent crime, a variety of advances in supervision technology are giving society the option of keeping marginally violent offenders out of cages. State Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, supports closing the prison and speaks of declining recidivism rates as another opportunity to shrink the prison-industrial complex going forward.

“The reality is that we just have too much government,” said Gardner, as quoted in the Bent County Democrat. “Sometimes the most efficient thing is to shut something down, even if people will be impacted in the short term. The role of prison is not one of an economic development tool for a community.”

(Vote in poll to the right in red type. Must vote to see results. Thanks!)

Too often we hear about the economic benefits of prisons, and all such talk is nonsense. A prison is a necessary evil, and the definition of public liability. Nothing is produced. Prisoners must be fed, housed, clothed and provided with medical care — all at huge expense to society. They pay no taxes and often render their families to subsist on public assistance.

We will never do away with the need for prisons, but let’s be careful to never confuse a prison as something other than a cost. Prisons bring jobs and wealth to localities that host them, but the money is taken from other regions. This is necessary, but should not be confused as economic gain.

No one wants to see harm come to the economy in and around Las Animas. As we wait to determine the final fate of Fort Lyon, legislators, the people of southeast Colorado and others throughout the state should brainstorm ways to use the old VA facilities for ventures that will create wealth and jobs and grow the economy. Let’s not keep a prison that we don’t need, fooling ourselves with economic mythology.

How to waste money and lives: the American prison system | MichaelMoore.com

How to waste money and lives: the American prison system | MichaelMoore.com

In 1970, fewer than 200,000 Americans were incarcerated. Today, with some 2.3 million in prison or jail, the US has more people and a higher percentage of its population locked up than any other country. Adding those on probation and parole, over seven million are under penal supervision. Although much of the growth stems from tougher drug laws, increased sentencing for most offenses has played a large role, too. According to criminologist Todd Clear, prison sentences in the US today average almost twice as long as thirty years ago. American prisoners now endure sentences twice those of the English, four times those of the Dutch, and five to ten times those of the French for the same crimes.

Our penal system affects more middle-class white Americans than we might realize, yet the impact on them is tiny compared with that on minorities – especially young black men from impoverished urban neighborhoods. Over 90 percent of inmates are male, and while 12 percent of the U.S. population is African-American, over 40 percent of prisoners with sentences longer than one year are black. The toll on black families has been incalculable. From the end of slavery until 1970, most black children lived in a two-parent household; now, the majority are cared for only by women. While not the only factor at play, the numbers of black men behind bars have left an entire cohort of girlfriends, wives, and female relatives to raise their kids alone. In minority urban ghettos, where the effects are concentrated, so many men are incarcerated that children think of this as a normal part of adult male life. Many barely know imprisoned fathers. With most prisoners sent off more than 100 miles from home, family visits can be next to impossible. An added irony is that the prisons support the economies of distant, mainly rural and white locales, while the inner cities bearing the brunt of crime remain impoverished.

The costs of our incarceration binge fly in the face of economic sense. From 1982 to 2006, the amount spent on corrections rose by 660 percent. The 2009 bill for jails and prisons was over $60 billion; New Jersey, where I live, spent about $39,000 on each state prisoner in 2009, far more than the cost of tuition at a state college. Some states have cut corrections budgets in response to the economic crisis, but others have increased them, as has the federal government. Our enthusiasm for locking up people raises important moral questions about ourselves. Dostoyevsky was right on the mark when he wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” But even if we focus only on dollars and cents, we must consider the lost opportunities to invest resources in schools, free clinics, afterschool programs, transportation, and other public goods. Politicians and the media have everyone in a frenzy about deficits. Two obvious ways to balance government budgets are to tax the rich and cut defense spending, but it would certainly help if we reduced the populations behind prison walls. Some states have made small moves in this direction, aided by recent declines in crime. But politicians are generally fearful that if they advocate policies to reduce prison populations, they will appear soft on crime.

Editorial: More support for probation system - The Denver Post

Editorial: More support for probation system - The Denver Post

The recent string of violent acts committed by people on probation in Colorado is disconcerting, particularly since the state is considering money-saving reforms that would send even more offenders to supervised release outside prison walls.

We still think it's an appropriate approach — as long as it is accompanied by more and better tools that probation departments can use to keep the community safe.

Last Sunday, The Post published a story detailing how 10 felons, who were on probation at the time, committed acts during the past nine months that resulted in charges of murder or attempted murder.

Several of them are accused of shooting at police officers, wounding two of them. Another is charged with murdering and mutilating a 16-year-old girl. And one man is accused of killing his mother.

We understand that predicting the behavior of convicts on probation is not easy. It's a task made more difficult by the problems these felons have — emotional, mental health and substance abuse issues are not uncommon.

That's why legislators, as they consider new proposals designed to bring down prison populations, must use some of the savings to beef up these ancillary areas.

The cost difference between probation and prison is substantial.

Keeping an offender in prison for a year costs $35,000. In comparison, the average cost of supervising an adult offender on probation is only $1,600. Some who require more intensive supervision — sex offenders, for instance — may be significantly more expensive — somewhere in the range of $4,000.

Nevertheless, it's clear the cost of probation is far less than imprisonment. Yet those savings cannot be considered in isolation.

If Colorado chooses to change sentencing laws, as has been proposed in the past, the cost of expanding community mental health and substance abuse services has to be part of the calculation.

And probation staff has to be beefed up. Currently, the state probation division is only 90 percent staffed. Ensuring there are enough probation officers so they have manageable caseloads must be part of the equation as well.

Tom Quinn, director of the state's Division of Probation Services, said his office is testing advanced screening tools. The goal is to better pinpoint problems and traits that might push probationers to wrongdoing and then address those issues.

The Post story addresses the idea of arming probation officers so they can protect themselves in dangerous situations they might encounter during home visits. Quinn told us he would oppose that. He says introducing a gun into the situation means probation officers would have the responsibility to ensure the gun doesn't get into the wrong hands.

Read more: Editorial: More support for probation system - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17728092#ixzz1I5qcej5E
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Congratulations! Record Sealing Bill Passes

Legislative Update!  Congratulations
On March 29, 2011, Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 1167- Record Sealing Bill into law.  This is our first major victory at the Capitol for 2011. We also want to deeply thank our members who testified in support of the bill at the various legislative committees. The bill was approved by the House on a 64 -1 vote on March 1, 2011 and approved by the Senate on a 35-0 vote on March 21, 2011.
CCJRC would like to thank Maureen Cain, the lobbyist for the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, for her tireless work in support of this bill.   We also want to thank the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice for their work on this issue and of course the bill sponsors, Representative Mark Ferrandino, Representative Claire Levy, and Representative Pete Lee as well as Senator Pat Steadman and Senator Jeanne Nicholson.
Our Summer newsletter will contain a more complete summary from the legislation session.  We will let you know when State Judicial has update their website to get forms and instructions for the petition.
HB 1167 - Concerning the Petition Process for the Sealing of Certain Drug Offense Records
Under previous law, a person convicted of drug use or possession has to wait 10 years after completion of any sentence (including parole) and meet other eligibility criteria in order to petition the court to seal the criminal record.  Under this bill, the time-line is staggered based on the seriousness of the offense:  3 years on a petty offense or class 2 or 3 misdemeanor; 5 years on a class one misdemeanor; 7 years on a class 5 or 6 felony; and 10 years on any other drug crime.  The district attorney has the right to object to the petition or veto the request for all offenses except petty offenses.  Other provision in current law remain, including that:

  • the defendant must not have been convicted of another offense during the waiting period
  • the defendant must have paid all the court ordered restitution, fines, or fees in the case to be sealed
  • the office of the state court administrator must post on its website a list of all petitions to seal conviction records that are filed with the district court.  The bill prohibits a district court from granting a petition to seal conviction records until at least 30 days following a posting.  
The provisions of the bill apply to convictions entered on and after July 1, 2011.  For convictions prior to July 1, 2011, the time frames of the bill are applicable but sealing of the criminal records is available only with the consent of the district attorney and subsequent court review and approval.  HB 1167 goes into effect upon signature of the Governor.  Read the full bill here  HB11-1167

If you haven't renewed your membership or are ready to become a member of CCJRC you can do so here
Also CCJRC has started our "Freedom Fighters" program.  Instead of giving larger donations once or twice a year, members are making generous monthly donations of $5, $10, $15 or more by credit or debit card or by check.  This allows CCJRC a real opportunity to budget and plan strategically throughout the year so that we can spend more of our time on fighting the battles we all care about and less time on fundraising. Our members really like it because they can budget their giving throughout the year.
Go to our secure membership page or give us a call at 303-825-0122. 
CCJRC, 1212 Mariposa St. #6, Denver Co 80204.  Thank you for your support!!
To join right now, online (with a credit card), visit our secure membership page

Juvenile Parole Bill Dies

Pueblo Chieftain
DENVER — A House committee on Tuesday killed a bill that would have made people convicted of serious crimes as juveniles eligible for parole after serving 40 years in prison.

Loved ones of people convicted and sentenced to life in prison as juveniles and families of homicide victims opened their hearts in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Some of the witnesses are inextricably linked by the same crimes.

In 2006, the Legislature ended a 1991 law that created life sentences without parole for juveniles. But 48 people in Colorado are serving sentences of more than 40 years or life in prison without parole for crimes committed during the 15-year window before the change in laws.

Under HB1287, the juveniles convicted during that time would be eligible for parole after serving 40 calendar years.

The judiciary committee killed HB1287 on a 6-5 vote, despite its bipartisan sponsorship by two members of the committee, Reps. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland.

The bill’s sponsorship all but guaranteed its passage out of the committee if the vote had broken down along party lines. But Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, voted with Republicans to spike it.

She cited questions about its constitutionality raised by the attorney general’s office.

“I’m not going to give up on those 48 offenders,” said Duran, a lawyer. “The reason why I voted against the bill is because I think there needs to be work done to reach out to all of the stakeholders and have a less divisive process.”

She also would like to see a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether the Legislature has the authority to change sentences retroactively, or whether that would represent overstepping the General Assembly’s authority and encroaching on the governor’s right to commute sentences.

Deputy Attorney General Michael Dougherty testified that the answer to that question is murky, and that if the bill became law, it was likely to face challenges from victims’ advocates, victims’ families or district attorneys.

“I would like to see an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court,” Duran said. “Based on the divisiveness I saw here (Tuesday), I’m convinced there will be a constitutional challenge even if a bill like this was to get through the Legislature.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bill could shift sentences for juveniles - The Denver Post

Bill could shift sentences for juveniles - The Denver Post

Colorado did away with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders in 2006, but 45 prisoners already facing that sentence have been left with no chance for freedom.

A bipartisan bill facing a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday would change that — but it faces opposition from the state attorney general.

State Reps. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, are co-sponsoring House Bill 1287, which would retroactively apply the 2006 law, making juveniles convicted and sentenced as adults eligible for parole after serving 40 years.

"It has bothered me for a long time," Levy said of the fact that teens sentenced before 2006 continue to face life without parole. "It was just unfair to leave them stuck in prison for the rest of their lives."

Although the bill primarily expands the coverage of the existing law, attorney general spokesman Mike Saccone said it needs amending to get the approval of Attorney General John Suthers.

"As the bill is currently written, we're opposed to it," Saccone said.

The attorney general's office objects to changing sentences, Saccone said, because victims and their families believe those convicted of crimes against them will never get out of prison.

Saccone also said there could be a legal conflict between the governor's power to pardon convicted criminals and a provision in the bill allowing the Department of Corrections to move prisoners to a reduced-security community corrections program.

Levy said she is not surprised by the opposition from Suthers and district attorneys, but said they need to look at the situation more closely.

"They need to step back and think whether this is best for these kids," Levy said. "We need to do the right thing.

Read more: Bill could shift sentences for juveniles - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/legislature/ci_17715346#ixzz1HtWAj2Es
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Probation under the gun after rash of felonies - The Denver Post

Probation under the gun after rash of felonies - The Denver Post

In the past nine months, 10 Colorado felons were charged with murder or attempted murder for crimes that authorities said were committed while they were supposed to be under the supervision of state probation officers.

The crimes include the March 18 fatal shooting of a college football player in Boulder, the killing of a Weld County sheriff's deputy and the death of a 16-year-old Denver girl who was mutilated.

Three of those felons, Aaron Williams, Matthew Richard Anderson and David Orton — all of whom were not allowed to possess firearms as a condition of their probation — shot at police officers, wounding two of them.

In one case, probationer Shameek Lewis picked up a drug charge, did not show up for

drug testing and disappeared from the program. He resurfaced after he was accused of shooting a man in Fort Collins and killing another in Aurora within a week's time.

As Colorado legislators discuss ways to reduce expensive prison populations, perhaps by putting more people on probation, the rash of probationers charged with new crimes raises questions about whether the state is effectively balancing the responsibility of rehabilitating offenders with public safety.

"I know how serious and upsetting it is to us — especially the officers in the field — when cases end tragically like this," said Tom Quinn, director of the state's Division of Probation Services.

Quinn said the department will consider conducting formal reviews of cases in which probationers commit new violent crimes, something the state currently does not do.

"Predicting human behavior is an inexact science, and predicting rare events (like murder) is more difficult," Quinn said.

Over the years, new statutes aimed at giving young offenders second chances have slightly increased the percentage of the restricted population on probation as compared with prison, particularly for nonviolent criminals. Part of the

Kevin McGregor, 22
reason for the move to probation is cost, which everyone in the criminal-justice system is aware of, even if they insist it doesn't guide decisions. Placing a felon into probation costs $9,000 a year. Housing an offender in state prison costs taxpayers $35,000 each year.

All defendants under consideration are evaluated by probation officers for their suitability and the likelihood that they will complete probation successfully.

Read more: Probation under the gun after rash of felonies - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17710391#ixzz1HoFg79OF
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Editorial: A blow against police brutality - The Denver Post

Editorial: A blow against police brutality - The Denver Post

It turns out it wasn't that hard after all. All it took was two years, a couple of public safety managers, a number of ill-considered punishment recommendations, but finally — and in a matter of only a few hours — two offending Denver cops were fired and are now safely off the streets.

Now we know that in the city of Denver, it's possible not only for justice to be done, but that it can even be done in a timely fashion. It just took us a while to get there.

On Friday morning, a judge denied a temporary restraining order against Chief Gerry Whitman's recommendation last week that Officer Devin Sparks and Cpl. Randy Murr be fired in the videotaped beating of Michael DeHerrera.

And that afternoon, Safety Manager Charley Garcia, the fourth Denver safety manager in less than a year, announced in a news conference that Sparks and Murr were out. Garcia has been on the job just over a week.

But don't accuse Garcia of summary judgment. What made this case so outrageous from the start was how obvious it all was. To complete his investigation, Garcia needed only to slip a videotape into the VCR, lean back and watch Sparks club an unarmed DeHerrera while DeHerrera was talking on his cellphone.

The beating took place in April of 2009. The firing takes place in March of 2011.

This probably won't be the final ending of the case, which has now landed squarely in the middle of Denver's mayoral race. We can guess there will be the inevitable appeals, but if the appeals are to common sense and to justice, the judgments against Sparks and Murr should definitely hold.

Sparks eventually admitted to hitting DeHerrera at least nine times with a department-issued weapon called a sap, which is metal wrapped in leather. But first both officers lied about the incident, not knowing that it had been caught on a city surveillance camera.

The lies were nearly as outrageous as the beating. More outrageous still was the light punishments recommended by the police force and seconded by Ron Perea, who was then the newly appointed safety manager.

Read more: Editorial: A blow against police brutality - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17702648?source=pop#ixzz1Hl4gZQtI
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Friday, March 25, 2011

Two Denver police officers fired in videotaped LoDo beating case - The Denver Post

Two Denver police officers fired in videotaped LoDo beating case - The Denver Post

Two Denver police officers were fired this afternoon in connection with a 2009 beating of 23-year-old man in Lower Downtown.

Officer Devin Sparks and Cpl. Randy Murr have both lost their jobs, Safety Manager Charley Garcia and Mayor Bill Vidal said during a press conference at City Hall this afternoon.

Sparks was caught on videotape throwing Michael DeHerrera to the ground as DeHerrera talked on a cellphone. The video then shows Sparks repeatedly beating him with a department-issued sap, a piece of metal wrapped in leather.

The Denver district attorney's office reviewed the case and declined to file criminal charges.

Denver police internal affairs division then conducted its own investigation, which was sent to then-Safety Manager Ron Perea.

Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal recommended firing both officers for filing inaccurate reports, not for excessive force. A deputy police chief recommended they be suspended.

Perea later recommended both officers be suspended for three days - a decision that created an uproar among Denver residents and ultimately led Perea to resign.

Last summer, Denver police reopened the case. Last week, Chief Gerry Whitman recommended Sparks be fired.

The recommendation then went to Garcia, a former head of Denver's public defender's office who took over as safety manager on March 16.

County OKs $60K settlement on short-lived jail postcard policy | county, settlement, policy - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

County OKs $60K settlement on short-lived jail postcard policy | county, settlement, policy - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

El Paso County Commissioners on Thursday approved a $60,000 proposed settlement in a lawsuit over a former jail policy that restricted inmates’ outgoing correspondence to postcards.

The board weighed the cost of settling against continuing the case, said Commissioner Sallie Clark. The board met in a closed executive session last week to discuss the lawsuit.

“We thought it was in the best interest to settle, so as not to incur more costs,” she said.

The money will be taken out of the county’s self-insurance pool — restricted funding that every department pays to cover anything from minor mishaps, such as a snowplow taking out a resident’s mailbox, to property damage to county buildings or vehicles, to lawsuits, said county spokesman Dave Rose.

The class-action lawsuit filed in September by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and the National Prison Project of the ACLU Foundation on behalf of seven inmates sought compensation for legal fees and did not seek monetary damages for the clients.

The Sheriff’s Office would not comment Thursday on the agreement.

“It has still not been settled; it has to be ruled on before federal court,” said Jackie Kirby, director of information for the Sheriff’s Office.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Wiley Y. Daniel is expected to consider the agreement by Monday, said assistant county attorney Cole Emmons.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa instituted a policy at the county jail on Aug. 2, 2010, that required inmates to use 4x6 inch postcards for written communication, with the exception of legal correspondence.

Maketa said the intent was to save money and staff time in screening outgoing mail, and keep the facility more secure.

The lawsuit claimed that the policy violated inmates’ free speech and privacy rights, since postcards can be read by anyone and limit how much can be written. The ACLU also contended that many jail inmates are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of any crime.

In December, after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the policy, Maketa said he had already decided to rescind it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

65 Million Need Not Apply

National Employment Law Project Read the report here
In recent years, the criminal background check industry has grown

exponentially. Particularly in the wake of 9/11, the ready availability of

inexpensive commercial background checks has made them a popular

employee screening tool. In one survey, more than 90 percent of companies

reported using criminal background checks for their hiring decisions.1 At the

same time that the background check industry has expanded, the share of the

U.S. population with criminal records has soared to over one in four adults.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Move to raise driver's legal pot level fails

Move to raise driver's legal pot level fails

DENVER — One of the sponsors of a bill that aims to set a threshold for the level of marijuana in a driver’s bloodstream unsuccessfully tried to make it a little higher on Tuesday.

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, is sponsoring HB1261 along with Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs. The bill would create a standard for charging motorists with driving under the influence of marijuana.

The legal limit of THC, the active intoxicant in marijuana, set forth in the bill is 5 nanograms per liter of blood. Waller said that figure was agreed upon by criminal justice experts and scientists as a reasonable measure of impairment.

For years, technology did not exist to measure the active level of THC in the bloodstream, but now that it does, and because the Colorado Constitution includes a medical marijuana amendment, a standard for what is too high to drive is in order, Waller said.

Levy sought to raise the legal limit to 8 nanograms on Tuesday. A competing amendment sought to lower it to 2 nanograms, but was withdrawn.

Levy’s proposed change failed. Waller, a former Pueblo prosecutor, was among the opponents of the change, and characterized it as arbitrary.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Breaking the Chains

Huff Post
America's penal system needs a top-to-bottom overhaul -- and a movement of people ready to do something about it is taking shape nicely.
More than 2.3 million people are now behind bars in America -- either in federal or state prisons or local jails -- a larger proportion of the population than in any other civilized nation and a 500% increase since 1980.
Another five million are under some kind of supervision, like parole, probation or house arrest, for a grand total of more than seven million human beings.
Responsible voices within the penal industry -- from wardens and corrections officials to cops, prosecutors and judges -- are saying publicly that locking up so many people doesn't improve public safety.
Since 1980, crime rates have gone up and then down -- violent crime rates have been plunging since 1993. No matter the trend, the prison numbers marched upward.
In 1980, we had 139 prisoners for every 100,000 people; by the end of 2007 the number had exploded to 506 per 100,000 and growing.
A disturbing racial imbalance pervades the penal system. As far back as 1997, federal statistics showed 9% of the black population under some form of correctional supervision, compared with 2% of whites.
Fast forward to 2009, and the numbers haven't much changed. Every stage of law enforcement targets blacks in grossly disproportionate numbers, from arrest to incarceration.
It's most obvious when you look at the war on drugs. Whites and blacks use hard drugs at roughly equal rates, but blacks are about three times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses.
When federal laws were passed that punish crack at significantly greater rates than powder cocaine, 80% of the defendants charged under the tough laws were black.
One well-known case, that of Kemba Smith, resulted in a 24-year sentence for a first offense. She was released after six years when President Bill Clinton commuted the sentence.
There is, unfortunately, a callous indifference in many sectors of society to the insanity of it all, the waste and futility and unfairness.
That's the bad news. The good news is there's a growing consensus that the nation has gone too far -- and that we must stop putting so much stress on our budgets and our morals.
Blizzards of books, papers, think tanks and forward-looking local officials have been pressing for reform over the last decade.
Colorado State Senators Morgan Carroll and Pat Steadman and Rep. Mark Ferrandino lead the way in introducing many new bills to induce cost-saving prison reform measures without jeopardizing public safety.
In these budget-crunching times savings induced from prison reform, can be utilized in other, more vital areas of state government, such as education.
I recently spent a lively evening in discussions among scholars, activists and formerly incarcerated people at a conference sponsored by Pew Institute and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. The consensus among the experts is that change is not only overdue but inevitable. In many cases, it has already begun.
Take the case of felony disenfranchisement. Most states have a bewildering thicket of laws and rules that keep an estimated five million ex-prisoners from registering and voting -- even though they can in many cases. Florida is the worst offender of this practice; they just passed a law for all ex-felons to wait at least five years to have their voting rights reinstated.
But since 2009, 19 states have changed laws and procedures to make it easier for ex-prisoners to regain the right to vote.
Five states have created racial-disparity panels to examine whether, how and when defendants are being sentenced without regard to skin color.

Colorado DOC 2010 Statistical Report

Colorado Department of Corrections

Bill would ease life sentences for juveniles - The Denver Post

Bill would ease life sentences for juveniles - The Denver Post

More than 45 juvenile offenders now serving life without parole could return to the community within as little as 30 years under legislation introduced late last week.

Colorado changed its sentencing structure in 2006 for teens convicted of the most serious criminal offenses, making them eligible for parole after 40 years in prison.

But that legislation didn't affect those already serving life sentences. House Bill 1287 would apply the 40-year rule retroactively.

It would also make teens tried as adults eligible for placement in community corrections 30 years after their incarceration with approval from the executive director of the state Department of Corrections.

The offenders would have to remain under supervision for another decade.

Reps. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, are prime sponsors on HB 1287.

Read more: Bill would ease life sentences for juveniles - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17668897#ixzz1HL4A7p5B
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Addicted to Courts: Justice Policy Institute

Justice Policy Institute
WASHINGTON, DC – America’s growing reliance on drug courts is an ineffective allocation of scarce state resources, according to a new report by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). Drug courts can needlessly widen the net of criminal justice involvement, and cannot replace the need for improved treatment services in the community. Of the nearly 8 million people in the U.S. reporting needing treatment for drug use, less than one fourth of people classified with substance abuse or a dependence on drugs and/or alcohol receives treatment, and for those who do receive treatment, over 37 percent are referred by the criminal justice system.

Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependence on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities finds that providing people with alternatives like community-based treatment are more cost-effective and provide greater public safety benefits than treatment that comes with the collateral consequences associated with involvement in the criminal justice system.

“It is shameful that for many people involvement in the criminal justice system is the only way to access substance abuse treatment in this country,” said Nastassia Walsh, author of Addicted to Courts and Research Associate at JPI. “We need to change the way we think about drug use and the drug policies that bring so many people into the justice system.” Walsh added, “The dramatic increase in drug courts over the past 20 years may provide talking points for so-called ‘tough-on-crime’ policymakers; however, there are other, better options that can save money and support people and communities. More effective, community-based programs and services that can have a positive, lasting impact on individuals, families and communities should be made available.”

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has also published a report citing their concerns about drug courts and the need to provide better alternatives for people with addictions. Drug Courts Are Not the Answer: Toward A Health-Centered Approach to Drug Use calls for a public health approach to substance abuse and for updating drug court policies to benefit more people. Both reports make an important case for a careful reconsideration of the growing prevalence of drug courts.

“Our country relies too heavily on courts and justice system-based solutions to social problems,” noted Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI. “Instead, we should be investing in those community-based programs proven to have better public safety outcomes and that are more effective with taxpayer dollars. While a few programs truly divert people from incarceration, too many sweep people into the justice system unnecessarily. And we know that involvement in the justice system carries a huge price tag.”

Key recommendations from Addicted to Courts include:

Invest in front-end treatment and services. Providing treatment in the community before a person becomes involved in the criminal justice system can be an effective way to defeat a problem before it starts.

Implement “real” diversion policies and alternatives to incarceration. Largely as a result of increasing prison and jail populations, states and localities across the country created or are in the process of implementing diversion programs that keep people—mostly those convicted of low-level and drug offenses—out of jail and prison. These initiatives should be encouraged.

Collect better data on drug courts. National level data on drug court participation and success is hard to come by, making evaluations of the effectiveness of drug court difficult to measure. More data can lead to better evaluations and recommendations for best practices in drug court, and provide policymakers with information necessary to choose where to spend scarce funds.

Focus court treatment programs on those who would have gone to prison. If a person would have received a prison sentence, then a drug court program can act as a true diversion, saving the state money and protecting public safety through a more intensive period that includes both treatment and supervision.

Evaluate current drug court policies and practices. Drug court administrators should continuously evaluate policies on participant eligibility that may lead to “cherry picking” and practices that lead to higher failure rates for certain groups, especially those with lower income or people of color. More evaluation will lead to more fair and effective programs.

Both reports will be released to the public Tuesday, March 22 during two joint Capitol Hill briefings, “Drug Courts and the Portugal Model.” Spokespeople from both organizations will be available to press before and after the events.

House Briefing: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2226 at 10 AM EST.

Senate Briefing: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562 at 3:30 PM EST.

To read the full report or the factsheet of Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependence on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities, CLICK HERE

Monday, March 21, 2011

Felon Free Schools May Make it Through Kill Committee

The Spot
House Republicans feared the worst when a school-safety bill was sent to a Democratic “kill committee,” but not to worry the sponsor says.
Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, said he thinks the measure he co-sponsored with Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, is in good shape. House Bill 1121 is scheduled to be heard later this afternoon by the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.
It’s known as the “kill commitee,” which is usually where bills from the minority party are sent to die.
But as the committee chairman, Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, pointed out today, King has a great track record in that committee. So far, the committee has passed three of King’s bills and the fourth one was killed at his own request after he discovered the legislation wasn’t needed.
(By the way, if you look in Google images under “kill committee,” Heath’s picture pops up.)

House Bill 1121 disqualifies a person from employment by a school district for conviction of certain offenses.
During testimony before the House Education Committee, Jane Urschel, with the Colorado Association of School Boards, testified in support of the bill, saying it protects children from exposure to potentially dangerous people. It passed on a 9-1 vote. The House approved it 54-9.
With that kind of bipartisan support, Ramirez and other Republicans were shocked to see it has been to the Senate State Affairs committee. Their buzz over the weekend was that the bill was going to die.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Skepticism over cost of Alaska prison could delay return of out-of-state prisoners :: The Republic

Skepticism over cost of Alaska prison could delay return of out-of-state prisoners :: The Republic

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska's new medium-security Goose Creek Correctional Center, initially billed as a way to save the state money compared to shipping prisoners out of state, is in danger of being mothballed more than a year before it is scheduled to open.

Alaska lawmakers are raising concerns after being informed it will cost the state $71 million annually to operate the facility, 3 1/2 times the cost Alaska now pays to outsource its inmates to a private prison in Colorado.

"It wasn't supposed to be a financial debacle," said Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat and member of the senate corrections subcommittee.

The new facility has lawmakers in a dither, with some requesting an audit of the projected operations budget. Others say the prison, with a capacity of 1,536 inmates scheduled to open in June 2012, should be left vacant or turned over to the private sector.

Lawmakers have also raised questions about the cost of utilities and road improvement for the prison, including the construction of a water treatment plant solely for the prison, necessitated by the institution's remote location.

Corrections officials argue that they have kept the legislature informed of the prisons costs and operating fees as construction progressed, and that the prison is within its mandated budget.

At a February budget hearing, Senate Finance Committee co-chair Bert Stedman raised the alarm about the prison's costs.

"It's a pretty heart-stopping budgetary impact" and an unexpected one at that, said Stedman, who has called for an audit on the facility to be completed by next January. "I don't know if I would open the prison."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feds No Solution for Ft. Lyon

Feds No Solution For Ft. Lyon
By PATRICK MALONE | pmalone@chieftain.com The Pueblo Chieftain | 0 comments

DENVER — House Minority Leader Sal Pace said Wednesday he is not optimistic about discussions of a possible federal solution to the pending vacancy at Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas.

Pace, D-Pueblo, said the meandering federal budgetary process is unlikely to yield a tenant for Fort Lyon when the Colorado Department of Corrections vacates it. The prison is tentatively set to close on March 1.

Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed the prison’s closure as part of his budget-balancing package for fiscal year 2011-12. Since that announcement, the governor’s office has held frequent discussions with U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, to identify a purpose for Fort Lyon with the federal government, which shut down a veterans’ hospital there and gave the state the site in 2000.

If the state stops using Fort Lyon as a prison, ownership reverts back to the federal government.

Hickenlooper’s budget director, Henry Sobanet, told the Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday that efforts with the U.S. senators to find a new occupant for Fort Lyon are ongoing. The possibility that it could become a care center for wounded veterans has been a frequent theme in Hickenlooper’s public comments on the subject.

“It would be great if we could do that,” Pace said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s realistic.”

Under the structure of the federal budgeting cycle, a project would need to be in the budget presently making its way through Congress in order to come online at 2013 at the earliest, Pace said. And even then, creation of a project doesn’t mean funding of a project.

“Let me put it in perspective. The FryArk project of 1962 authorized the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The first time any money was authorized for the Arkansas Valley Conduit was $5 million last year by (former U.S. Rep.) John Salazar,” Pace said.

He also is concerned that campaign promises by Colorado’s new congressmen not to send earmarks back to their districts also pose an obstacle to placing a veterans' hospital at Fort Lyon,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Two Denver police officers fired by retiring safety manager - The Denver Post

Two Denver police officers fired by retiring safety manager - The Denver Post

One of former Manager of Safety Mary Malatesta's last acts in office was the termination of two Denver police officers accused of lying about the details of a stolen car pursuit.

Malatesta fired Officers David Torrez, who has about 25 years on the force, and Jose Palomares, a member of the department for about seven years, said Nick Rogers, president of the police union.

"The department felt their written statements regarding the circumstances with the chase were not completely true," said Rogers.

He expects both men to appeal the decision to the Civil Service Commission. "I believe if the facts were brought out, if they were not untruthful in their statements, they will be given their jobs back," Rogers said.

Charley Garcia, former head of the Denver public defender's office, replaces Malatesta today. Malatesta resigned early this month citing personal reasons.

Guest Commentary: SB 186 will save money - The Denver Post

Guest Commentary: SB 186 will save money - The Denver Post

You want your kids to have better public schools? You want better roads but not higher taxes? You want the criminally accused to shoulder more of the financial burdens of the criminal justice system? Then get behind Senate Bill 186.

SB 186 would bring the Colorado judicial system in line with more than 25 states and the federal government. The bill would establish a "bond-to-the-court" bail bond option. And it would save the taxpayers a ton of money.

Approximately 50 percent of the inmates in our county jails are there not because they have been convicted and are serving sentences, but because they have not been able to pay a bail bondsman. Counties spend between $65 and $100 per inmate per day. By way of example, the Jefferson County jail currently houses some 1,140 inmates. Of those, 500 are pre-trial detainees. At a cost of $70 per day per inmate, that's $35,000 each night, $13 million per year. This, at a time when Jefferson County Public Schools is proposing $40 million in budget cuts for the 2011-12 school year. In Arapahoe County, there are 1,165 inmates, 49 percent of whom are pretrial, at $68.30 per day. You do the math — then get mad.

Our tax dollars are being flushed away every day in every county as we unnecessarily house people because they cannot come up with the scratch to enrich the insurance companies. The bail bond industry has the greatest sales leverage ever devised: Buy their bail bond policy or stay in jail. And if a citizen does pay the bail bond premium, how much do taxpayers get? Not a cent. All we get is the cost of housing people before trial if they don't make bail, and the costs of supervising them if they do make bail.

SB 186 changes all that. It allows but does not require judges to use their discretion to release a citizen before trial by paying a percentage of the cost of the bond to the judicial district of that county. And under SB 186, every time a judge grants a bond payable to the court, a piece of that fee is taken by the judicial district to help pay for pre-trial supervision, including appropriate pre-trial treatment. Remember: The judge can still set bail as high as he thinks necessary and can deny the bond-to-the-court option.

Read more: Guest Commentary: SB 186 will save money - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17620837#ixzz1Gmq9yYeW
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Father wants second Denver cop fired in beating of his son - The Denver Post

Father wants second Denver cop fired in beating of his son - The Denver Post

Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman's recommendation that an officer accused of beating Michael DeHerrera be fired doesn't go far enough, DeHerrera's father said Tuesday.

Anthony DeHerrera, a Pueblo County sheriff's deputy, said that while he is pleased by Whitman's recommendation on discipline for Officer Devin Sparks, DeHerrera thinks he also should have recommended termination for Cpl. Randy Murr. Both officers were investigated in the incident that occurred in Lower Downtown in April 2009.

DeHerrera thinks criminal prosecution should follow any termination.

"We want criminal charges brought against them. We want civil-rights charges brought against them. Just like everybody else. They violated the law; let them pay for it," he said.

Murr is the subject of a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that he was involved in, and helped cover up, the beating of Alexander Landau, who was stopped for making an illegal left turn. That happened in January 2009, months before the incident in LoDo. An internal investigation in that case is underway. Murr has denied beating Landau but acknowledged in court papers that he put a gun to Landau's head.

A response from Murr and other defendants in that case says that any injuries Landau suffered were the result of his "own willful and intentional acts."

Read more: Father wants second Denver cop fired in beating of his son - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17622804#ixzz1GlUqYc81
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lawmakers vote to delay closure of Bent County prison - The Denver Post

Lawmakers vote to delay closure of Bent County prison - The Denver Post

The closure of a state prison in Bent County has been delayed six months, giving local officials more time to try to figure how to cope with what has been called an "economic tornado."

The Joint Budget Committee today voted to change the closure date of the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility from Aug. 31 to March 1, 2012.

"This isn't easy folks," Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, tweeted after the vote.

The prison is Bent County's second-largest employer.

Bent County Commissioner Bill Long, who sat through the hearing, called the decision "disappointing." Local officials had sought a year's delay.

"A year would have been much better, but we are grateful for this," Long said.

He said the most important

thing is that the closure process does not begin until late next February to give Bent County the full six months.

The closure plan calls for transferring 399 inmates to private prisons and 86 inmates with medical needs to two state prisons. Department of Corrections employees would be transferred to other facilities.

Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, said he was worried about the closure's domino effect on schools and other operations.

"I believe this committee should give this community a least a year," he said.

Denver police chief recommends firing officer in beating incident - The Denver Post

Denver police chief recommends firing officer in beating incident - The Denver Post

Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman has recommended termination for Officer Devin Sparks, who was accused of using unnecessary force in the beating of a citizen in Lower Downtown, according to Nick Rogers, president of the Police Protective Association.

Rogers condemned Whitman's decision, saying that months ago the chief had recommended a six-day suspension for Sparks and a three-day suspension for Cpl. Randy Murr, who was also investigated in the beating of then 23-year-old Michael DeHerrera.

Since Whitman made those recommendations, Rogers said, investigators have found nothing new.

DeHerrera's beating occurred in April 2009 and was captured on a video camera.

Rogers said Whitman appears to be bowing to pressure to resolve the case from the media, the public or the Office of Independent Monitor, who monitors internal affairs investigations.

"What Gerry Whitman did is unacceptable based on all the facts," Rogers said.

After a hearing Monday, Whitman recommended Sparks' termination and a three-day suspension for Murr, Rogers said.

Police spokesman Matt Murray didn't return calls for comment Monday night.

The chief's recommendation goes to the manager of safety's office, and the manager then has 15 days to make a final determination. Charley Garcia, former head of the Denver public defender's office, was named the city's newest safety manager last week.

Read more: Denver police chief recommends firing officer in beating incident - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17615654#ixzz1Gg2MQi5v
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Panel hears testimony on mentally ill inmates - The Denver Post

Panel hears testimony on mentally ill inmates - The Denver Post

A Senate committee heard testimony Monday on a bill that would require mentally ill prisoners to undergo evaluation before placement in solitary confinement.

Senate Bill 176, sponsored by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, would create committees to evaluate prisoners before they are placed in solitary confinement.

Although the committee delayed a vote, emotional testimony from former convicts argued that solitary confinement, called "administrative segregation," only makes mentally troubled prisoners less likely to successfully return to society after their times are served.

Representatives of the Colorado Department of Corrections testified that prisoners can pose a serious risk to staff, making confinement necessary.

A future meeting of the committee will vote on the bill.

Read more: Panel hears testimony on mentally ill inmates - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/legislature/ci_17614332#ixzz1GfgnXg5O
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Editorial: Solitary Confinement Limits Necessary But Questionable

Editorial: Solitary Confinement Limits Necessary But Questionable

The numbers speak for themselves.

The average stay for a state prisoner forced into solitary confinement is a year and a half. The percentage of Colorado prison inmates forced into solitary confinement has more than doubled over the past decade. Almost 40 percent of those forced into solitary confinement have some form of mental disability or mental illness. Almost half of those inmates reeling from extended periods of solitary confinement were released to the public without any kind of re-integration program. All of that is according to state prison officials themselves.

And the Colorado Department of Corrections is working hard to not only defend its programs, but officials say any change might put other prisoners at risk.

There is no good defense of violating human rights, and that’s exactly what a 18-month average stay in solitary confinement really is.

State Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and state Sen. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, say Senate Bill 176 would prevent further prison abuses and make it safer for deeply troubled inmates to return to public life after spending time in isolation.

Maybe. The bill spells out a large number of encumbrances on prison officials when meting out solitary confinement to inmates. One restriction would be to limit confinement to 30 days. Another would be to limit the number of prisoners eligible for solitary confinement.

Clearly the horrific number of prisoners inhumanely separated from all others is astounding. And what’s worse is that those with severe mental illness, which leads far too many Colorado residents to prison instead of psychiatric hospitals where they belong, are being made worse by their seclusion. Parts of Carroll’s bill ensures a medical doctor advise prison officials on using this dangerous punishment.

While we stand firmly behind this measure and insist the corrections department immediately review prison solitary confinement procedures, it’s doubtful that arbitrarily limiting the time in confinement and the number of prisoners eligible for seclusion is either practical or beneficial.

This issue illustrates how unnerving and unproductive it is to house mentally ill people in prisons, and it should cue state lawmakers to look even closer at treating psychologically ill people somewhere besides expensive state prisons.

And while there certainly should be limitations on the use of seclusion, Carroll and Levy will have to show how these restrictions will protect both the public and those inmates at risk of being abused by violent or unmanageable inmate.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Colorado Backseat Budgeter | Dashboard

Colorado Backseat Budgeter | Dashboard

Colorado State Budget 2010-2011
The Backseat Budgeter is an interactive budget simulation tool that allows you to drive Colorado's budget.
Getting started is easy. Start by choosing a budget topic of interest and plot a course for Colorado's budget.
More Services. Lower taxes. You decide! Click on the spending and revenue categories on the pie charts. Increase or decrease each category and see what the impact will be for spending and revenue. However, beware that some of your choices may violate the constitution.

CCJRC Quarterly Newsletter (Winter/Spring)


Colorado Senate bill would limit inmates' solitary confinement - The Denver Post

Colorado Senate bill would limit inmates' solitary confinement - The Denver Post

The percentage of Colorado inmates with mental health problems who were placed in solitary confinement more than doubled between 1999 and 2008, and many were released from prison without having a chance to readjust to human interaction.

Those findings from a 2008 Department of Corrections report have inspired two Colorado Democrats to pitch legislation aimed at limiting the number of mentally ill inmates who can be put in solitary confinement.

Senate Bill 176, which gets its first hearing today, would require state prisons to have a physician evaluate inmates with such illnesses as bipolar mood disorders or paranoid schizophrenia before they are placed in solitary confinement. It also would limit solitary confinement stays to no more than 30 consecutive days and require that inmates integrate with the general prison population before being released from prison.

The average stay in solitary confinement is 18 months, according to the DOC.

Read more: Colorado Senate bill would limit inmates' solitary confinement - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17608272#ixzz1GZYsEog7
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Editorial: Make Colorado next to end death penalty - The Denver Post

Editorial: Make Colorado next to end death penalty - The Denver Post

Illinois last week became the 16th state in the union to end capital punishment. Colorado should become the 17th.

Unfortunately, there's no effort afoot in Colorado's statehouse to end our unfortunate and long run with the death penalty.

In 2009, a bill that would have eliminated the death penalty in Colorado and used expected savings to pay for the investigation of unsolved homicides cleared the House. But its fate hung on uncertainty. Gov. Bill Ritter wouldn't even tell Coloradans where he stood on the bill, or on the death penalty. Eventually, the bill died in the Senate.

With Republicans now controlling the House, there's been no talk of resurrecting the issue. And when he was running for office last fall, Gov. John Hickenlooper said, in response to a Denver Post questionnaire, that he thought the death penalty should be "restricted" but opposed its repeal.

Yet in Illinois, lawmakers and others know all too well the dangers inherent in carrying out the death penalty. In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan placed a moratorium on executions after a series of death row inmates were exonerated.

Sometimes, an innocent person is condemned to die. Watching prisoners walk free after being cleared of a crime by some scientific development, such as DNA testing, has become almost routine.

Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the death penalty ban, while also commuting the sentences of the 15 inmates on death row. They will serve life in prison without parole. Illinois last performed an execution in 1999.

Quinn spent two months weighing whether to sign the bill, calling it the "most difficult decision" he's had to make as governor, according to a story on Politico.com.

The Denver Post has long opposed the death penalty. We believe that death is an ineffective sentence for a society that should value life.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, in the past, has made the case for the death penalty by saying it's crucial in discouraging future horrific criminal behavior. Yet there is very little evidence that the death penalty discourages violent crime.

He also contends the only deterrent some violent inmates have to murdering a guard or fellow inmate is the threat of the death penalty. That argument is more difficult to bat down.

Read more: Editorial: Make Colorado next to end death penalty - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17586851#ixzz1GUIBKvzB
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Friday, March 11, 2011

Solitary Confinement Bill

  Action Alert -- Please Contact Senate Judiciary

MONDAY—MARCH 14, 2010 AT 1:30PM
SB 176 – Solitary Confinement Specific Populations
Sponsors: Carroll and Levy
Description: SB 176 was recently introduced and addresses the overuse of administration segregation in the Colorado Department of Corrections.  SB 176 creates requirements to be met before a state inmate, particularly an inmate with a serious mental illness, may be placed in administrative segregation. Specifically SB 176 would require:
For all state inmates who are placed in solitary confinement, this legislation would require a licensed mental health clinician to conduct an in-person mental health evaluation 30-days thereafter, to
1.       assess the inmate’s current mental status and condition,
2.       assess the inmates’ current risk of suicide or other self-harming behavior, and
3.       review all available metal health records
When a prisoner with a serious mental illness or other significant mental impairment is considered for placement in solitary confinement, this legislation would trigger an in-person mental health evaluation conducted by a licensed mental health clinician before a final placement determination can be made. If the mental health evaluation determines that placement in solitary confinement would:
1.       exacerbate his or her mental illness or impairment,
2.       negatively affect his or her emotional health or mental stability
3.       that therapeutic options (medication or treatment are not being fully utilized, then the inmate cannot be placed in solitary  confinement.
An inmate housed in administrative segregation will be ensured time to reintegrate back into general population before being released to the community.  This legislation requires that all inmates in ad-seg be reintegrated into the general prison population 6 months before their mandatory release date, parole release date, or statutory release date.
The bill also allows an inmate housed in administrative segregation the opportunity to accrue earned time to be deducted from his or her sentence if he or she meets the eligibility requirements.
Supporters of SB 176 believe that by the Colorado Department of Corrections is overusing expensive solitary confinement beds as a management tool for those afflicted with a serious mental illness rather than expanding mental health and behavioral health services. Colorado can’t afford to continue to make this choice. It is also bad public policy to allow people who have been contained in administrative segregation for long periods of time to be directly released into the community with minimal. SB176 addresses those concerns and creates a process so that we may start to alleviate these issues.
Current supporters of this bill are: The ACLU of Colorado; Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Colorado Council of Churches, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Colorado CURE, Colorado State Public Defender, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Lutheran Advocacy Ministries, Mental Health America of Colorado, National Religious Coalition Against Torture, University of Denver Civil Rights Clinic, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Coloradoans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Center for Spirituality at Work. If your organization would like to sign on in support of this important piece of legislation please contact Pam Clifton pam@ccjrc.org
This bill will be heard in Senate Judiciary on Monday, March 14 at 1:30 p.m. in SCR 356
Please call or email Judiciary members and ask them to please support SB 176.

Senate Judiciary
Senator Morgan Carroll; Chairman (Bill sponsor—don’t need to contact)
Arapahoe D
Cap: 303-866-4879
E-mail: morgan.carroll.senate@state.co.us
Senator Lucia Guzman, Vice-Chairman;
Denver D
Cap: 303-866-4862
E-mail: lucia.guzman.senate@state.co.us
Senator Angela Giron
Pueblo D
Cap: 303-866-4878
E-mail: angela.giron.senate@state.co.us
Senator Steve King
Garfield/Mesa R
Violent Crime Investigator
Cap: 303-866-3077
E-mail: steve.king.senate@state.co.us
Senator Kevin Lundberg
Larimer R
Cap: 303-866-4853
E-mail: kevin@kevinlundberg.com
Senator Linda Newell
Arapahoe/Jefferson D
Business Consultant
Cap: 303-866-4846
E-mail: linda.newell.senate@gmail.com
Senator Jeanne Nicholson
Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Grand, Jefferson, Summit D
Public Health Nurse
Cap: 303-866-4873
E-mail: jeanne.nicholson.senate@state.co.us
Senator Ellen Roberts
Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, SanMiguel R Legislator
Cap: 303-866-4884
E-mail: ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us
Senator Mark Scheffel
Douglas, El Paso, Lake, Park, Teller R
Cap: 303-866-4869
E-mail: mark.scheffel.senate@state.co.us

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bill to ban driving while high advances in Colo. legislature - The Denver Post

Bill to ban driving while high advances in Colo. legislature - The Denver Post

A bill cracking down on people who drive while high on marijuana cleared its first hurdle at the state Capitol today.

The bill would set a limit of THC in blood — 5 nanograms per milliliter — above which a person would be considered too stoned to drive legally. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, and bill supporters equated the 5-nanogram level to the .08 blood-alcohol level that determines driving while drunk.

"If you test above that limit," said Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat who is one of the bill's sponsors, "you would be guilty of the misdemeanor of driving under the influence of drugs."

After hours of heated testimony, the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill, House Bill 1261, 6-2.

It is already against the law to drive high, and drivers suspected of doing so have to submit to a blood test or face a suspension of their licenses. The bill, its sponsors said, would give law enforcement officers a way to quantify precisely when a person is too stoned to drive.

Around the country, twelve states have zero-tolerance laws for blood-THC levels and two states have a 2-nanogram limit.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Editorial: A better way to police Denver's police force? - The Denver Post

Editorial: A better way to police Denver's police force? - The Denver Post

A few mayoral candidates have begun to ask an intriguing question: Does the city of Denver even need a public safety manager?

Mayor Bill Vidal on Monday named Charley Garcia to the post. He's the fourth person to hold the job in less than a year.

Given the turmoil of the past year, we think the time is ripe for just such a debate. However, we're not yet ready to declare the position, which has been ensconced in the city charter since 1960, dead.

First, Vidal and Garcia should prove the job has some usefulness by resolving two high-profile beating cases before a new mayor takes office in July.

Investigations into the beating death of inmate Marvin Booker, who was in Denver sheriff's custody at the time, and the beating of Michael DeHerrera in LoDo by Denver cops have dragged on long enough and need resolution. The cases have not yet reached the manager of public safety's desk, but Vidal said he intends for the cases to be wrapped up before he leaves office.

Meanwhile, a few mayoral candidates have begun talking about dumping the position.

"It's time to have a hard look at whether bureaucracy is improperly getting in the way of transparency and public safety," candidate Chris Romer said.

City Councilman Michael Hancock, who's also running for mayor, said the necessity of the position should be reviewed: "While eliminating the position and consolidating the department could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, this requires a thoughtful and prudent review."

However, councilman and mayoral candidate Doug Linkhart told us on Monday that he would keep the position and save money elsewhere.

If the city can hire someone in the vein of Al LaCabe, who retired from the job last June, we think it's useful to have that type of civilian oversight. But not everyone who has held the position has been up to LaCabe's standards — making the job seem more dispensable than perhaps it is.

Read more: Editorial: A better way to police Denver's police force? - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17567905?source=pop#ixzz1G9sF5fEj
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Bent County Asks for More Time

Bent County Asks for More Time

DENVER — They know the state is out of money, so instead they asked for time.

Officials from Bent County and neighboring communities that would be impacted by the proposed closure of Fort Lyon Correctional Facility asked the Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday to keep the prison open for one year in hopes that they could find a new purpose for it.

“We’re not here to stress that the facility should not be closed,” said Jim Rizzuto, a former lawmaker and JBC member, now president of Otero Junior College in La Junta. “What we’re looking for is some time to look at the repurposing of the facility whether it be within the Department of Corrections or some other type of utilization.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed to close Fort Lyon as part of his $570 million budget-balancing package. The JBC ultimately will decide whether to follow the course set by the governor.

Hickenlooper’s budget proposal aims to eliminate about 260 jobs. About 200 of them would be at Fort Lyon.

“The impact on one community is severe,” Rizzuto said.

Bent County Commissioner Bill Long told the JBC that an economic-impact study by an economist from the University of Colorado has been commissioned to study how Bent, Prowers and Otero counties — where the prison’s employees live — would suffer if Fort Lyon closed. It is expected to be complete within the week.

Preliminary projections indicate that if the prison closed, up to one-third of the teachers at the Las Animas elementary school would lose their jobs and the local utility would lose out on about $800,000 annually.

Even though prison employees would be eligible for transfers throughout the state, their homes would be left behind in an economically depressed area where they would be difficult to sell, Long said.

The contingent from Southeastern Colorado also met with Hickenlooper on Tuesday to discuss possible options for the Fort Lyon site.

Hickenlooper late Tuesday confirmed he is working to help find other possible uses for Fort Lyon, but has no timeline for when that could happen.

"There are no easy decisions with the budget this year," the governor said.

Long said conversations are under way between the governor’s office and Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to potentially establish a hospital or recuperation center for wounded military veterans at Fort Lyon, similar to its use before the federal government donated the site to the state in 2001.

Long said discussions about a veterans’ hospital are the most promising at this early juncture, but other possibilities also are being discussed, including a center for troubled youth and an alcohol and substance abuse treatment center.

The governor’s staff will meet with representatives from the impacted area again in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the JBC will begin figure-setting that could set the course for Fort Lyons’ future.

“We asked for a year because we don’t want to be greedy,” Long said. “Can we have it repurposed in 12 months? The answer to that question is most likely no. Can we have identified a good possibility and have it in the works in 12 months? We very much hope so.”

Monday, March 07, 2011

Charley Garcia named new city safety manager - The Denver Post

Charley Garcia named new city safety manager - The Denver Post

Charley Garcia, former head of Denver's public defender's office, today was named the city's newest safety manager.

Garcia will replace safety manager Mary Malatesta, who announced last week that she is resigning for personal reasons. Her last day will be March 16.

Garcia will be the fourth safety manager in less than a year. The position is the civilian authority over the Denver police, fire and sheriff's departments.

"Charley shares my firm commitment to expediting the unresolved cases involiving safey personnel," said Mayor Guillermo "Bill" Vidal in a press release.

The job is a mayoral appointment. A new mayor will be elected this spring.

The safety manager position has come under fire in the past year as a few discipline cases involving sheriff's deputies and police officers became public.

Those cases — including the jail death of Marvin Booker and the beating case of Michael DeHerrera — are still under review and have not yet reached the desk of the manager of safety.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

States Prosecuting Fewer Juvenile's As Adults

the New York Times
A generation after record levels of youth crime spurred a nationwide movement to prosecute more teenagers as adults, a consensus is emerging that many young delinquents have been mishandled by the adult court system.

Last year, Connecticut stopped treating all 16-year-old defendants as adults, and next year will do the same for 17-year-olds. Illinois recently transferred certain low-level offenders younger than 18 into its juvenile system. And in January, lawmakers in Massachusetts introduced a bill to raise the age of adulthood in matters of crime, and their counterparts in Wisconsin and North Carolina intend to do the same.
By year’s end, New York might be the only state where adulthood, in criminal matters, begins on the 16th birthday.
The changes followed studies that concluded that older adolescents differed significantly from adults in their capacity to make sound decisions, and benefited more from systems focused on treatment rather than on incarceration.
A 2010 report by Wisconsin’s juvenile justice commission to the governor, James E. Doyle, and the Legislature found that “for many, if not most, youthful offenders, the juvenile justice system is better able to redirect their behavior,” in large part because of the greater availability of social services.

Alaska representative open to privatizing new prison :: The Republic

Alaska representative open to privatizing new prison :: The Republic

JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska state lawmaker says he would support privatizing a soon-to-be-completed prison.

In a statement, Republican Rep. Wes Keller of Wasilla says privatizing the Goose Creek Correctional Center is a more cost-efficient option compared to mothballing the prison before it opens.

Keller says he does not know if privatizing the facility would be less expensive than the expected $50 million yearly cost of state operation of the prison, but hopes operating the prison would allow Alaska prisoners currently incarcerated in Colorado to return to the state.

Keller says he is reacting to a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing where lawmakers discussed saving money by mothballing the prison.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough says the medium-security prison, located in Port Mackenzie, would house over 1,500 inmates when opened in June 2012.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Denver safety manager quits Malatesta is third to leave post since June - The Denver Post

Denver safety manager quits Malatesta is third to leave post since June - The Denver Post

Denver Manager of Safety Mary Malatesta announced Thursday that she is resigning from the position for personal reasons.

It is the third resignation in less than a year by the city's manager of safety, a position that is the civilian authority over the Denver police, fire and sheriff's departments.

Al LaCabe retired in June. His replacement, Ron Perea, resigned amid controversy in August.

Malatesta sent a letter of resignation Thursday afternoon to Mayor Bill Vidal's office, saying "members of my family need my immediate help."

Malatesta said her position is too important and that there are "numerous issues which require the presence and full attention of the manager of safety."

Vidal issued a news release Thursday, saying he will appoint a new manager of safety soon.

Malatesta's last day is March 12.

"The Department of Safety and the Office of the Independent Monitor will continue their steadfast progress on the resolution of outstanding discipline cases under review," Vidal's release said.

"The mayor wants Denver citizens to know that Manager Malatesta's retirement will not slow the work being done to bring those cases to fair resolution."

LaCabe said he would not return to the position.

Malatesta replaced Perea, who resigned amid controversy that arose when he did not fire police officers who were caught on tape beating a man in Lower Downtown.

The city reopened an internal investigation in that case. Sources on Thursday said the internal probe in that case has been completed, and it is set to be reviewed by Police Chief Gerry Whitman. The next stage is for the safety manager to make the final determination.

Also, another internal investigation into the jail death of Marvin Booker, a 56-year-old homeless preacher, is continuing.

Booker had been arrested last summer on suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia.

He died after getting in a scuffle with deputies, who shocked him with a Taser, struck him in the legs with nunchucks, put him in a carotid "sleeper hold" and lay on top of him in an effort to control him. He stopped breathing.

Read more: Denver safety manager quits Malatesta is third to leave post since June - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17535846#ixzz1FdJnvUMa
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse