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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Mess We're In

SSN Papers

'The Mess We’re In': Five Steps Towards the Transformation of Prison Cultures

Lynn S. Branham

Saint Louis University - School of Law

Indiana Law Review, Vol. 44, p. 703, 2011
Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-16

Few dispute that conditions in prisons need to be improved – that, for example, prisoners with mental-health problems need to have those problems addressed, and addressed effectively, while they are confined. But the more fundamental question is whether prisons can be, not just improved, but transformed. Transformation in this context means deep and sustained changes in the ethos of those who work and live in prisons. That ethos would reflect at least four precepts: (1) hope as an imperative; (2) the viability of renewal; (3) the catharsis that attends personal responsibility and accountability; and (4) the duty and call, extending to prisoners and correctional employees alike, to respect human dignity.

This article rests on the proposition that such “culture busting” in prisons is possible and describes five key steps that need to be taken by each state and the federal government to effectuate the envisioned transformation in their prisons. Those steps include: (1) Establish a maximal limit on the per-capita imprisonment rate in the jurisdiction that is at least 50% lower than the current national rate and adopt mechanisms to responsibly implement and enforce the limit; (2) Adopt a comprehensive plan to bring transparency and accountability into the operations of the jurisdiction’s prisons, in part through an independent public entity’s monitoring of, and issuance of public reports on, conditions within those prisons; (3) Modify prison policies, practices, and programs to reflect and inculcate a restorative-justice ethos within the prisons; (4) Ensure that a trained and dedicated mentor is assigned to each prisoner at the outset of his or her incarceration; and (5) Implement procedures to accord prisoners a central role in the development of their individualized reentry plan, whose implementation would commence upon their incarceration.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Friday, July 29, 2011

Police brutality: Attorney lauds order to release 8 years of complaints in Jason Graber case

​Yesterday, Judge John Kane ordered Denver to release every document related to excessive force complaints against city police officers and sheriff's deputies for the past eight years and stated that "further obstruction will not be tolerated." Outspoken attorney David Lane cheers the ruling, spurred by brutality allegations aimed at Denver cop Shawn Miller by his client, Jason Graber.
"Denver has been engaging in absolute stonewalling and covering up of evidence in the Graber case," says Lane, who spoke to us earlier this week about allegations of police lying that led to the false arrest of Aaron Puller for racially motivated LoDo attacks. "We caught them in the act, and Judge Kane is appropriately shining the light of day on Denver's cover up."
Speaking to 7News last year, Graber said he was walking from a Denver club to the Adams Mark hotel in March 2008 when a police car sped by so fast that he motioned for the driver to slow down. Instead, the officer in question -- Miller -- stopped the car and tackled Graber to the ground.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Judge asks for new complaint in indigent defense lawsuit - The Denver Post

Judge asks for new complaint in indigent defense lawsuit - The Denver Post

A coalition of defense attorneys suing to allow poor people accused of misdemeanor and traffic offenses access to counsel before entering plea negotiations were sent back to the drawing board in U.S. District Court today.

Judge John Kane said he sympathized with their concerns that current state law may be infringing on indigent defendant's 6th Amendment rights, but asked them to re-draft their complaint against the state in an ongoing civil suit.

State court prosecutors, one of the targets of the lawsuit, argued that without specific examples of defendants whose rights to counsel were violated, they would have trouble defending themselves against the complaint.

Kane dismissed the defense attorneys' complaint, giving them 60 days to re-file and possibly to find indigent people who had been harmed by the state law that requires those charged with a misdemeanor to discuss a plea with prosecutors before receiving counsel.

"The statute itself seems to be harnessed to a utilitarian calculus in an effort to save money," Kane said. "We do have an obligation to the Constitution."

Kane cited defendants who have been deported after they took plea agreements as cases where indigent defendants may not have been aware of the collateral consequences of their plea agreements.

However, he said he remains concerned about whether the coalition of defense attorneys have standing to file the lawsuit on their own behalf.

Scott Llewellyn, representing the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, tried to argue that public defenders were being rebuffed in their statutory duties to represent the indigent and so could file the suit.

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, speaking for the state, celebrated Kane's dismissal of the complaint. He said the nuanced problem of who gets counsel and when is one for the state legislature to resolve.

"To have public defenders appointed for every misdemeanor case is going to cost millions and millions of dollars," Garnett said after the hearing. "Judge Kane doesn't control the budget. I don't control the budget."

Denver ordered to turn over documents related to complaints about police use of excessive force - The Denver Post

Denver ordered to turn over documents related to complaints about police use of excessive force - The Denver Post

A clearly peeved federal judge on Wednesday ordered Denver to turn over a trove of documents related to the city Police Department's handling of excessive-force complaints against its officers.

The documents include records of every excessive-force complaint filed against a Denver police officer or sheriff's deputy in the past eight years, as well as all documents showing what the departments did with those complaints and whether they imposed discipline on the officers involved. The city must also turn over any internal studies done on use of force by police officers.

Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane, who issued the order, also blasted the city for failing to turn over the documents sooner.

"Further obstruction will not be tolerated," Kane wrote.

Attorneys for Jason Graber — who has sued the city, saying officers roughed him up and severely injured his leg after he objected to what he said was an insult from one of the officers — say the documents are needed to prove their claim that the city has a "continuing, persistent and widespread practice of unconstitutional misconduct by its law enforcement."

The scope of the documents ordered released — police disciplinary records are normally closely guarded — is unprecedented, said Qusair Mohamedbhai, one of Graber's attorneys.

"No judge has ever compelled Denver to produce this amount of discovery related to its officers' use of force," Mohamedbhai said.

Denver city attorney David Broadwell declined to comment on the order. Wil Alston, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Hancock, said Wednesday afternoon that Hancock was not aware of the order and could not comment.

An attorney for Denver Officer Shawn Miller, who is also named in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.

Graber filed suit against the city and Miller in 2009, alleging Miller and another officer violated his constitutional rights by using excessive force on him and seizing him without probable cause during an incident in downtown Denver.

In March, Kane dismissed most of Graber's case, saying Graber had failed to provide evidence that the officers' actions stemmed from the department's overall culture.

But after Graber's attorneys argued that Denver had stonewalled their requests for the needed excessive-force documents — some of which the city did provide in a separate excessive- force suit against Miller — Kane reversed his decision and ordered the city to hand over the documents, against the city's objection.

Kane said the city could have avoided the trouble by turning over the documents earlier.

Colorado moves death-row inmates so they can exercise outdoors - The Denver Post

Colorado moves death-row inmates so they can exercise outdoors - The Denver Post

The Colorado Department of Corrections has effectively moved the state's death row from Cañon City to Sterling to settle a federal lawsuit originally filed by Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap.

The state's death chamber will remain at Colorado State Penitentiary, but Dunlap and Colorado's two other death-row inmates now live at Sterling Correctional Facility. As their appeals are exhausted and death warrants signed, they will be returned to Cañon City for execution, said DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti.

The move was necessary because Cañon City's high-security prison, which houses 734 of the most dangerous inmates in Colorado, does not have outdoor exercise facilities, she said. Inmates there use an exercise bar located in a cell in each pod one hour a day.

"The only difference at Sterling is the exercise cells are outside in an enclosed concrete courtyard," Sanguinetti said.

The state moved Dunlap and fellow death-row inmates Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray to the minimum- to maximum-security Sterling prison last month, Sanguinetti said.

All three will be permanently housed in an administrative segregation unit, where they have individual cells apart from the general population.

Death row has been located at Cañon City since the high-security prison was built in the 1990s. Before that, death row had been located at Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, also in Cañon City, since the 1890s.

Dunlap himself originally filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Gail Johnson said she began representing him last year.

"The Constitution requires prisons to provide for basic human needs, and courts have consistently required access to fresh air and sunshine along with food, clothing, shelter, safety and medical care," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU legal director.

Dunlap benefited from a ruling in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said "even a convicted murderer" was entitled to outdoor exercise.

At Cañon City, Dunlap and the others saw the sun only through small windows.

"Mr. Dunlap is glad to finally have the opportunity once again to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on his skin during his limited out-of-cell exercise time," Johnson said.

He and other death-row inmates are now allowed to exercise outdoors five days a week, Sanguinetti said.

The improved accommodations infuriate Joseph Cannata, founder of Voices of Victims, an advocacy and support group for families of homicide victims.

"They have so many rights when they go to prison," Cannata said. "It just seems so unfair."

Dunlap murdered four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora in December 1993. Owens and Ray were sentenced to death for the witness murders in Aurora of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe.

State Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, Javad's mother, said she was never contacted about the decision to move the men who murdered her son and Wolfe in 2005.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Minor Criminals Deserve Public Defenders

The Denver Post

U.S. District Judge will hear oral arguments Thursday on whether a lawsuit that could change state law regarding public defenders for people charged with misdemeanors should proceed.
A law enacted in 1992 states that those defendants don’t get a public defender until they are in discussions with prosecutors about a plea deal.
Last year, the Colorado Defense Bar and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition sued the state attorney general, public defender and all of Colorado’s district attorneys, saying the law violates the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
Colorado’s statute was criticized in 2008 by the U.S. Supreme Court
in an opinion issued in the case of Walter Rothgery, a Texas man
who was not provided an attorney for several months after a first
appearance in court. The justices ruled in Rothgery’s favor, saying the right to counsel attaches when a defendant makes an initial appearance
before a judge to be advised of charges.
State Public Defender Doug Wilson tried to get Colorado’s law changed by the legislature. At the time, he estimated that doing so would add another 15,000 cases to his office’s caseload. When his efforts were unsuccessful, the defense bar and CCJRC filed the lawsuit – naming Wilson as one of the defendants.
In a motion to dismiss the case, Colorado’s district attorneys argued that the issue should be handled by the legislature, not the courts. They also say that the plaintiffs have alleged a “hypothetical controversy” about prospective defendants, rather than shown injury to an actual person or group of people as a result of the law (as the Rothgery case did). That argument is one Kane has told both sides he wants to explore further during Thursday’s hearing.
Boulder County District Attorney will argue for the DAs during the hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DOC Dashboard May/June 2011

Colorado Department of Corrections
A new statistical report put out by the Department of Corrections with some very interesting data.

Inside Criminal Justice

Inside Criminal Justice

Maine's Dramatic Reduction of Solitary Confinement

Photo by jakesmome via Flickr

The state’s new governor and corrections commissioner have sharply reduced prisoners in solitary without a rise in violence. They may have shown other states a way out of the supermax morass.

Solitary confinement has become more contentious nationally. First there was the controversy over the isolation of Bradley Manning, the soldier arrested for allegedly giving classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Then, earlier this month, more than 6,000 inmates in California prisons began a hunger strike to protest its use at the Pelican Bay prison's Security Housing Unit or "supermax."

As of Thursday, several hundred California prisoners are still on strike, and the weakening condition of some may soon require officials to choose between allowing inmates to die or force-feeding them.

Surprisingly, on the other side of the country the new conservative Republican governor of Maine, Paul LePage, and his new corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte, a veteran warden, may be able to show other states a way out of the sad, expensive morass that super-maximum-security solitary confinement has become.

Critics say solitary confinement is inhumane and counterproductive, and it costs two or three times regular imprisonment. Only the United States uses it for massive numbers of prisoners, a practice that has become common over the past 25 years.

Across the country, at least 25,000 inmates are in state supermax facilities — generally, in 23-hour-a-day isolation — and another 11,000 are in federal solitary confinement.

In a matter of weeks this spring, Commissioner Ponte dramatically reformed the Maine State Prison’s supermax, the Special Management Unit or SMU. Like others across the country it had been plagued by inmates "cutting up," by suicides and suicide attempts, hunger strikes, inmate assaults on guards, guard assaults on inmates and, in Maine's case, unexplained inmate deaths.

Like its counterparts elsewhere, Maine’s SMU had been increasingly accused of being a torture chamber, especially for the mentally ill.

Ponte's major reform has been to quickly shrink the number of supermax prisoners by almost 60 percent, from a nearly-always-full 132 cells to, recently, 54.

One immediate result is that the unit is calmer, and no great disruption has occurred from putting inmates back into the prison general population. Although wardens have defended supermaxes as necessary to decrease prison violence, academic researchers say there's no evidence this is so.

Maine's experience so far supports the research.

Shrinking Supermax Numbers

Maine is not the first state to shrink its supermax numbers. In recent years Mississippi reduced its Parchman supermax population by 90 percent, also without upheaval. But reforms there were forced by an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit.

In Maine the reforms came about after a grassroots political campaign — and the appointment of a commissioner willing to listen to reformers.

In this respect, Maine is unique. Although its prison system is small and not fraught with gangs, and the reforms are quite recent, activists in other states and the nation's capital are looking closely at Maine and drawing lessons for their own anti-supermax efforts.

"These reforms, if sustained, will make Maine a national leader in rolling back the excessive and unnecessary use of solitary confinement," says David Fathi, head of the ACLU's Washington, D.C.-based National Prison Project.

"We've followed our colleagues in Maine with admiration, awe and envy," says Laurie Jo Reynolds, organizer of the campaign in Illinois to limit solitary confinement at the Tamms supermax.

Maine's own prison reformers are in a mild state of shock at seeing many of their long-time recommendations adopted. Ponte even appointed two members of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition to a Department of Corrections committee coordinating the reforms.

"For the first time in years we have a good relationship" with the commissioner, Judy Garvey, a coalition leader, told the Republican-dominated legislature's Criminal Justice Committee in May.

Committee members appeared pleased with Ponte's actions. A year previously, many of the same lawmakers had sided with the former corrections commissioner in defending solitary confinement.

The change in thinking about corrections in Maine has been astonishing.

Colorado authorities say more people are driving while high - The Denver Post

Colorado authorities say more people are driving while high - The Denver Post

Police statewide are encountering more drivers who are either under the influence of marijuana or are carrying the drug illegally with them in their vehicle, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation and local police.

Drug evaluations of impaired drivers that turned up positive for marijuana increased 35 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to state numbers. The Longmont Police Department does not keep data that reflects what substances have impaired drivers, only that a driver was impaired.

"What we're seeing is an increase, maybe, of marijuana in the car," said Longmont police Sgt. Mike Bell. "We're definitely seeing an increase in people who try to use medical marijuana as an excuse, although they have nothing to do with medical marijuana."

He said many people have failed to educate themselves on the legal requirements to use marijuana and seem to think it is a "free-for-all."

Monday, July 25, 2011

House remodeling gives former convicts a new lease - The Denver Post

House remodeling gives former convicts a new lease - The Denver Post

Former convict John David Barrera says it's nearly impossible to get a job even 17 years after his release from prison, where he served time for a stabbing.

"When I fill out an application and answer that I'm a convict, most employers won't hire me," Barrera said.

But months after losing a job as a crane operator, Barrera got help finding work from Strong Tower Ministries, a Christian group that helps ex-convicts find jobs.

On Saturday, Barrera was helping contractor Nick Amato put the finishing touches on a house project that employed 13 ex-convicts at different stages during the past four months.

Amato, a private contractor, paid $50,000 for a house at 12975 Elk Place in the Montbello neighborhood that had been damaged in a fire. Investors helped fund the project, and he tapped the Christian charity for manpower.

It gave Barrera and other ex-convicts steady work for about four months.

"I wanted to try and help some guys out," Amato said. "We want to help ex-offenders get plugged back into society."

They hired ex-convicts who seemed sincere about turning their lives around, he said. It helped that some of them were electricians or plumbers, but a lack of construction experience didn't exclude them. Some of the men live in halfway houses.

The garage of the home had been gutted by fire and the rest of the home was heavily damaged. The convicts, with Amato's supervision, rebuilt the garage, put up drywall, laid carpeting and remodeled the kitchen, dining room and bathroom. Most of the ex-convicts learned new skills.

Amato is selling the house for $165,000. He hopes to make a profit, and employees earned $10 to $20 an hour depending on their skills.

It was the first such project in which Strong Tower Ministries teamed up with Amato.

Shooter in 2000 murder may be freed - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local

Shooter in 2000 murder may be freed - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local: "A Pueblo man sentenced a decade ago to 26 years in prison for
second-degree murder faces the possibility of freedom today and the
family of …"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beyond Belief

They took away the children eleven years ago. They took away the family photos just the other day — 212 glossy images of kids now grown, of smiling grandchildren he's never seen or held.
Charles Farrar kept the pictures in his cell in the Sterling Correctional Facility, a collection that expanded with every letter, every precious word from his far-flung tribe. He's never made a secret of them. But men convicted of terrible crimes aren't allowed to have certain kinds of photos in their possession. So when a recent shakedown turned up a snapshot of his youngest grandson having his diaper changed, the kid just lying there exposed — well, that was the end of the pictures.
That's what happens when you're condemned to a mountain of time. Piece by piece, inch by inch, they take it all away. Your freedom. Your memories. Your ties to anything human.
But Farrar isn't a man who gives up easily. He's filed a lawsuit over the seizure of his "contraband" family album. The dispute has already cost him his clean disciplinary record, his job in the prison upholstery operation, and his place in an honor pod reserved for the best-behaved inmates in Sterling.
Farrar doesn't care. The pictures mean that much to him.
"Hope has been snatched from me so many times," he says. "They put me in here for life. Family is basically what has kept me going. The biggest reason I don't do away with myself is my kids. I want to make sure they're doing okay."
Family may be what keeps Farrar going, but it's also what put him behind bars. In 2002 an Arapahoe County jury found the former bakery worker guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault on a child after hearing the horrific story told by his oldest stepdaughter, Sacha. She testified that Farrar, often assisted by her own mother, had subjected her to more than a hundred instances of molestation, rape and sexual abuse from the age of eleven until she was fifteen. Judge John P. Leopold sentenced Farrar to 145 years to life — the kind of time usually reserved for serial killers, terrorists or Bernie Madoff.
Like many convicted sex offenders, Farrar has always maintained his innocence. Unlike most of them, he doesn't bother to hide the nature of his conviction, even though child molesters can expect brutal treatment from other prisoners. But what truly sets his case apart is the degree to which family members continue to support him, insisting that he couldn't possibly have done such a thing. And his staunchest defender for the past eight years has been the one person, other than Farrar and his co-defendant, who knows what really happened: his alleged victim.
Shortly after Farrar's trial, prosecutors dropped similar charges against Sacha's mother, Debbie, because Sacha refused to testify against her. A few months later, after Sacha turned eighteen, she went back to court and told a very different story.
She said that she'd lied, that she'd fabricated the allegations against Debbie and Charles so she could live with her grandparents in Oklahoma. That she'd made fools out of the cops, the social workers, the prosecutors, who not only swallowed her preposterous tale, but coached her on how to tell it better on the stand. And when she tried to call the whole thing off, two caseworkers and a prosecutor pressured her into sticking to her story and ignored her assertions that it wasn't true.
"I ultimately testified against my stepfather at his trial because I was scared by threats of being placed in a mental institution," she wrote in an affidavit submitted in court. "I have had trouble sleeping since I made these allegations. When I do sleep, I have nightmares about ruining innocent lives."
Sacha's explosive claims triggered a series of hearings before Judge Leopold. Prosecutors and social workers took the stand to deny any misconduct; relatives testified that they'd expressed doubts about Sacha's story to officials but had been told to keep quiet. If it had been a different sort of crime at issue, in any county other than Arapahoe — which has a formidable reputation for aggressively pursuing child sexual-assault cases — the new evidence might have made Farrar a free man. Instead, the case has become a long, tortuous gauntlet of legal wrangles and appeals, and Farrar remains in his cell.
In America's holy war on sex offenders, it's a matter of gospel to believe the children — no matter how improbable the claims, how inadequate the investigation, how suspect the credibility of the alleged victim. The children must be believed. Unless, of course, they change their story to something nobody wants to hear.
"This is a terrifying case," says attorney Mark Walta, who's worked on Farrar's appeals since 2003. "The prosecution's entire case was staked to this woman's credibility. But when you're dealing with someone who is more or less a pathological liar, you don't know where the truth starts and ends."
"It's crazy," says Craig Truman, the veteran criminal defense attorney who represented Farrar at trial. "I just find it amazing that some judge somewhere didn't say that without this girl, there's no evidence and he deserves a new trial."
"Our system is totally and royally screwed up," says Sacha Bruce, now 26 years old — and still fighting to get her stepfather out of prison. "I don't know if they believed me or not or if they were just covering their own butts. I wanted this fixed. I thought I would be leaving the courthouse in handcuffs, and they would let him go."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coloradans' use of drugs, alcohol much higher than U.S. average - The Denver Post

Coloradans' use of drugs, alcohol much higher than U.S. average - The Denver Post

Colorado's rates of marijuana and cocaine use, alcohol consumption, and binge drinking are far higher than the national average and among the highest states in the nation, according to a federal survey.

Coloradans reporting marijuana use grew from previous surveys, which may add fuel to the ongoing debate over legal medical marijuana.

The number of young adults who said they had used marijuana in the past year was 38.5 percent in the Colorado survey, compared with a national average of 29.1 percent. The queries of more than 137,000 Americans were made in 2008 and 2009.

The number reporting pot use was up 3 percentage points from the last survey, in 2007 and 2008.

The state also had higher-than-average rates of people with a major depression episode or serious thoughts of suicide, according to the survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"There are a number of categories we're in the top 20 percent, and this is one case where being in the top 20 percent is not a good thing," said Arthur Schut, deputy director of the Arapahoe House behavioral treatment center in Thornton.

"It's always worrisome when we look at Colorado and other mountain states for substance use and serious mental illness," said Charles Smith, director of the behavioral health division of the state Department of Human Services.

Colorado is hurt by funding challenges in behavioral services and isolation from potential care in mountain and "frontier" communities, Smith said.

Legalizing medical marijuana in Colorado is another potential factor researchers are studying, he added.

"It's early for us to kind of speculate, but we're looking at that very closely," Smith said.

Freeing marijuana sales is similar to past results from opening up liquor or other substances, Schut said. "It's a rather simple formula. . . . You have larger consumption when you have more access. It appears we've increased access, and therefore we've increased consumption."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CCJRC Auction Item Request

CCJRC’s annual fundraiser and silent and live auction will be held on Thursday, September 15th, 2011.

We are still working to acquire auction items for our silent and live auction.

As you can imagine, the higher the quality of our inventory, the better our chances of exceeding our $20,000 goal.

Items such as gift certificates to Denver area restaurants and retail stores, sporting events or sports memorabilia, cultural events; Art and photography; specialty baskets; cabin/condo rentals, hotels or services; classes or any donated services from dentists, salons, lawyers, lawn care and/or "stuff" is appreciated.

The “stuff” category includes new or gently used jewelry, cameras,  the “so fancy I don’t know how it works” phone, laptops, I-Pods, etc.

Just click here to contact Ellen Toomey-Hale  about any donations which are tax-deductible.  Or you can mail anything you have available to CCJRC
1212 Mariposa St. #6, Denver CO.  80204
Tickets to the event are also available online at WWW.CCJRC.ORG

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Barbarous Confinement

MORE than 1,700 prisoners in California, many of whom are in maximum isolation units, have gone on a hunger strike. The protest began with inmates in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. How they have managed to communicate with each other is anyone’s guess — but their protest is everyone’s concern. Many of these prisoners have been sent to virtually total isolation and enforced idleness for no crime, not even for alleged infractions of prison regulations. Their isolation, which can last for decades, is often not explicitly disciplinary, and therefore not subject to court oversight. Their treatment is simply a matter of administrative convenience.
Solitary confinement has been transmuted from an occasional tool of discipline into a widespread form of preventive detention. The Supreme Court, over the last two decades, has whittled steadily away at the rights of inmates, surrendering to prison administrators virtually all control over what is done to those held in “administrative segregation.” Since it is not defined as punishment for a crime, it does not fall under “cruel and unusual punishment,” the reasoning goes.
As early as 1995, a federal judge, Thelton E. Henderson, conceded that so-called “supermax” confinement “may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable,” though he ruled that it remained acceptable for most inmates. But a psychiatrist and Harvard professor, Stuart Grassian, had found that the environment was “strikingly toxic,” resulting in hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. In a “60 Minutes” interview, he went so far as to call it “far more egregious” than the death penalty.
Officials at Pelican Bay, in Northern California, claim that those incarcerated in the Security Housing Unit are “the worst of the worst.” Yet often it is the most vulnerable, especially the mentally ill, not the most violent, who end up in indefinite isolation. Placement is haphazard and arbitrary; it focuses on those perceived as troublemakers or simply disliked by correctional officers and, most of all, alleged gang members. Often, the decisions are not based on evidence. And before the inmates are released from the barbarity of 22-hour-a-day isolation into normal prison conditions (themselves shameful) they are often expected to “debrief,” or spill the beans on other gang members.
The moral queasiness that we must feel about this method of extracting information from those in our clutches has all but disappeared these days, thanks to the national shame of “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantánamo. Those in isolation can get out by naming names, but if they do so they will likely be killed when returned to a normal facility. To “debrief” is to be targeted for death by gang members, so the prisoners are moved to “protective custody” — that is, another form of solitary confinement.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The case a lawyer wouldn't give up on

The case a lawyer wouldn't give up on

Defense lawyer Elvin Gentry was walking into the El Paso County courthouse this year as an assistant district attorney was walking out. The prosecutor stopped Gentry to chat about the news that outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter had just commuted the life sentence of one of Colorado Springs' most notorious killers, a woman named Jennifer Reali.

"Did you have a hand in that?" the prosecutor asked.

Gentry, a fixture in state legal circles since 1970, said he did indeed. The other lawyer was incredulous: "Must be nice to have a lawyer stick with you for 20 years."

Though it may have faded from memory for some, it was a case that never went away for Gentry. Reali has remained a presence in Gentry's life. An amiable lawyer cut from the "Matlock" mold, Gentry passed retirement age years ago but has no plans to quit.

"I'm the kind of guy who once a case is closed, after we've done everything we can do, I move on; it's history," he said. "This case has never been history to me. I knew from Day One I was going to do something. I wasn't going to leave a 30-year-old in prison for 40 years."

It was a crime that both horrified and transfixed, capturing national attention in the early 1990s as the "Fatal Attraction" killing. Reali, a pretty born-again Christian, wife of an Army captain and mother of two, had never been in trouble before.

But on Sept. 12, 1990, she ambushed and gunned down the disabled wife of her lover as the victim pleaded for mercy. Reali insisted it was her lover, Brian Hood, who instigated the crime; first seducing her and then, by using Bible verses, convincing her that killing his wife was God's will. Hood, convicted on lesser charges, said Reali acted alone, becoming obsessed with him when he tried to end the affair.

Colorado Mother Wishes To Meet With Her Son's Killers

The 3-year-old boy affectionately known as "Biscuit" was sleeping in the back of a parked old Cadillac when the shooting began.
Fourteen bullets hit the car in the drive-by shooting outside a northeast Denver duplex. Biscuit was shot in the head and died. His brother, Calvin, four days shy of his 7th birthday, and a teenage cousin were unhurt.
Sharletta Evans — mother of Biscuit, or Casson Xavier Evans — came to forgive the gunmen, who were 15 and 16 years old at the time of the Dec. 21, 1995, shooting. But it took years for her to decide she wanted to meet them in prison, hoping for closure.
A new Colorado law encourages the state Department of Corrections to facilitate such reconciliation meetings. Yet it's a process that requires they be safe and don't backfire on victims. And prison officials say there's simply no money to make it happen in the near future.
Lawmakers made many cuts to close a budget shortfall this year of nearly $500 million. Schools, Medicaid and prison vocational programs all lost funding.
As many as 200 people want to meet their offenders in Colorado and are on a DOC list, said corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti.
Colorado's law encourages victim-offender dialogues "when funds become available." It also emphasizes an alternative sentencing option known as restorative justice, which favors restitution instead of imprisonment. It's an alternative that was already available to juveniles in some cases, but the legislation expands the option to adults. The law takes effect Aug. 10.
While several states have restorative justice laws, Colorado, Alabama, California and Vermont are the only ones trying to make possible victim-offender meetings, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures. California adopted guidelines for the meetings and so far officials have conducted two and are working on four more, said Dana Toyama, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Toyama said officials want to expand the program but also face budget challenges.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Juvenile killer granted clemency released from prison | granted, released, juvenile - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Juvenile killer granted clemency released from prison | granted, released, juvenile - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

The last time Charles Limbrick Jr. walked without shackles, he was a child.

Now he’s a free man.

Limbrick, one of the youngest killers in Colorado Springs’ history, was released from prison earlier this month after nearly 23 years behind bars — ending a grueling effort to free him by lawyers, politicians and the man who oversaw his prosecution.

“I thought frankly, he’d probably have a better chance at integration into society at 37 ... than 55,” said John Suthers, Colorado’s Attorney General and the 4th Judicial District Attorney when Limbrick was convicted.

“I thought it was a fairly appropriate case to consider commutation.”

At the age of 14, Limbrick waited in his house with a .357-caliber gun. He pulled the trigger when his mother walked through the front door of their house near Mitchell High School.

Suthers said Limbrick and a friend planned to run away in September 1988 and hatched the murder plot so Betty Limbrick wouldn’t follow them.

The murder was “a heinous crime, very meditated,” Suthers said, and one based off of “kind of naïve juvenile logic.”

It was also unexpected.

Limbrick didn’t have a criminal past. Hours before he shot his mother in the hand and head, Limbrick gave a speech at his school, vying for class president.

“It was very clear that Chuck was a pretty bright young man,” Suthers said.

Suthers became one of Limbrick’s staunchest advocates for early release. Limbrick was sentenced to life in prison in June 1989 with the possibility of parole, and at age 15, was the youngest person in an adult correctional facility.

Limbrick kept a good record in prison and became active in prison ministry, sang in the prison choir and recorded Christian music CDs.

Volunteers in the prison said “absolutely wonderful things” about Limbrick, Suthers said.

Former Gov. Bill Owens offered Limbrick the first hope of early release, giving the man a limited commutation in December 2006. Four years later, out-going Gov. Bill Ritter wiped away the rest of his sentence.

Limbrick was released on July 1.

“For a 15-year-old that commits murder, 22, 23 years is a long time,” Suthers said. “And I suspect if he’s going to make it, this is a good time to let him have a shot at it.”

A tale of two Michaels: One was elected Denver's mayor and the other founded a violent gang - The Denver Post

A tale of two Michaels: One was elected Denver's mayor and the other founded a violent gang - The Denver Post

The Rev. Leon Kelly often tells a cautionary tale of two Michaels who grew up in Denver in the 1980s — one ended up in an early grave and the other will be sworn in Monday as Denver's 45th mayor.

"It is a story about choices," said Kelly, the executive director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives who has worked with tens of thousands of inner-city youth to help them stay away from gangs.

Michael Hancock and Michael Asberry were born in the same year and grew up in the same northeast Denver neighborhood.

They knew each other. Were friends. Lived through similar hard times.

Both were natural-born leaders.

Hancock ran for student council, led a nonprofit, became a city councilman, and on Monday will be sworn in as the mayor of Denver.

Asberry formed the city's most violent criminal gang, Denver's version of the Crips, in the 1980s.

Known as "Cyco" on the streets, Asberry was in and out of prison through his adult life and was trying to put his life in order in 2008 when he was shot and killed in front of an Aurora apartment.

On Monday when Hancock is sworn in, Kelly will be telling the Tale of Two Michaels once again to hundreds of young people at a retreat in Estes Park.

"It still empowers me to use that message — look at these kids, the contrast of two," Kelly said. "It's about choice. It's about who are you going to listen to."

Kelly said he used to believe the root cause for gangs could be blamed on the surroundings, poverty or the culture.

But the story of Hancock and Asberry changed his mind — showing him that the thug life is a choice.

Hancock's hard life story was told eloquently in stirring 30-second television ads. And in a crowded field of candidates, Hancock's remarkable narrative impressed voters.

Raised by a single mother and the youngest of 10, Hancock survived poverty, homelessness and the death of two siblings.

CDOC June Population Report

CDOC Monthly Population Report - JUNE 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reali faced long odds in asking Parole Board to free her | long, reali, faced - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Reali faced long odds in asking Parole Board to free her | long, reali, faced - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Jennifer Reali faced long odds in asking to be paroled this week after serving more than 20 years in prison for the killing of her lover’s wife in 1990.

Of the 83,800 inmates who appeared before the Colorado Parole Board from 2004 to 2008, only 11,100 were released from prison, according to a state audit report.

That amounts to a 13 percent chance of being released early when the decision is up to the Parole Board and not a mandatory condition of sentencing.

Reali was denied after a hearing at the Women’s Correctional Facility in Denver before two members of the Parole Board. The 49-year-old will have to wait until 2016 before she can again request a parole hearing.

Reali was convicted of shooting Dianne Hood outside the Otis Park Community Center in September 1990 as Hood left a lupus support meeting. Dressed in camouflage fatigues and wearing a ski mask, Reali ambushed Hood, making a grab for her bag to make it look like a botched robbery attempt before shooting her two times.

She was sentenced to life for the murder. Hood’s husband, Brian, got 37 years in prison for planning the murder and persuading Reali to pull the trigger.

Reali became eligible for parole this year when outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter commuted her sentence in January to bring it more in line with Brian Hood’s punishment.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Reali tearfully apologized for her crime, saying she was not the same person who had been talked into a heinous act. Her parents were at her side, offering her a home and a job if she were released.

Her request for clemency and consideration for parole was supported by the trial judge, the detective who arrested her and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, the district attorney who convicted her.

The lawyer who defended her, Elvin L. Gentry, said Thursday he doesn’t know what else Reali had to do to earn a second chance.

“When you are eligible for parole, I guess the lesson is ‘fat chance,” Gentry said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Doctor's staffer will change plea in pill mill case

The Denver Post
A worker for accused “pill mill” Dr. Kevin Clemmer is set to change her not-guilty plea to charges she was selling or distributing a controlled substance while working in the osteopathic clinic.
, also known as Tina Sheldon, appeared in federal court this morning and her attorney announced she would likely change her plea at the end of the week.   Two other defendants charged in the case, and are also set to change their not-guilty pleas in the coming weeks.
Attorneys for the defendants did not indicate whether the change means their clients are cooperating with federal prosecutors who are building a case against Clemmer who last operated a clinic in Wheat Ridge.
Clemmer is accused of writing prescriptions for the powerful painkiller outside the scope of professional practice.  He is facing more than 50 criminal counts and if he is convicted, he could be sentenced to decades behind bars.

Families of Clemmer’s former patients have expressed outrage at the doctor because their family members died from abusing prescription drugs. Clemmer is not charged and has not been implicated by authorities in those deaths.

Denver cop monitor's study suggests some officers avoid arrest for off-duty DUIs - The Denver Post

Denver cop monitor's study suggests some officers avoid arrest for off-duty DUIs - The Denver Post

A new report suggests that the Mile High City's police don't arrest off-duty Denver cops for driving drunk unless they are involved in collisions, and a new department policy will help prevent requests for such professional courtesy from being honored.

Since 2005, when Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal began monitoring police discipline, Denver police have arrested five of their own who were found to be drunk after a collision, he said in his second-quarter police and sheriff discipline and critical-incident report. But none has been arrested solely for driving under the influence.

At the same time, Denver Police Department data show that for about every three of the city's residents arrested for DUI, there is one resident arrested for a collision in which they were found to be intoxicated.

Colorado jurisdictions outside Denver aren't reluctant to arrest Denver cops for drunken driving, the report said. "There has been a 4-to-1 ratio of DUI traffic arrests to DUI arrests ensuing from collisions involving off-duty DPD officers in other jurisdictions."

Based on the 3-to-1 arrest ratio in the general public, it would make sense that roughly 15 Denver police officers should have been arrested for DUI with no collision, the report said.

"During that same time period, however, 10 DPD officers have been arrested for DUI in other jurisdictions, with only two of those arrests ensuing from a traffic collision," the report said.

Rosenthal concludes that some of Denver's approximately 1,400 officers expect to be let off the hook by their fellow cops, the report said. And the study suggests they may be having their way.

In response to the report, to be released today, DPD will take steps including requiring an officer who stops an intoxicated Denver cop to call a supervisor to the scene, Rosenthal said in the report.

Denver police union president Nick Rogers called the report "another attempt by Richard Rosenthal to cast a shadow on the department."

Noting that more than 75 percent of Denver cops live outside the city, he said the statistical analysis is thin. "There are no facts to back this up," he said. "I think it's slanderous."

Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson referred calls for comment to Manager of Safety Charles Garcia's office.

"While there have been no reported cases, we take the monitor's concern related to the absence of arrests of off-duty DPD officers for DUI very seriously," Garcia said in an e-mailed statement. "Any such reports of these actions would be thoroughly investigated and appropriate discipline applied."

The report also called too lenient the 26-day suspension of a Denver police officer for driving under the influence and berating the arresting officer for arresting a fellow cop.

Rosenthal said the case didn't prompt him to study DUI arrests of off-duty cops.

"I have been keeping an eye on this for a long time," he said.

On April 28, Garcia suspended an unidentified officer for DUI, unlawful possession of a firearm while intoxicated and rude and offensive behavior toward the arresting officers, "along with blatant attempts to obtain preferential treatment based on his position as a police officer," according to the report.

The officer had a blood-alcohol content of 0.246 percent, three times the legal limit, and a loaded firearm in the vehicle with him when he ran off a mountain road and down an embankment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No parole for Jennifer Reali, board will reconsider in 5 years - The Denver Post

No parole for Jennifer Reali, board will reconsider in 5 years - The Denver Post

The Colorado Parole Board today declined to parole a woman once called the "fatal attraction" killer.

A tearful Jennifer Reali told parole board members she is no longer the same person her boyfriend Brian Hood manipulated into killing his wife.

"He kept discussing that he wanted his wife dead," Reali told parole board members Wednesday morning. "He convinced me I was the one who should kill his wife...So on Sept. 12 (1990) I went to the place he said she would be and I killed her."

Two members of the parole board, Michael Anderson and Edward Thomas, took Reali's appeal for parole under advisement after questioning her for about an hour and hearing statements from her family and friends and listening as a letter was read from David Moore, the brother of her victim, Dianne Hood.

Ultimately they decided not to parole Reali, said Dr. Anthony P. Young, chairman of the parole board. He said the decision was based in part on the wishes of Dianne Hood's family.

Her next chance at a hearing is in five years.

Today's hearing was made possible when former Gov. Bill Ritter commuted Reali's sentence in the final days of his administration. In January, Ritter moved Reali's parole date from 2030 to this summer.

In 1990, Reali, at the behest of Brian Hood, shot his wife, Dianne, as she walked out of a meeting of a Colorado Springs support group for lupus sufferers.

Reali admitted to parole board members that she began an intimate relationship with Brian Hood, who sympathized with her about her marital problems. He told her he wanted his wife dead and she was the one to do it. He used Biblical scriptures to persuade her, she said. He got angry when she tried to back out.

El Paso County assistant district attorney Dan Zuck urged the board to defer Reali's parole, saying that in the 30 years he has been a prosecutor few cases have generated as much outrage as Dianne Hood's murder.

"She bought the gun herself. She bought the ammo... She lied in wait," Zuck said.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adams deputy accused of breaking 15-year-old's jaw - The Denver Post

Adams deputy accused of breaking 15-year-old's jaw - The Denver Post

Criminal charges have been filed against an Adams County Sheriff's deputy who is accused of breaking the jaw of a 15-year-old boy who was in an ambulance with his hands and feet restrained.

Patrol Deputy David Morrow, 28, is charged with child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, second-degree assault and tampering with a witness, all felonies, as well as a misdemeanor charge of official oppression, according to a joint statement this afternoon from the Adams County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department.

The incident happened at when deputies broke up a party in unincorporated Adams County between Thornton and Welby about 1 a.m. on June 12 and the teenager was allegedly drunk and became "verbally abusive," they said

The boy was being taken to a hospital because he would not provide information about his parents so they could be notified, according to the statement, issued after an internal investigation of the incident.

"Witnesses report that Morrow entered the ambulance to retrieve his handcuffs," the sheriff and prosecutors offices stated.

"Morrow was told he could exit though the back door, but insisted on exiting through the side door in front of the ambulance. As he passed the juvenile restrained on the ambulance gurney, Morrow struck the juvenile on the face with a closed fist."

According to an arrest affidavit obtained by 9News, Morrow then said to the ambulance staff, "Nobody saw anything, right?"

Morrow has been on paid leave, but was placed on leave without pay today, because of the charges being filed.

"This is an unfortunate day for the Adams County Sheriff's Office," says Sheriff Doug Darr stated.

He added, "This is very serious business. We have a responsibility to investigate all allegations of violations of Colorado law regardless of the individual's position. It's about doing the right thing regardless of the circumstances. It is the only way to maintain the trust and respect of the community we serve. We are not above the law."

Morrow has been a deputy since 2004, 9News reported.

Colorado's New Prison Czar

Inside Wire

Is Colorado's New Prison Czar Bringing Reform or Business as Usual?

When Governor John Hickenlooper took charge of the state's executive branch he brought in Tom Clements, the innovative former director of Missouri's 21 adult prisons, to shake up the CDOC.

In Missouri Clements oversaw  an award Winning prison program called "Parallel Universe." In the April 2001 edition of the magazine Corrections Today, Clements and colleague Dora Schriro co-wrote an article detailing how the program works. According to the article, "Parallel Universe is a corrections-based reentry program. Offenders in Missouri make choices and assume responsibility for their decisions that all have real-world ramifications. With this system, inmates learn to identify community expectations and then reconcile them with their own attitudes. They practice making decisions that do not contravene prison security but, instead, will enhance public safety.''

Prison rehabilitation programs have been in and out of vogue for decades, with most experts agreeing that the majority of U.S. prisons are nothing more than gladiator camps producing better criminals. Missouri's program is different and it seems to be showing significant results.

Parallel Universe focuses on helping inmates develop cognitive and decision making skills that will help them be crime free when they leave prison. The program not only teaches these skills but it allows the inmates to practice and live the skills everyday while in prison, making them habitual behaviors likely to be continued when not incarcerated. The goal is to allow inmates to make many of the same decisions they will have to make in the real world.

Teaching inmates how to make better decisions and to be better citizens may seem like a no-brainer but most prison systems, CDOC included, manage the population by strictly controlling inmates' actions and reducing inmate decision making to a minimum - it is the prison warehouse approach.

The Parallel Universe approach is to first bring inmates up to a basic educational level. Prison administrators nationwide are finding up to two-thirds of inmates don't have their GED or high school diploma and over half are functionally illiterate. To help overcome this educational deficit, Parallel Universe motivates the inmates the same way most are motivated in the real world - the better educated and more skilled an inmate is, the better his earning potential.

In Missouri prisons, jobs and earnings are tied to the Department of Labor's occupational titles and wages. The more skills an inmate has the more and higher paying, jobs he is eligible to apply for. The old system paid a flat rate offering inmates no incentive for their hard work or job skills. In the new system inmates must interview for jobs and receive regular job performance reviews by their correctional supervisors. Inmate wages are based on skill set and job performance, just like it will be when they get out.

Denver City Council overrules voter initiative on unlicensed drivers - The Denver Post

Denver City Council overrules voter initiative on unlicensed drivers - The Denver Post

Denver City Council members voted 9-1 on Monday night to repeal a voter-approved initiative designed in part to impound cars driven by "illegal aliens."

The repeal means that, starting Aug. 1, unlicensed drivers will no longer have to pay $2,600 in bonds and fees after police tow their cars. It will still be illegal to drive without a license, and people who have their cars towed will still pay a towing fee and a daily fee for vehicles sitting in the impound lot.

Monday's vote, the council's last before new members are sworn in July 18, marks the end of years of controversy that have ensued since 54 percent of voters passed the measure in 2008.

Opponents of Initiative 100 argued it unfairly targeted illegal immigrants and would open the city to lawsuits — and city officials didn't enforce the references to illegal immigrants specifically for that reason. Opponents also argued that the law interfered with matters the state and federal governments should handle.

Supporters say I-100 sends a strict message to unlicensed and uninsured drivers and should have remained in place because the public approved it.

Denver's charter allows the City Council to repeal laws approved by voters with a super-majority of nine votes.

"It's very rare that we would do this," Councilman Paul Lopez, who led the move to repeal I-100, said before Monday's meeting.

Lopez said he opposed the initiative because he feared it would open the city up to lawsuits and because it doesn't provide people with a chance to plead their innocence. City attorney David Broadwell agreed with Lopez's points.

Broadwell said developments in a federal court made him worry that the city would face future lawsuits.

The City Council agreed in April 2010 to pay $11,843.87 to settle a lawsuit with a man whose motorcycle was impounded by police after he loaned it to a friend.

Councilman Charlie Brown, who did not attend, has said he supports the initiative. Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz, the only member to vote against the repeal, said she thinks voters' desires should have prevailed.

Faatz said she would support amending the law to exclude references to illegal immigrants but didn't support a repeal because, "You don't need to thumb your nose at what the people have adopted."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Denver cops' credibility problems not always clear to defenders, juries - The Denver Post

Denver cops' credibility problems not always clear to defenders, juries - The Denver Post

City officials have identified one out of every 17 Denver police officers as having discipline issues serious enough that their courtroom testimony may be suspect.

Those officers were listed as witnesses in more than 1,100 cases in the past 12 months, a review of court data maintained by the Police Department shows.

The names of the officers show up on a list maintained by the offices of the city attorney and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey. Prosecutors use the list to alert defense lawyers anytime one of the officers might be called as a witness on a criminal case.

But despite safeguards put in place that are meant to ensure defense lawyers know which officers have a history of deception or lawbreaking, the system is not always effective or efficient.

Attorneys say judges are inconsistent when it comes to letting them see the personnel files of officers on the list so they can determine how best to cross-examine them.

And no system is in place to alert defendants when an officer is under investigation for what the Police Department calls "departing from the truth," and notifications also aren't sent alerting a defense lawyer if an officer gets fired for such a violation. As a result, defense attorneys never learned about the seven officers who were ultimately fired this year for being untruthful. Meanwhile, even while under investigation for being untruthful, those officers were listed as witnesses in nearly 60 cases in the past 12 months and jurors were never told about the allegations.

"There is no uniform practice in Denver court as to how this information is conveyed," said Chris Baumann, head of the Denver trial office of the Colorado State Public Defender's Office. "It's very frustrating. You know the information is out there, and you know it is in the possession of law enforcement."

City officials began maintaining the list of officers in 2008 after a year-long debate among city officials over whether defense lawyers should be alerted to police discipline that could be favorable to a defendant.

The list is meant to put the city in compliance with the requirements of a 1963 court case, Brady vs. Maryland. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors are required to divulge evidence favorable to a defendant.

Despite the creation of the list, Baumann said defense lawyers remain frustrated. More often than not, a defense lawyer never will get to see the details of the case that ended up putting a police officer on the list, Baumann said.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let convicts choose: Prison or the lash? - The Boston Globe

Let convicts choose: Prison or the lash? - The Boston Globe
BOUT 15 years ago, I wrote a column - “Bring back flogging’’ - that called for reviving corporal punishment for convicted criminals. Rather than continuing to lock up millions of offenders, many of them nonviolent, in crowded and brutal prisons, I suggested, it would be more humane to punish at least some of them with a straightforward whipping and let them get on with their lives. Americans have been taught to think of flogging as hopelessly barbaric. But is corporal punishment really less civilized than a criminal-justice system that relies almost exclusively on caging human beings?

It was a pretty good column, and I always had a hunch it would make an even better book. Now it has, and I only wish I had written it.

Peter Moskos, a criminologist at the City University of New York and a former Baltimore police officer, has just published “In Defense of Flogging,’’ a serious if startling proposal to drastically shrink America’s “massive and horrible system of incarceration’’ by letting most convicted criminals choose between going to prison and a semi-public flogging with a rattan cane. An absurd thesis? Don’t reject it out of hand, Moskos says, before considering what you would want for yourself. “Given the choice between five years in prison and 10 brutal lashes, which would you choose?’’ A flogging would be intensely painful and bloody, but it would be over in a few minutes. Prison would mean losing years of your life, being locked away from everything and everyone you care about.

Offered those alternatives - hard time or the lash - most people would choose the lash. Better the short, sharp humiliation of a flogging than the prolonged emotional torture of being shut in a cage. Better to be punished and be done with it.

Despite its title, “In Defense of Flogging’’ is less a brief for the resumption of corporal punishment than an indictment of America’s system of mass imprisonment.

The United States locks up people at a rate unmatched anywhere. There are 2.3 million people behind bars in this country - more than the populations of Boston, Baltimore, and San Francisco combined. Both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the whole, the United States has more prisoners than any other country. With an incarceration rate of 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, America outjails not only every advanced democracy - in Canada and Western Europe, the rate of imprisonment is about one-seventh what it is here - but even the world’s dictatorships and autocracies. In Russia, the incarceration rate is 629 per 100,000. In Cuba, it’s 530. In Iran, it’s 220.

Are Americans safer because so many of their fellow citizens are behind bars? That’s far from clear. “From 1970 to 1991 crime rose while we locked up a million more people,’’ Moskos writes. “Since then we’ve locked up another million and crime has gone down.’’ Was it only the second million who were the “real’’ criminals?

Death Penalty, Still Racist and Arbitrary

The New York Times
LAST week was the 35th anniversary of the return of the American death penalty. It remains as racist and as random as ever.
Several years after the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, a University of Iowa law professor, David C. Baldus (who died last month), along with two colleagues, published a study examining more than 2,000 homicides that took place in Georgia beginning in 1972. They found that black defendants were 1.7 times more likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants and that murderers of white victims were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks.
What became known as the Baldus study was the centerpiece of the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in McCleskey v. Kemp. That case involved a black man, Warren McCleskey, who was sentenced to die for murdering a white Atlanta police officer. Mr. McCleskey argued that the Baldus study established that his death sentence was tainted by racial bias. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that general patterns of discrimination do not prove that racial discrimination operated in particular cases.
Of course, the court had to say that, or America’s capital justice system would have screeched to a halt. Georgia is not special. Nationwide, blacks and whites are victims of homicide in roughly equal numbers, yet 80 percent of those executed had murdered white people. Over the past three decades, the Baldus study has been replicated in about a dozen other jurisdictions, and they all reflect the same basic racial bias. By insisting on direct evidence of racial discrimination, the court in McCleskey essentially made the fact of pervasive racism legally irrelevant, because prosecutors rarely write e-mails announcing they are seeking death in a given case because the murderer was black (or because the victim was white).
In Texas, though, they do come close. In 2008, the district attorney of Harris County, Chuck Rosenthal, resigned after news emerged that he had sent and received racist e-mails. His office had sought the death penalty in 25 cases; his successor has sought it in 7. Of the total 32 cases, 29 involve a nonwhite defendant.
Since 1976, Texas has carried out 470 executions (well more than a third of the national total of 1,257). You can count on one hand the number of those executions that involved a white murderer and a black victim and you do not need to use your thumb, ring finger, index finger or pinkie.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Search for Denver's next police chief goes national - The Denver Post

Search for Denver's next police chief goes national - The Denver Post

Denver Mayor-elect Michael Hancock is conducting a national search for the city's next police chief — a process that's expected to take at least 30 to 60 days — and he's asked the current top cop, Gerry Whitman, to stay on while he does it.

Earlier this week, Whitman told a group of police supervisors that he agreed to stay until the search is complete.

The move surprised some in the department, who had the impression that Hancock was leaning toward forgoing a national search and picking a new chief from inside the department, according to a police source.

But it was not a surprise to Division Chief Tracie Keesee, considered by many in the department to be the front-runner for the job.

"I'm not surprised it's a national search," Keesee said Friday. She said it is her understanding that candidates from inside the department also will be considered.

Whitman, who was named interim police chief in February 2000 by then-Mayor Wellington Webb and assumed the job on a permanent basis a few months later, has known since the spring that his days heading the 1,400-officer department were numbered.

At a mayoral candidates' forum in April, five of those vying for mayor — including Hancock — said they would replace Whitman if elected.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Denver cop fired for using unauthorized ammo in 2010 shooting - The Denver Post

Denver cop fired for using unauthorized ammo in 2010 shooting - The Denver Post

Manager of Safety Charles Garcia has fired a Denver police officer for failing to obey departmental rules after he used unauthorized military ammunition in a confrontation that left an innocent bystander wounded.

Garcia issued an order terminating Robert Fitzgibbons on June 14. Diamond Demmer was struck by fragments of bullets that Fitzgibbons fired from his .223-caliber Smith & Wesson rifle during a confrontation with an armed suspect July 2, 2010. Her injuries were not life-threatening.

An investigation found that several of the bullets Fitzgibbons fired in the early morning near Club Vinyl, 1082 Broadway, were unauthorized military ammo.

District Attorney Mitch Morrissey found that no criminal charges were warranted in the case.

However, in a letter clearing the officers of criminal charges issued about one month after the incident, Morrissey said: "An innocent bystander was injured in this police action. Failure to adhere to policies and procedures designed to protect officers and citizens can increase the risk to all."

Fitzgibbons and another officer were patrolling near the club when they heard gunshots coming from a parking lot across from the club.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Former Women’s Prison To Become International Corrections Training Center | Security Management

Former Women’s Prison To Become International Corrections Training Center | Security Management

In a Brazilian prison, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a person serving time for stealing car stereos to be housed with a gang member accused of multiple murders.The Brazilian prison system’s lack of a classification system has garnered criticism from human rights groups like Amnesty International and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. A proposed corrections training center in Colorado might help to address these problems by training Brazilian and other international officials in improving their prison systems.

The center is the first of its kind and will be part of an ongoing collaboration between the CDOC and the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). It will allow INL and CDOC to work with different foreign partners to develop programs to fit their specific needs, State Department spokesperson Susan Pittman told Security Management, Wednesday.

The State Department announced Tuesday that a $1.5 million grant will turn the former Colorado Women’s Correctional Facility in Cañon City, Colorado, into the International Correctional Management Training Center. The center will provide training for international corrections officials from countries like Brazil where the prison systems are still developing or plagued with problems. The grant provides start-up money and one year of funding for in-residence training courses.

“[The center will train] Different groups that need assistance stabilizing their criminal justice system, and of course prisons are a part of that. You can’t have a safe and secure and fair criminal justice system without having well run prisons,” spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC), Katherine Sanguinetti told Security Management.

“In the past two years we’ve worked a lot on Central and South America. We’ve trained four groups of Mexicans on different aspects of the parole system for example,” Sanguinetti said. In the recent past, groups of architects and case managers from Brazil were trained in building prisons with different security classifications and assigning prisoners to different custody levels, for example, while Mexican parole officers trained for high-risk transports.They’ve also trained staff from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize.

Denver police productivity falls in wake of firings - The Denver Post

Denver police productivity falls in wake of firings - The Denver Post

Some Denver police officers are once again initiating fewer investigations than their supervisors expect, and the police union says tough discipline meted out to cops is making some of them reluctant to establish additional contact.

Police statistics show the decline in productivity occurring at the same time a revised disciplinary system is being forcefully applied, resulting in the firing of nine officers since March.

The slide isn't citywide, nor is it as dramatic as it was in September, when then-Safety Manager Ron Perea resigned after controversy erupted over light discipline he ordered for officers caught on tape beating a man, said David Edinger, special assistant to Mayor Guillermo "Bill" Vidal.

The department keeps statistics showing the number of calls for service received from citizens in Denver, and the number of investigations initiated by police, such as traffic stops or a check on a broken window or suspicious person.

In the first six months of 2011, Denver police officers initiated 67,054 investigations or citizen contacts on their own, compared with 74,399 last year and 80,226 in 2009.

"This year, we certainly are seeing differences in some districts, but we're not seeing them in others," Edinger said.

John Bronson , a member of the Denver Police Protective Association's executive board, said there is no organized work slowdown. However, some officers fear initiating contact because if the situation escalates, they could get in trouble, he added.

Fewer cops on patrol

"There is just a lot of unknowns. The perception is if you take enforcement actions, and it is deemed inappropriate by people who don't understand what is going on, you could face discipline for the most simple things," Bronson said.

That is probably not the only thing depressing the numbers, he added.

Edinger said he doesn't know what the problem is, just that it could signal "a management issue" in districts where the drop is greatest. And he too pointed to other factors that could depress the numbers.

"The officers' priority is citizen calls, so officer-initiated actions typically fall as these rise. I've also noticed that as the shifts fill up with citizen calls, there's less contiguous time available in between citizen calls to complete officer-initiated actions," he said.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Poor litigants get legal help before state's highest courts - The Denver Post

Poor litigants get legal help before state's highest courts - The Denver Post

Tatanjia McNamara spent years fighting her way through Colorado courts trying to retain custody of her now 10-year-old daughter.

She and her husband divorced in 2004, and courts in Nebraska had granted him custody despite a contrary ruling in Colorado.

McNamara made her case to a Colorado District Court alone, without a lawyer. Then she represented herself at the state appellate level.

But facing the loss of her daughter and potential arrest on a Nebraska warrant, she finally sought the assistance of a pilot program that provides pro bono help to low-income litigants with civil cases at the appellate level or higher.

Last week, McNamara and her volunteer attorney celebrated a win before the state Supreme Court, the first victory at that level for the Colorado Bar Association's pro bono program, which is a year old this month.

"Ultimately, they decided in our favor. It really was a fantastic victory," said Anthony Viorst, the attorney on McNamara's case who also helped develop the program. "This case is a poster child for why we should do this. This woman would not have her child, and she might be in jail right now."

The program started as the brainchild of appellate court Judges Daniel Taubman and David Richman, who saw litigants representing themselves struggle with complex legal issues.

For criminal matters, indigent defendants get a state-paid public defender. In civil matters at the district court levels, indigent litigants can hope for help from legal aid programs.

Until last year, there was no assistance for low-income people trying complex cases before the state's appellate and Supreme courts, said Christina Gomez, who is chairwoman of the committee that screens applications.

So far, 27 people have asked for help and volunteer attorneys have taken on 10 cases, Gomez said.

"It's better for the client and the system generally to have that representation," she said. "There really was no outlet for seeking pro bono help in appeals in Colorado. It was really a kind of void we were able to fill."

The program accepts applications from people who make 125 percent of the federal poverty level or less, and handles cases involving property rights, contract disputes, family law, employment and others topics.

Cases involving prison discipline, election appeals, unemployment compensation and post-criminal-conviction relief are excluded.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Life After Conviction

"And, it was just luck that i got this job," says Lisa Ward, a convicted drug offender.
Getting a job is hard for anyone in this economy, but for people like Lisa Ward who have a drug conviction on their record, it can be almost impossible.

"They do give up after a thousand no's when they're applying for jobs, you know it's constant rejection, one after another," Ward says.
Like several other states, Colorado recently passed a new law making it easier for convicted drug offenders to petition to have their criminal records sealed. They must first complete their sentence and stay out of trouble for a period of time that depends on their offense.
"My understanding is i have to wait 10 years," Ward says.
Supporters say the new law helps people who have already paid their debt to society.
"And let them go on and live their lives, and not be burdened with the consequences of having this conviction for life, when it doesn't necessarily reflect who they are anymore," says Christie Donnor, from the Criminal Justice Reform Center.
"They petition the court and then the district attorney comes in and takes a position, either they agree to the sealing, or they have a hearing on the sealing," says Mitch Morrissey, a district attorney in Denver.
A judge makes the final decision.
"Under the Colorado law, local and state law enforcement agencies will still have access to these criminal records, as will employers in state regulated fields like medicine and education," says Reporter Alicia Acuna.
Denver district attorney Mitch Morrisey says that's not good enough.
"And the way that this law works is that their record, if sealed in Colorado will be taken off the national crime computer. And then if some law enforcement in another state is looking at somebody to see if they have a criminal record this conviction out of Colorado is not going to show up," Morrisey says.
Lisa ward says she doesn't want to hide, but just move on.
"Having my records sealed would kind of give me an end in sight, like O.K. I can close this chapter now and really put it behind me," Ward says.
The Colorado law took affect on July 1st.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Retired Denver police appeal to mayor to appoint new safety manager amid firings and questions of fairness - The Denver Post

Retired Denver police appeal to mayor to appoint new safety manager amid firings and questions of fairness - The Denver Post

A group of retired Denver police officers is calling on incoming Mayor Michael Hancock to appoint a new safety manager who is fair and understands risks officers face in the streets.

Current Safety Manager Charles Garcia has fired an unprecedented six officers since taking office, and Mary Mala testa, his predecessor, terminated two others, bringing the total since March to eight. Three officers were terminated in all of 2010 and one in each of the prior three years, according to the independent monitor's 2010 annual report.

As a result of the firings, rank-and-file police now fear that if they do their jobs as aggressively as sometimes is required, they might be wrongfully terminated, said retired Denver Police Chief Jim Collier.

Hancock was out of town Thursday and not available for comment, said his spokeswoman Amber Miller.

In an e-mail, Ann Williams, spokeswoman for Mayor Guillermo "Bill" Vidal, who appointed Garcia, said, "Mayor Vidal, Manager Garcia and our entire team is proud of the work we've done to address issues in the Department of Safety since January."

The union that represents police claims that Garcia, a former public defender, doesn't understand the difficulties of controlling suspects on the street. The union has also accused Garcia of bias against police and heavy-handed and unfair discipline.

Collier plans to read a statement Tuesday on behalf of 700 retirees calling on Hancock to replace Garcia with a manager who is fair. But he insists that they aren't looking just for a lenient manager.

Years after being freed and days after an exoneration, Tim Masters moves on - The Denver Post

Years after being freed and days after an exoneration, Tim Masters moves on - The Denver Post

The faded 1969 Chevy pickup that once belonged to Tim Masters' father now sits outside his new house on the outskirts of Greeley.

As a kid, Masters spent hours riding beside his dad in that orange truck, his chin and his hands on the dashboard.

"It's kind of sentimental," the 40- year-old Masters said Thursday as he stood in the gravel driveway. "I'll never get rid of it."

Instead, he plans to fix it up — right after he tackles the beat-up 1951 Cadillac and the 1974 Chevy Nova that are parked toward the back of the property, just waiting for the new five-stall garage to be finished.

"I can't wait to get started on these cars," Masters said.

Three years after he was freed from prison, and just days after Attorney General John Suthers exonerated him in the 1987 slaying of Peggy Hettrick , this is life today for Tim Masters — simple, secure and as close to "normal" as he can get after serving 10 years for a crime he didn't commit.

"I don't think I'll ever have a normal life," he said. "But I'm just trying to make up for those 10 years and enjoy life as much as I can."

Masters was 15 when Het trick's stabbed and mutilated body was found in a field near the Fort Collins home where he and his father lived.

Though police had no physical evidence linking him to the crime, he was arrested in 1998 and later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

New DNA technology revealed that DNA found at the scene did not match Masters' profile, and in 2008 he was released.

Last year, he settled lawsuits with Larimer County and Fort Collins police for a combined $10 million.

The money was a lifesaver. Before the settlements, Masters lived for a while with family and then in an apartment and struggled to make money. He wanted to go back to school to study to be an aircraft mechanic — his career before he went to prison. But he knew that with his background, he would have trouble getting

He used the money — minus his attorneys' cut — to buy the 1.5-acre property and circa-1910 house, along with 40 acres of land in the mountains near Horsetooth Reservoir, a couple of trucks and some other toys. He invested the rest so that he will have a steady monthly paycheck for the rest of his life.

"I tell people now I'm semi- retired," he said.