Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cities Propose Other Ways than Adams County Capping Jail

The Denver Post

BRIGHTON — The Adams County Detention Center — in an effort to dissuade cities from sending petty criminals to jail and to help fill a budget gap — on Jan. 1 plans to impose a cap on the number of prisoners it will accept.
The "soft cap" calls for each city to get a certain number of beds on any one day at the county jail. Under the plan, if a city exceeds its allotted beds, it could be charged up to $55 for each additional inmate.
Sheriff Doug Darr wants to stop all municipal residents from being sent to the jail for petty offenses.
The soft cap will also help Adams County deal with jail overcrowding and a budget gap of $7 million to $9 million, county officials said.
"We can't walk another mile this way," Darr told city representatives at a meeting last week. He added he is moving deputies from critical areas in the county to cover jail positions hit by hiring freezes and cutbacks. "I have the responsibility to man a safe facility."
The cities — which will see their jail beds whittled from 130 to 30 — say a soft cap is unnecessary if Darr follows recommendations submitted by the city of Thornton.
The recommendations include sending municipal prisoners to less-crowded jails in rural areas and more belt-tightening by the county.
"We cannot recall any caps on municipal inmates other than temporary caps immediately prior to the construction or expansion of new jail facilities," said Thornton City Manager Jack Ethredge.
The soft cap is especially galling to the cities because 75 percent of all property taxes collected by Adams County comes from the cities in the county, said Ethredge.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Choice of White is Praised Inside and Outside of the Department

The Denver Post

Mayor Michael Hancock's selection of Louisville Police Chief Robert C. White to take over the Denver Police Department drew applause from many, although some were disappointed that he was plucked from outside Denver.
White, 59, will be the city's first African-American chief and the first to be chosen from outside the department in 50 years.
"I have always known (Hancock) to look at all areas and pick the best, not because of a person being black or white or brown," said the Rev. Leon Kelly of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.
"I think Mike looked at all parts of this and listened to all the advice and said this is who I am going with. I feel good about the choice," Kelly said.
White's selection renews Kelly's hope that society can become color-blind.
"This is not going to become a black town, it is not going to be like that. When you take race out of it and just look at the resume, blacks and people of color can compete," he said.
White has said he plans to reach out to people all over the city: attending community meetings, stopping at church services and listening to concerns from the community.
Police Chief Gerry Whitman already does many of those same things, said the Rev. Paul Burleson, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church of Christ Jesus.
"He is wise to continue what Chief Whitman has done."
Burleson said White's experience as a career cop, who spent his first 25 years in the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., makes him a good choice.
In picking White, Hancock bypassed an applicant favored by rank-and-file cops, Division Chief Tracie Keesee.
"I am somewhat disappointed the mayor didn't feel there were enough qualified officers within the police department," said Sgt. Joe Unser.

Denver Announces New Police Chief From Louisville

The Denver Post

Robert White was chosen to be Denver's new police chief with a belief that he will restore confidence and trust in the department, said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
White for eight years has been the chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department in Louisville, Ky.
Hancock said he offered the job to White, 59, on Monday after culling through 61 applicants.
"I strongly believe he will work hand in hand with our officers to bring a new level of accountability to the department," Hancock said in a press conference this afternoon. "We were deliberate in vetting an amazing pool of local and national candidates. After weighing the wants and needs of our community and the qualifications of all of these candidates, I am

confident that Chief Robert White is the best and most prepared candidate for this position." Hancock in the press conference praised the tenure of outgoing Chief Gerry Whitman, who has held the job since 2000.
"Chief Whitman has served this city with tremendous professionalism, competence and leadership as chief of police," Hancock said. "We owe him a lot of gratitude. My respect for him as a man of class is off the chart for the way he has handled himself during this entire transition."
Hancock said he informed Whitman today that he had found his successor.
Hancock said the new chief will earn a salary of $167,607, which includes about $6,000 in extra pay to reflect his long career in law enforcement.
It is the first time in 50 years that a Denver police chief has been hired from outside the department. And White is the first African American to hold the post.
"It does surprise me, but I'm sure they did a thorough search for the best qualified person to run the Denver Police Department," said Det. Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association. "I look forward to learning everything I can about him and meeting him and trying to make this police department a better place for the citizens."

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Sentencing Guidelines

The Sentencing Project

New Sentencing Guidelines—A Breakthrough for U.S. Prison and Sentencing Reform

New sentencing guidelines for federal courts go into effect November 1st, signaling a long-awaited breakthrough for U.S. prison and sentencing reform.

The result of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010*, the guidelines curb excessive terms for low-level crack cocaine offenses and retroactively permit thousands sentenced under old statutes to apply for sentence reduction.

“The changes taking place are historic,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project. “Hopefully, this will lead to a more sensible and cost-effective sentencing climate in the federal justice system.”

The guidelines address a 25-year sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine that contributed to the imprisonment of African Americans at six times the rate of whites and to the United States becoming the world's leader in incarceration.
The new guidelines will follow a procedure similar to that used after the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets sentencing guidelines for federal judges, eased crack cocaine sentencing in 2007. The result: More than 20,000 cases were heard that resulted in 16,000 sentencing
A commission analysis estimated that changing the crack guidelines would, in 15 years, lower the size of the federal prison population by 3,800. Such a reduction would result in savings of more than $87 million.
Momentum for prison and sentencing reform, often fueled by budgetary constraints, is growing, evident in recent prison closings and state sentencing reforms.
The Sentencing Project, in coalition with 80 national and regional organizations, is working to advance broader sentencing reforms to curb federal prison spending, overcrowding and to ensure a more just system. These include:
• Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses
• Enhancing elderly prisoner release programs
• Expanding time credits for good behavior
*Prior to the bipartisan passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, a first time drug offender caught with five grams of crack cocaine received a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison. Ten years for 50 grams. To receive equivalent sentences, a first time offender in possession of powder cocaine would have to have 500 grams—about a pound—and 5,000 grams, respectively. The Fair Sentencing Act reduced the quantity disparity from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1.

Second Chances After Prison

The New York Times
With state prison costs driven mainly by recidivism, the federal government must do all it can to support programs like the Second Chance Act, which guides newly released prisoners to drug treatment, mental health care, housing and jobs to keep them from going right back to jail. The House, which supports continued funding, must hold fast against a Senate appropriations bill that would zero out this important program.
Of about 700,000 people released from prisons this year, more than two-thirds will be re-arrested and more than half returned to prison within three years. Even modest reductions in recidivism could yield huge savings. For example, a study released earlier this year by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that Texas could save $33.6 million, New York $42 million and California $233 million in the first year alone if they cut recidivism by even 10 percent. The Second Chance Act, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2008, supports re-entry services for newly released prisoners, who typically land on the street without money, skills or a place to live. The program was initially authorized at $165 million. But Congress funded it at only $25 million for fiscal 2009, $100 million for 2010 and $83 million this year. Even so, a recent analysis by the Council of State Governments Justice Center shows promising re-entry projects financed by this law springing up all over the country. In San Mateo, Calif., for example, a program that has provided offenders with drug treatment, life skills and employment training since 2009 has managed to keep three-quarters of them from going back to jail.
Representative Frank Wolf, Republican of Virginia, has promised to fight in the conference committee for the House bill that would invest $70 million into the Second Chance Act. The Senate, by contrast, has set aside no money for the program while earmarking more than $300 million in new aid for federal prisons. The Senate has its priorities backward.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Darrell Havens: Experts Challenges Police Version of Shooting

​In an affidavit filed in federal court, a veteran cop turned high-profile private investigator claims that an Arvada police officer who fired on an unarmed suspect during a car-theft sting operation in 2007, leaving the man a quadriplegic, was not justified in the use of deadly force -- and that "there is a conflict between officers' statements and physical evidence at [the] scene."
The affidavit is offered by Ellis Armistead, a former Lakewood police officer and deputy coroner who's frequently consulted as an expert witness on police procedure, and whose clients as a private investigator have included John and Patsy Ramsey and the Timothy McVeigh defense team. It comes as attorneys for Darrell Havens seek to revive his federal lawsuit against the police officer who shot him, a case examined in detail in my 2010 feature "Wheel Man."
Now confined to a wheelchair and serving twenty years in prison on charges of theft and attempted assault, Havens had a reputation as an elusive and prolific car thief when a team of eighteen police investigators from seven different agencies targeted him in a sting operation almost five years ago. The plan devised by Arvada detective Bill Johnson was to use an informant to lure Havens and a stolen Audi to a Target parking lot, pin him in with undercover vehicles, and taser him if he resisted arrest. Instead, Johnson ended up firing his .45 nine times, striking Havens with three bullets in the chest, neck and jaw.
Johnson told shoot-team investigators that Havens began ramming the police vehicles in an effort to escape and that he fired to protect himself. Since the Audi was revving its engine and poorly pinned on one side as Johnson approached, he explained, he thought "this son of a bitch is about ready to run my ass over." Interviews with other officers supported Johnson's account, and Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey found that Johnson used "lawful and appropriate force."
Havens, though, has always maintained that the police began ramming his car before he could even attempt to escape. His right arm useless from a previous motorcyle accident, he claims he was already helpless and not in control of the Audi, which was sliding on ice but pinned between a truck and an SUV, when Johnson shot him.
Armistead examined police reports and diagrams of the shooting scene and found that shell casings from Johnson's Glock were recovered over an area of the slushy parking lot spanning thirty feet. That detail is "inconsistent with Detective Johnson's statements that he had 'emptied his clip' from [a] fixed position," Armistead writes.
Even if Johnson was correct about his position in front of the pinned car at the time of the shooting, Armistead continues, "he had no knowledge that suspect was armed and had no belief that he was armed... the vehicle that Darrell Havens was operating was not an imminent threat to Detective Johnson's safety at the time that he shot Darrell Havens."
Havens has only limited movement in his left arm since the shooting, and his care in the Colorado Department of Corrections is costing the state in excess of $200,000 a year. Last winter, prison officials managed to get the state parole board to grant him an early medical parole, but the parole was abruptly canceled after Arvada police chief Don Wick protested the move. The Arvada city attorney has since offered to rescind objections to the parole if Havens will drop his lawsuit, but Havens declined the deal, since it didn't include any guarantee that he would receive parole.
Although he can't turn the pages of law books without assistance, Havens represented himself in the suit, which has been dismissed for procedural deficiencies. He's since found a Colorado Springs law firm to represent him and is back in court arguing that he should be allowed to proceed with his claims because he was incapacitated when he filed on his own. His attorneys also contend that he didn't receive several notices from the court; a handwriting expert hired by the defense believes that his name was forged on mail logs at the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger has scheduled an evidentiary hearing before ruling whether Havens can pursue his lawsuit against Johnson.

Denver Police Chief Propose Double Check on DUI Stops For Cops

the Denver Post

Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman is proposing new rules for drunken-driving stops by his officers, requiring them to call a supervisor anytime they pull over a fellow cop, other criminal justice employee or any public official.
Whitman made the move after a July report by Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal that suggested Denver police don't arrest their fellow officers for drunken driving.
According to Rosenthal's third- quarter report on police and sheriff discipline, scheduled for release today, the chief first agreed to require any officer who stops an off-duty police officer who appears drunk to call a supervisor. The supervisor would have to notify the district commander in writing whether an arrest was made and if not, justify that decision.
But Whitman then took it a step further. He forwarded a draft directive to Manager of Safety Ashley Kilroy that would apply to stops of all criminal justice employees — cops, firefighters and sheriff's deputies — and public officials.
Mayor Michael Hancock is in the process of picking a new chief, and a new manager of safety, Justice Alex Martinez, is expected to take office next month. Police spokesman Matt Murray said Whitman drew up the draft directive so a new chief and manager could weigh in on the idea.
"Why should we be the only ones accountable for this standard?" Murray asked, questioning whether Rosen thal had facts to back up his assertion that Denver police had protected their own from DUI arrests. "We are not tolerant of DUI; we are pretty committed in that area. No public officials, in fact nobody, should be driving drunk. We believe there is a standard and everybody should meet it."
Whitman's idea might have traction.
"The manager agrees with the monitor's recommendation, but also agrees with the chief that a more comprehensive implementation is appropriate possibly for public officials and all criminal justice employees," safety office spokeswoman Daelene Mix said in an e-mail.

Jeffco District Court Judge Brian Boatright Named to Supreme Court

The Denver Post

First Judicial District Court Judge Brian Boatright will be Colorado's next state Supreme Court Justice, sources close to the appointment process say.
Gov. John Hickenlooper plans today to officially announce his first pick for the high court at a press conference this morning at the state Capitol.
Boatright, 49, is the only one of the field of three candidates for the job who has spent time as a trial court judge.
He has spent more than a decade on the bench in the 1st Judicial District, which serves Jefferson and Gilpin counties, first running a mixed docket and then focusing on juvenile court issues.
With the departure of Justice Alex Martinez later this month, the high court would have been left with only one member who has served as a trial court judge. Much of the justices' work is review decisions made by lower courts.
Hickenlooper also considered corporate attorney Frederick Martinez and University of Colorado litigator Patrick O'Rourke for the position.
He met last week with each of the three candidates and has sought opinion from sitting justices, business groups, diverse legal groups and public officials.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Colorado Teen Sentenced to Forty Years Gets A Second Chance

The Westword
Josh Beckius is in search of redemption. That's a word that comes up regularly when he talks about his life.
At the age of sixteen, Beckius was charged with the murder of Dayton Leslie James, a night-time manager of the Baseline Cinema Savers in Boulder. The crime, which had occurred two years earlier, in 1993, was one of those stupid, vicious, random events that make people question the benevolence of the universe, and it shocked relatively crime-free Boulder. James was a kindly man, a ballroom dancer who had survived an abusive childhood to raise two loving daughters. He had worked with abused children himself and served as a Big Brother, and he was known to let homeless people into the Cinema Savers for free. The movie house was targeted for robbery by a drug-dazed and incoherent gang whose members called themselves — depending on whom you asked — either the Crazy Boy Crips or the Chinie Boy Crips, most of them teenagers, led by Cambodian refugee Chamroen (Charlie) Pa, whose age no one could pin down, but who was thought by police to be in his early twenties. Beckius, then fourteen, ran with the group. During the course of the robbery, which netted around $2,000, Pa shot James twice, in the chest and the back of the head. A welter of confused and often contradictory testimony — a key component of which turned out later to be false — placed Beckius in the cinema with Pa.     Colorado's felony murder statute states that if a death occurs during the commission of a crime, anyone involved — whether the driver of a getaway car or someone who once conspired with the perpetrators, even if he later backed out — is guilty of first-degree murder, regardless of intent. Beckius's court-appointed attorney, Patrick H. Furman, was aware that this statute could send the teenager to prison for life with no chance for parole, and he felt that speed was of the essence: Charlie Pa was in custody, and whichever defendant agreed first to a plea would get the better deal. Prosecutor Pete Hofstrom accompanied Furman on his first visit to see Beckius, and the two had already hammered out a deal even though no charges had yet been formalized. After a few days of adamant denial, a highly emotional Beckius pleaded guilty to serving as a lookout for Pa.
Dayton James's daughter, Darcy Priola, was present at the sentencing hearing, and she read the court a letter she had written: "Joshua is heartless for doing what he has done. I know he said he had a bad childhood, but so did my dad, and so have a lot of people.... The crimes which he has committed should be punished for a very long time. As far as I'm concerned, a long time will never be enough time for taking my dad from me."
Beckius was sentenced to forty years and sent to the Buena Vista Correctional Complex, an adult facility. (Pa received a sentence of 48 years.) "I thought prison was going to be my life," Beckius says today. "I was in the mind frame that I was just going to die in there."
Josh Beckius is sitting in a Boulder coffee shop, holding a cup of espresso. He has never tasted espresso before, and he's surprised that the cup is so small and the coffee so bitter. But he likes it. Now 32 years old, Beckius has been given a second chance. He is living at Denver's Peer 1, a residential facility that houses men who have criminal histories and a record of substance abuse. He has a job at a tire company and spends weekends with his family. Grateful to be outside prison walls, Beckius is anxious to experience as many new things as he can.
He sets down his cup. There is no special treatment for juveniles sent to adult prisons, he explains. "It was pretty much, 'You were charged and sentenced as an adult, you were sent here, and you're on your own.' The guards didn't go out of their way to ensure your safety. Some guys that have been locked up fifteen, twenty years kind of explain the ropes. One of the things I was taught by them: Don't let anyone disrespect you. People look at you as pretty much weak and an easy target, and that's one thing that you don't want to put out."
Beckius got into fights. He continued to use drugs. "I just didn't care," he remembers. "I didn't care about myself. I didn't care about my life. For the first four or five years of my incarceration I was constantly in trouble, constantly being sent to segregation for twenty to thirty days...until they pretty much got fed up with me and sent me to CSP."
The Colorado State Penitentiary is a high-tech maximum-security prison, and Beckius spent the next three and a half years in solitary confinement, living in a six-by-eight-foot cell where the light was never turned off, allowed one hour a day to exercise alone in a concrete yard. The prisoners were able to yell to each other through the doors, but Beckius rarely joined the cacophony. He did have books and television, and he could see the outside through a long slit of a window. Most important, there were bi-weekly visits from his father and stepmother, Tim and Kathy Beckius, conducted through a glass partition. In his cell, he watched sports, educational programs and the History and Military channels, wrote letters and a journal, and read the Denver Post every day, "to keep up with what was going on in the world," he says. "It was kind of weird and ironic. But I wanted to be given an opportunity to prove that I belonged back out here, that I'm not just some monster that deserves to be locked away for life."
Experts say that prolonged solitary confinement can cause the disintegration of personality, even full-blown psychosis. Those who visited Beckius during those years remember him as withdrawn and looking haggard and grim. But Beckius says he believes in mind over matter, and he refused to give up: "They'd bring people out of their cells and they'd look like a walking dead man. I didn't want to be that person. Regardless of if I had to do the full forty years in solitary, I wasn't going to be broken."
But the ordeal did change him.

Denver Cops To Test Body Cameras

The Denver Post

Denver could join a growing list of cities where police wear digital cameras to record encounters with the public, a move the local ACLU says could increase officers' accountability but one that raises concerns among privacy advocates.
In two weeks, the Denver Police Department will launch a 60-day pilot program with 23 officers testing the "body-worn digital recording devices," which can be clipped to uniforms or, in the case of one model, worn as a headset. All record audio as well as video. Once that testing is done, the department will decide whether to use the cameras.
The technology will provide evidence that can be used in court and cut down on cases that hinge on the officer's word versus the suspect's, said Lt.

An officer would wear the body camera on his chest. The device records audio as well as video, and one model can be worn as a headset. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
Ernie Martinez of the department's Special Investigations Bureau. They also could record incidents of excessive force by police, said Jessie Ulibarri, public-policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. A police surveillance camera mounted near a Lower Downtown nightclub caught the 2009 beating by police of Michael DeHererra and led to the dismissal of two cops in March.
"Based on concerns raised about the pattern of abuse in our law enforcement community, this is a great first step," Ulibarri said of the body cameras.
At least during the trial period, the officers testing the technology will decide when to activate their cameras. If police adopt the devices, protocols could be designed that would remove discretion from officers and specify when they must turn on their camera.
It takes time to get accustomed to the devices, and giving officers discretion over their use will assure that a cop isn't preoccupied with triggering the camera when entering a critical situation, Martinez said.
The ACLU's Ulibarri said the cameras should be on throughout the day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inmates To Get Help In Jefferson County

Between 1,130 to 1,150 inmates are housed per day at the Jefferson County Jail in Golden.
In that population, some inmates have substance-abuse disorders or mental illness that have either gone untreated or required the relocation of inmates.
But a recent $107,100 grant from the state will change that and, if successful, reduce incarceration time and recidivism. The money will allow the jail to contract two mental health and substance-abuse professionals to provide in-jail treatment. Inmates with substance-abuse disorder typically receive detoxification supervision and medication is made available to the mentally ill.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office grant specialist Beth Mundell said, “This (grant) will give us a chance to address those issues in the jail to not only provide seamless exit release, but immediately put them in community services that will help keep them out of jail. We are trying to reduce recidivism.”
Manager of the state’s Jail-Based Behavioral Health Services, Jagruti Shah, said, “Providing treatment services improves public safety by reducing substance use behavior and the likelihood that individuals will have further contact with the criminal justice system.”
Mike Fish, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Detention Services manager, said master-level clinicians will provide counseling and transition planners will help inmates get basic services as they move out of jail and into the community.
“If the assessment identifies them as appropriate for treatment, they will receive in-house treatment from local providers,” said Fish.
Mundell said there has been a big gap in services to inmates who exhibit both mental illness and substance-abuse disorders.
“It’s a discussion we have been having for quite some time with local service providers (such as Jefferson Center for Mental Health, Arapahoe House and Community Corrections Services),” Mundell said.
In 2007 the jail initiated a $30 booking fee to cover a transitional planner for inmates. The planner works with inmates to help connect them with the necessary community mental health services they might need upon release.

Billions Behind Bars: Colorado's Prison Industry Gets It's Close-Up

​A few years back, reporting on a convention of prison officials and vendors who supplied them with everything from stab-proof vests to suicide-proof toilets, I noted that America's spending on the corrections industry had reached $40 billion a year. According to two new documentaries worth checking out, that figure has almost doubled in the past decade.
The CNBC special Billions Behind Bars: Inside America's Prison Industry, which premiered last night and airs again on Friday, estimates that annual state and federal spending on locking people up is now at $74 billion -- an indication of the industry's resilience, even in an era of declining crime rates and economic collapse. Colorado's prison population has flattened out in recent years, but state, private and federal hoosegows continue to be a significant source of jobs and revenue in several counties.
CNBC's Scott Cohn drops in on our state, mainly to examine the use of convict labor in Colorado Correctional Industries, the state operation that puts prisoners to work breaking mustangs, making furniture, raising tilapia, and other ventures. The producers claim that CCI generates $56 million in annual revenues, but that's a bit misleading, since some of the transactions involve other state agencies making required purchases of furniture and other goods from CCI at inflated prices; check out this robust rant on how a $50 desk ends up costing taxpayers $1,400.
Another, somewhat edgier exploration of for-profit lockups aired last night on PBS courtesy of Frontline and the Investigative Reporting Workshop. In "Lost in Detention," correspondent Maria Hinojosa takes a look at the booming private system for immigration detainees and the abuses of human rights to be found there -- a growing scandal beneath the Obama administration's crackdown on illegal immigration. Portions of that show can be found online here.
For a glimpse of CNBC's tour of Colorado Correctional Industries, check out the clip ...Westword

Portugal's Drug Experiment

The New Yorker
This week in the magazine, Michael Specter looks at Portugal a decade after it decriminalized personal drug use. Here Specter talks with Blake Eskin about why it makes sense to treat drug abuse as a public-health problem rather than a crime, and what lessons the U.S. could take from Portugal’s example.
Listen to the mp3 on the player above, or right-click here to download.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Death Penalty's Defacto Abolition

New York Times Opinion
A new Gallup poll reports that support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since 1972. In fact, though, the decline, from a high of 80 percent in 1994 to 61 percent now, masks both Americans’ ambivalence about capital punishment and the country’s de facto abolition of the penalty in most places.
When Gallup gave people a choice a year ago between sentencing a murderer to death or life without parole, an option in each of the 34 states that have the death penalty, only 49 percent chose capital punishment.
That striking difference suggests that more Americans are recognizing that killing a prisoner is not the only way to make sure he is never released, that the death penalty cannot be made to comply with the Constitution and that it is in every way indefensible. But there are other numbers that tell a more compelling story about the national discomfort with executions.
From their annual high points since the penalty was reinstated 35 years ago, the number executed has dropped by half, and the number sentenced to death has dropped by almost two-thirds. Sixteen states don’t allow the penalty, and eight of the states that do have not carried out an execution in 12 years or more. There is more.
Only one-seventh of the nation’s 3,147 counties have carried out an execution since 1976. Counties with one-eighth of the American population produce two-thirds of the sentences. As a result, the death penalty is the embodiment of arbitrariness. Texas, for example, in the past generation, has executed five times as many people as Virginia, the next closest state. But the penalty is used heavily in just four of Texas’s 254 counties.
Opposition to capital punishment has built from the ground up. It is evident in the greater part of America’s counties where people realize that, in addition to being barbaric, capricious and prohibitively expensive, the death penalty does not reflect their values.

Tangles in the Ties That Bind

Boulder Weekly

Colorado prisons' high phone charges invite scrutiny

By Carolyn Cosmos

It’s a well-known fact that prison inmates with strong family and community ties are less likely to wind up back inside the joint once they are released.
So why are state prison systems, including Colorado’s, charging inmates high rates for phone calls, rates that discourage prisoners’ often frayed home attachments?
* * *
Hassan Latif spent 18 years in Colorado prisons.
“My first few years inside, all I thought about was escaping,” he says. “I got high in the county jail. Even if I got out, I didn’t see options. I saw myself as prey.”
Released in 2006, he’s now a case manager at Turnabout, a Denver nonprofit that provides assistance to returning inmates — 5,000 of them in 2010.
This April Hassan and Turnabout’s director, the Rev. Tina Yankee, spent two days teaching ethics classes at Metropolitan State College of Denver — a surprising undertaking for a man who, his wife says, “always felt he was going to go down in a hail of bullets.”
Imani Latif met Hassan in New York City when both worked for the Department of Health.
“He was my best friend,” she says. “I fell in love with him, but he was engaged to someone else.”
They married other people. She had a son. He moved to Colorado. Her marriage ended. When Hassan’s former wife wrote to Imani saying, “I’m leaving him. He’s in prison,” the two picked up where they left off.
She moved to Colorado and they married in 1992.
“My wife stayed with me for 18 years inside, and if not for that support I wouldn’t be talking to you now,” Hassan says.
“My perception of his life was different than his,” she says.
They wrote letters. Imani drove two hours each way to visit. An AIDS counselor, she couldn’t afford prison call costs, but Hassan got a “high-paying” job, $150 a month, in a prison print shop and phoned her once a week.
“It was cheaper back then,” he says. “She told me I was a good person, I could go back to school, have a life,” Hassan explains. “That seemed far-fetched, but the chance to go to that visiting room and see her made me walk away from trouble.”
Imani is now the founding director of It Takes A Village, a nonprofit that addresses health issues among people of color.
Hassan thinks prison phone-call costs in Colorado are “prohibitive.” Add in the difficulties of visits, he says, and “it appears they don’t want families to be together. It’s something deliberate.”
He suspects that call profits go to wealthy owners of the phone companies.
* * *
“Studies show family contact helps motivate prisoners to do well and complete programs,” says Margaret diZerega, director of the Family Justice Program at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City. “An outlet to talk about frustrations lowers violence, and inmates with family support have fewer parole violations and less homelessness.”
Charlie Sullivan is director of international CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation for Errants) in Washington, D.C., a prison reform group. He says inmate phone calls to families are “rehabilitative opportunities” easily scotched by “exorbitant” costs. A Vera Institute report labels such costs “a tax on poor families,” penny wise and pound foolish.
Families complement or substitute for public programs, especially when prisoners get back out, so “it doesn’t make economic sense to put barriers in place,” diZerega explains. Barriers to contact include the cost of phone calls, driving from a distance, child care costs and time off work.
And both the American Correctional Association and the American Bar Association have policy statements supporting low-cost inmate phone access.
* * *
Taxpayers don’t pay for prison phone calls. Inmates and their families do.
You can’t call an inmate. The inmate calls you from a public phone in a cellblock, but only if you’re on a pre-approved list. An automated voice tells you the call is from a particular prisoner and asks if you want to accept it. Calls are limited to 20 minutes.
One reason rates for calls are high is that prisons pay for specialized phone equipment and security costs.
However, if a state corrections department adds a surcharge to each call — and all but eight do — or hikes up the charge for each minute, or both, the resulting rates generate large profits. These profits, or “commissions,” usually go back into corrections budgets.
Commissions have been called “kickbacks,” but courts have repeatedly ruled them legal.
Last April, Prison Legal News (PLN), a national monthly based in Vermont, published a groundbreaking 50-state study of prison phone contracts. It detailed the millions of dollars in profits states extract from prisoner phone use. The national total came to $152.44 million in 2007-08, PLN said.
The PLN state survey also showed that Colorado prisons had, and still have, the highest rate in the United States for local collect calls — $7.35 for 20 minutes.
According to PLN, Colorado’s 2007-08 commissions came to $3.1 million. That was $2.6 million net.
Current inmate phone use is providing Colorado corrections with $2.024 million net in commissions, DOC says.
* * *
“I was born in Denver,” says Don Walker, “and I have a lot of family here, mostly incarcerated.”
A repeat offender finally sentenced to 16 years on drug charges, he did time with his own dad: “He was my cellie. They’ll put you with a family member if you’re both inside because people will stay out of trouble if they’re in a cell with an older brother, an uncle.”  *(Click the title to read the rest of the article)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Budge Cuts Force Adams County to Consider Jail Cap

The Denver Post

BRIGHTON — Adams County is inching toward toughening its policy regarding housing municipal prisoners in hopes of easing overcrowding and cutting costs at the Adams County Detention Facility.
But the ideas being floated — including locking out many misdemeanor offenders already sentenced by municipal judges — is making many local mayors and police officials uneasy.
"The last thing we want is our judges releasing someone and he murders somebody," Westminster Mayor Nancy McNally said at a meeting with jail officials on Friday.
Federal Heights Police Chief Les Acker added the changes proposed by Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr could lead to someone who is truly dangerous but facing only a minor offense being set free.
"(Oklahoma City bomber) Timothy McVeigh was pulled over for a bad tail light," Acker said.
Darr, however, said changes have to be made because budget woes have forced drastic cutbacks in jail personnel and other parts of the Sheriff's Office.
"I hate to do this, I really do," Darr said. "But we can't go on like this, we are working our people to death."
County officials are proposing a "soft cap" on the number of municipal inmates that can be held at the jail. Under the plan, no one cited for a petty offense or "unclassified" misdemeanor in any Adams County city would be housed at the jail.
The cap could be waived on case-by-case basis at the request of the city, and with the permission of the jail commander. However, each city would be limited to a certain number of beds based on its population.
Also, if the number of inmates arrested in a certain city exceeds its allotted number of beds, the city will be charged a fee, which is proposed at $55 a day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We Fabricated Drug Charges Against Innocent People To Meet Quota

NY Daily News
A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.
The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.
Anderson, testifying under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, was busted for planting cocaine, a practice known as "flaking," on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 to help out fellow cop Henry Tavarez, whose buy-and-bust activity had been low.
"Tavarez was ... was worried about getting sent back [to patrol] and, you know, the supervisors getting on his case," he recounted at the corruption trial of Brooklyn South narcotics Detective Jason Arbeeny.
"I had decided to give him [Tavarez] the drugs to help him out so that he could say he had a buy," Anderson testified last week in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
He made clear he wasn't about to pass off the two legit arrests he had made in the bar to Tavarez.
"As a detective, you still have a number to reach while you are in the narcotics division," he said.
NYPD officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Anderson worked in the Queens and Brooklyn South narcotics squads and was called to the stand at Arbeeny's bench trial to show the illegal conduct wasn't limited to a single squad.


In October 2011, we were honored to learn that a group of 127 experts identified Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) as 1 of 21 high-impact nonprofits working in criminal justice in the U.S. on a local/state level. Some of reviews experts had about our impact were:

They have helped pass major sentencing reform and prison downsizing policies over the past few years

They have a unique ability to earn media attention and shape policy reform.

CCJRC has had a long history of advocating for sensible criminal justice reform in Colorado.  They have a deep understanding of the political arena and have steadily built a reputation within the criminal justice advocacy community, state public safety agencies, and the legislature.  This is a very high impact organization organization in Colorado and one that should be studied as a model for other statewide criminal justice advocacy coalitions from around the country.

To read more about experts in the field have to say about Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) click on the Expert Reviews section on our organization profile here: http://myphilanthropedia.org/top-nonprofits/local/criminal-justice/colorado-criminal-justice-reform-coalition-ccjrc-colorado.

Philanthropedia (at GuideStar) is a nonprofit organization working to help donors make smarter donations by connecting them with some of the highest impact nonprofits in a cause. They are different from other online rating sites or donation sites because they use experts to identify high-impact nonprofits.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jefferson County deputy kills inmate trying to escape

The Denver Post

A Jefferson County sheriff's deputy shot and killed an inmate late Tuesday morning after the man attempted to escape from a medical clinic where he had been taken for treatment of an unspecified injury.
The incident occurred in a common hallway on the lower level of a clinic at 660 Golden Ridge Road, which is just a few blocks from the Jefferson County jail.
"I heard some yelling, some cussing, and about two seconds later I heard a gunshot," said Nickie Donnell, who was in a waiting room adjacent to the hallway while her husband underwent knee surgery.
The identities of the inmate and the deputy were not released Tuesday.
According to Golden police Sgt. Ryan Custer, the trouble started shortly before 11:40 a.m. after a deputy took the inmate to Advanced Medical Imagery for treatment. While there, the inmate's handcuffs and shackles were removed, and he attempted to escape down a hallway.
The deputy shot the man, who was taken to St. Anthony Hospital, Lakewood, where he died.
Golden police did not release other information about the shooting, including whether the inmate had — or insinuated he had — a weapon or made threats.
Custer said investigators would not release information about the man, including the charges on which he had been jailed, until his family had been notified.

Friday, October 07, 2011

IRS Ruling Strikes Fear in the MMJ Industry

In a potentially crushing blow to the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, the IRS has ruled that dispensaries cannot deduct standard business expenses such as payroll, security or rent.
Harborside Health Center, one of the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensaries and considered a model for the industry, is on the hook for $2.5 million in taxes from 2007 and 2008.  That is $2 million more than the Oakland, Calif.-based company paid for those tax years.
“I see only two outcomes here,” said Steve DeAngelo, director and chief executive of Harborside. “Either this IRS assessment has to change or we go out of business. There really isn’t a middle ground for us.”
DeAngelo says the ruling will likely be appealed. He has 90 days to respond to the ruling.
The IRS ruling is based on an obscure portion of the tax code -- section 280E -- passed into law by Congress in 1982, at the height of Reagan administration’s “war on drugs.” The law, originally targeted at drug kingpins and cartels, bans any tax deductions related to "trafficking in controlled substances."
Although 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing medical use of marijuana, the federal government still considers it a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive category with the harshest penalties.
The Internal Revenue Service refused to comment on the specific case, but letters sent from Andrew Keyso, IRS deputy associate chief counsel, to some members of Congress spell out the official position:

“Section 280E of the Code disallows deductions incurred in the trade or business of trafficking in controlled substances that federal law or the law of any state in which the taxpayer conducts the business prohibits. For this purpose, the term “controlled substances” has the meaning provided in the Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana falls within the Controlled Substances Act.”

2011 Drug Policy Alliance Reform Conference

There is still time to get registered and attend this Conference.  It's a once in a lifetime experience that I have been to three times now.  Join CCJRC and support the Drug Policy Alliance.  2011 Reform Conference


The International Drug Policy Reform Conference takes place every two years and draws a wide range of participants including students, grassroots activists, scholars and other researchers, city, state and federal elected officials, people in recovery as well as active drug users, law enforcement officers, treatment providers and public health advocates.
For 2011, there are 55 sessions over the course of three days, including three plenary sessions.  All sessions are 90 minutes long: usually 60 minutes of presentations or discussion (depending on the format) and 30 minutes of question & answer.
To see the timeline of the day plus all sessions and speakers, check out the Conference Schedule. Or you can download a PDF version to print and take with you.

Criminal Justice

Spotlight Session:
Surveillance vs Incarceration: Reducing Prison Population Isn’t the End
Prison reformers, largely based on a cost savings argument, are turning the tide on prison expansion. However, states are now looking for cheaper ways to exact punishment and to monitor those suspected or convicted of breaking the law. As prison populations shrink, is the expanded criminal justice surveillance of (more) Americans inevitable?  And what does this mean for a criminal justice system that is marked by extraordinary, institutionalized racial bias?
Other Sessions
• Making Sense of Drug Testing
• Drug Treatment and the Criminal Justice System: What Should It Look Like?
• Reducing Drug Arrests and Convictions: Strategies to Shift Law Enforcement Funds, Practices and Priorities
• Stigma and Exclusion: How Can We Overcome Consequences of Convictions and Suspicion of Drug Use?
• Sentencing and Prison Reform Is Real: Lessons and Warnings from Recent Successes

Harm Reduction

Spotlight Session:
Innovative Policy Responses to Overdose

The number of overdoses has climbed dramatically in the last decade, mostly because of prescription drugs. Drug overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Significant federal funding is directed toward preventing HIV/AIDS and homicide, but virtually no federal dollars are designated for overdose prevention – even though overdose kills more people than murder or HIV/AIDS.  What effective policy responses are available to stem this easily preventable epidemic?
Other Sessions
• Drug Sellers as Harm Reduction Allies
• Nightlife Harm Reduction: the Next Harm Reduction Frontier?
• Crack Pipes, Cow Wormer, and Controversy: Stimulants and Harm Reduction
• Too High a Cost: HIV and Drug Policy Reform
• Drugs, Criminalization, and Public Health: Social Justice as Harm Reduction
• Supervised Injection Facilities and Other Good Ideas


Spotlight Session:
State of the Movement: What’s It Going to Take to Make Marijuana Legal?
Marijuana legalization is the leading edge of drug policy reform in the U.S. mainstream today. So how’re we doing in the fight to end this obstinate and failed prohibition? What can we expect to see on the ballot in 2012 and beyond? Prominent national political consultants help sort out prospects for victory at the state and national level, including insights from the most extensive marijuana reform public opinion research ever conducted.
Other Sessions
State of the Movement: Is Medical Marijuana Still Relevant?
• How Does Money Shape Marijuana Reform?
• Innovative Approaches to Medical Marijuana Distribution and Services
• Marijuana Policing Targets Urban Youth
• Medical Marijuana Science: Latest Advances
• The New, Improved Marijuana Reform Coalition
• How Are We Ever Going to Clarify Medical Marijuana in California?
• Marijuana Reform Hotspots: Colorado and Washington


Spotlight Session:
Substitution and Maintenance  Therapy:  Confronting Ignorance, Prejudice and Stigma
Although decades of evidence overwhelmingly shows that substitution and maintenance therapies are cost-effective, humane, and beneficial to public health, they are still not widely accepted as legitimate treatments for people struggling with addiction. What will it take to move the acceptance of substitution and maintenance therapies forward?
Other Sessions
• Health Care Reform Meets Drug Policy Reform
• The Recovery Movement and Its Role in Ending the Drug War


Spotlight Session:
Psychedelic Research: What Does the Future Hold?

We are now in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, with clinical research studies under
way at top medical schools and research institutes world-wide. What new directions will the
future hold?
Other Sessions
• Psychedelic Science: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives
• Psychedelic Healing: Can Psychedelics Reinvent Medicine... and Society?
• Psychedelics, Religion and Cultural Translation
• Salvia, Synthetic Marijuana, and Emerging Drug Criminalization Trends     


Spotlight Session:
The (Drug) War on Young People: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline
Youth leaders from diverse communities know firsthand how the drug war and social and
economic disinvestment in young people and draconian education policies are fuelling
the school to prison pipeline. Share in their discussion of how to put a stop to these
damaging practices.
Other Sessions
• Building a Global Movement for Drug Policy Reform: Can Young People Lead the Way?
• No Child Left Behind? Creating Drug Policies to Include Young People
• Hip Hop and the Drug War: Moving from Reference to Real Talk
• Youth Drug Education: When D.A.R.E. Fails


Spotlight Session:
Know Your Rights: How to Deal with Law Enforcement and NOT Get Arrested     
The Bill of Rights provides each of us with certain inalienable rights. Flex Your Rights’ Know Your Rights training incorporates practical scenarios designed for easy application during police encounters. Learn practical methods for retaining and protecting your rights during car stops, street encounters and when the police knock at your door.
Other Trainings
• Bad Trips: How to Respond to Unwanted or Dangerous Side Effects of Opiates, Psychedelics
and Stimulants
• From Enthusiast to Entrepreneur: How to Make Marijuana Your Business
• Messaging for Change
• More Money, Fewer Problems: Fundraising Tips from the Inside and Outside
• How to Engage and Utilize the Ever-Changing Media World
• Throwing a Monkeywrench in Drug War Strategies: How to Use Their Money and Data to Build and Support Your Anti-Drug War Program
• What Do You Say To That Question? How To Have Conversations About Drug Use And Harm Reduction

Movement Building

Spotlight Session:
Ban the Box: Ending Attacks on Civil Rights in Employment and Beyond
The drug war  leads to the criminalization and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. every year, creating extraordinary obstacles that often prevent full participation in community and civic life – for instance, gaining employment can often be nearly impossible when employers won’t hire people with criminal records. This important discussion will provide conference participants with tools to fight discrimination based on arrest or conviction records. Speakers will highlight numerous successful campaigns, led by formerly incarcerated people, which suggest new strategies and possibilities for removing barriers to employment, housing, and other vital components of community life.
Other Sessions
• Detention, Deportation, and the Drug War: The Impact of the War on Drugs on Immigrant Rights in the U.S.
• Sex, Drugs, and Building a Movement
• Think Global, Act Local: Grassroots Engagement to End the Drug War
• Connecting Juvenile Justice and Drug Policy Reform: Opportunities and Challenges Ahead
• Conservatives, Libertarians and Drug Policy Reform
• Elected Officials: Hearing From Our Representatives on Drug Policy Reform


Spotlight Session:
Spillover Activism: The Bi-National Movement to End the Drug War in Mexico
The drug war  leads to the criminalization and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. every year, creating extraordinary obstacles that often prevent full participation in community and civic life – for instance, gaining employment can often be nearly impossible when employers won’t hire people with criminal records. This important discussion will provide conference participants with tools to fight discrimination based on arrest or conviction records. Speakers will highlight numerous successful campaigns, led by formerly incarcerated people, which suggest new strategies and possibilities for removing barriers to employment, housing, and other vital components of community life.
Other Sessions
• Innovations in Drug Policies and Strategies in Latin America
• European Roundtable, Special Focus: Portuguese Decriminalization
• Global Roundtable