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, April 30, 2012

Filet Mignon, chocolate chip cookies top Robert Dewey's to do list outside prison

The Denver Post

GRAND JUNCTION — When Robert "Rider" Dewey walks out of court today a free man for the first time in more than 16 years, he already has a list of to-do's for his first 24 hours.
He has told his parents, who drove here from California to celebrate his release, that he is craving a filet mignon for dinner tonight. He actually couldn't remember the term for that prime cut of beef that was so far removed from his diet in prison. So he told them "one of those little steaks wrapped in bacon."
That illustrates the joy and also the disconnect Dewey is going to face as he re-enters a free world, his parents said. There are now, at least to him, many new gizmos like cell phones and computers to learn. He'll have to figure out how to shop in a grocery store. He will need to practice driving again, said his parents Jim and Donna Weston of Ridgecrest, Calif.
The Westons learned Tuesday that their son was going to be freed based on new DNA evidence that exonerated him of the 1994 murder and sexual assault of a Palisade woman. The new evidence led to the arrest of another man with no connection to Dewey.
The Westons loaded up their motor home and drove the 761 miles from their home in the middle of the Mojave Desert to be here to be waiting when the 51-year-old son they call "Rob" walks out of court a free man. They drove straight to the Mesa County Jail where Dewey is being held until his court hearing today and were granted an immediate two-and-a-half-hour visit with him.
"He's doing good. He's very thankful. He's not angry," said Jim Weston, an associate pastor at a nondenominational church in Ridgecrest and Dewey's step-father for 24 years.
Dewey's biological father and step-mother live in Kansas City, but could not make the trip to Grand Junction because Dewey's father underwent back surgery days ago.
Donna Weston said when Dewey walks out of the Mesa County Justice Center today he is is also looking forward to lounging on a couch — a real couch — where he can indulge in some of the chocolate chip cookies she brought him.
Tomorrow, he has doctor's appointments. He injured his back and had surgery while in prison and he is going to need further surgery.
Then he will need to get identification so that he can fly to an undisclosed location where he plans to live with a friend. His mother said before he leaves he will receive his first cell phone and possibly use computer for the first time.
Dewey earned his GED while in prison, but was not trained in any workplace skills because he was serving a life sentence. His jobs while in prison included sewing pants and cleaning bathrooms.
Dewey never wavered in declaring his innocence — part of the reason his case garnered attention from the Innocence Project and the law enforcement agencies that collaborated to reinvestigate his case. And his parents said they never wavered in believing in his innocence and never stopped praying for an exoneration.
"Never, never, never did I believe my son would do something like that," Donna Weston said.
The Westons said they, and Dewey, have also long been praying for the family of victim Jacie Taylor, who was 19 at the time of her death.
Randy Brown, one of the attorneys who represented Dewey when he was convicted, said he spoke to him in the jail this morning and that he is "excited and nervous."
"He is coming into a totally different world," Brown said.
Brown said Dewey told him his longterm wish is "to blend into society as best I can."

Earned Time bill passes Senate Judiciary Unanimously

HB 1223: Concerning Earned Time Awarded to Inmates in Prison

Sponsors: Joint Budget Committee: Representatives Levy (D), Becker (R), Gerou (R) and Senators Steadman (D), Hodge (D) and Lambert (R)
CCJRC position: priority support
Description: This bill would restore eligibility for earned time to people reincarcerated for a parole revocation and create a new “achievement earned time” of up to 60 days (with a cap of 120 days) that can be awarded at the discretion of the Director of the Department of Corrections for major program completion or extraordinary conduct by an inmate that promotes the safety of staff, volunteers or other inmates. Also requires that savings from the Department of Corrections budget be reinvested into vocational/educational programming inside prison and re-entry support services for parolees or inmates transitioning through community corrections.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Effect of camping bans debated..

The Denver Post

Denver has spent nearly $60 million in the past seven years to end homelessness. Yet even with that massive effort, there are increasing numbers of people on the street.
That dynamic is what led city officials to consider joining the ranks of many cities across the United States that have banned camping — and ignited the vigorous debate over whether such a move "criminalizes" homelessness.
From Portland, Ore., to Sacramento, Calif., Aspen to Moab, homeless camping has been banned in various forms with ordinances that have withstood myriad legal challenges, according to Denver Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell.
On the Front Range, cities have had camping bans for years, including Fort Collins,

Boulder and Colorado Springs. The outcomes of those bans are as varied as the cities that house them. "(Denver's) ordinance is modeled to a large degree on the one in Boulder," Broadwell said. "Because when I did the legal research, the one in Boulder is a pretty good model for what the courts have upheld."
The $58 million in federal grants, contributions from businesses and individuals, and city and state money has fueled Denver's Road Home — the city's seven-year effort to end homelessness. The program cites successes: 2,662 new housing units, linking 5,800 people to job training and employment, preventing 5,700 families and individuals from becoming homeless and mentoring 1,000 seniors and families out of homelessness.
But the city's streets over the past year have filled with homeless people who are allowed to sleep on public rights of way. Last summer as many as 200 people were counted sleeping on the 16th Street Mall, and protesters from the Occupy Denver movement have made the sidewalks near Civic Center park a permanent encampment.
In an effort to deal with the problem, the city is now looking at an ordinance that would give police the right to oust those campers.
Homeless advocates across Colorado say the camping ban criminalizes homelessness.
Business and civic leaders say the ban will provoke homeless people to get help and also clear the downtown area of people sleeping on the streets at night.
But whether other cities' anti-camping laws have been successful at helping people get off the streets and into housing depends on whom you ask.
"It has been an absolute success," said Robert Holmes, director of Homeward Pikes Peak, a nonprofit working to end homelessness in Colorado Springs that toughened its urban camping ban in 2010.
"It has not changed a thing in Boulder," said David B. Harrison, an attorney who has represented homeless campers in court over the past two years.
Ban in Colorado Springs
In 2009, the banks of Fountain Creek and Monument Creek in Colorado Springs began filling with homeless people, encouraged by the city's assumption that its camping ban was too vague to be enforced.
At one point, more than 600 homeless campers were counted in the city. The Interstate 25 corridor became lined with blue tarps in a massive tent city.

The Devil's Advocate

Shawn Mitchell on Sentencing Reform

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Prison Fellowship Founder Chuck Colson Dies

The Denver Post
WASHINGTON—He was described as the "evil genius" of the Nixon administration, and spent the better part of a year in prison for a Watergate-related conviction. His proclamations following his release that he was a new man, redeemed by his religious faith, were met with more than skepticism by those angered at the abuses he had perpetrated as one of Nixon's hatchet men.
But Charles "Chuck" Colson spent the next 35 years steadfast in his efforts to evangelize to a part of society scorned just as he was. And he became known perhaps just as much for his efforts to minister to prison inmates as for his infamy with Watergate.
Colson died Saturday at age 80. His death was confirmed by Jim Liske, chief executive of the Lansdowne, Va.-based Prison Fellowship Ministries that Colson founded. Liske said the preliminary cause of death was complications from brain surgery Colson had at the end of March. He underwent the surgery to remove a clot after becoming ill March 30 while speaking at a conference.
Colson once famously said he'd walk over his grandmother to get the president elected to a second term. In 1972 The Washington Post called him "one of the most powerful presidential aides, variously described as a troubleshooter and as a 'master of dirty tricks.'"
"I shudder to think of what I'd been if I had not gone to prison," Colson said in 1993. "Lying on the rotten floor of a cell, you know it's not prosperity or pleasure that's important, but the maturing of the soul."
He helped run the Committee to Re-elect the President when it set up an effort to gather intelligence on the Democratic Party. The arrest of the committee's security director, James W. McCord, and four other men burglarizing the Democratic National Committee offices in 1972 set off the scandal that led to Nixon's resignation in August 1974.
But it was actions that preceded the actual Watergate break-in that resulted in Colson's criminal conviction. Colson pleaded guilty to efforts to discredit Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg. It was Ellsberg who had leaked the secret Defense Department study of Vietnam that became known as the Pentagon Papers.
The efforts to discredit Ellsberg included use of Nixon's plumbers—a covert group established to investigate White House leaks—in 1971 to break into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist to look for information that could discredit Ellsberg's anti-war efforts.
The Ellsberg burglary was revealed during the course of the Watergate investigation and became an element in the ongoing scandal. Colson pleaded guilty in 1974 to obstruction of justice in connection with attempts to discredit Ellsberg, though charges were dropped that Colson actually played a role in the burglary of Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. Charges related to the actual Watergate burglary and cover-up were also dropped. He served seven months in prison.
Before Colson went to prison he became a born-again Christian, but critics said his post-scandal redemption was a ploy to get his sentence reduced. The Boston Globe wrote in 1973, "If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everyone."

Governor Signs Direct File Bill

The Denver Post

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday signed a bill into law to dramatically curb prosecutors' ability to charge juveniles as adults through the state's longstanding "direct file" system.
House Bill 1271 passed the legislature by wide margins and with bipartisan support but was still bitterly opposed by prosecutors and other law enforcement officials. Lawmakers from both parties split on the issue.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said he struggled with whether to sign the bill but decided the wave of bipartisan support among lawmakers was hard to ignore.
"This is about as close as I've come to a veto without vetoing," he said. "At the end, I feel very comfortable with the decision."
He added, "I think especially in a split legislature that if a bill works its way through both sides, that's a powerful statement."
Kim Dvorchak, executive director of the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, said the law had "restored due process for youth to have judicial review before being tried as an adult."
But opponents of the bill, such as Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, said Hickenlooper's signature was the wrong decision.
"Gov. Roy Romer and state lawmakers established Colorado's direct-file system in the early 1990s in response to an alarming and continuous increase in violent crime committed by juveniles," Suthers said in a statement. "Since then, prosecutors across the state have judiciously used the system to address the most serious, violent juvenile offenders who posed serious risks to the public safety. This new law not only ignores the lessons of history, but also the benefits of the direct-file system, including Colorado's Youthful Offender System, which has rehabilitated numerous juvenile offenders."
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said he was disappointed.
"It (the law) is a misguided attempt at reform that is actually a big step backwards, and I believe it will result in more juvenile direct-file cases," Morrissey said. "What is unfortunate is the impact, which is that it will hurt kids, waste money and risk public safety."
The bill bars district attorneys from charging juveniles as adults for many low and mid-level felonies, while raising the age at which young offenders may be charged as adults for more serious crimes from 14 to 16.
While the bill would allow prosecutors to charge young offenders as adults in cases of murder, violent sex offenses, kidnapping and violent assaults, it also would allow defendants to appeal to a district judge, who would have the final say on whether they are tried as adults.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Independence Institute: Jon Caldera

  Jon Caldera's current affairs television program Devils Advocate, on Colorado Public Television Channel 12, airs on Fridays at 8:30 pm repeated the following Monday at 1:30pm.  This weeks guest will be Senator Shawn Mitchell who is one of the sponsors of 163.  If you want to watch a great conversation...watch this

Are Opponents Of Drug Law Reform Dishonest, Ignorant, Or Both?

Posted by Mike Krause on Apr 17 2012 | Criminal Law, Drug Policy, PPC, criminal justice
Senate Bill 163 is a modest but important next step in scaling back the worst excesses of the expensive, intrusive and counter-productive War on Drugs in Colorado. The bill would lower the penalty for simple drug possession from a Class 6 Felony to a Class 1 Misdemeanor. In other words, possessing small amounts of currently illegal drugs would still be illegal, but without the lifetime punishment a felony drug conviction carries in lost opportunity. This is a long overdue reform that has some opponents making such hysterical and blatantly false claims about SB 163 that they must be dishonest, ignorant, or maybe a little of both.
An online petition against SB 163, addressed to Governor Hickenlooper and members of both the Colorado house and senate, has been started at the change.org website with the hysterically inaccurate title: “Stop Senate Bill 12-163 which Decriminalizes hard drugs.” The petition continues its fabrications: “Senate Bill 163 will make possession of up to two ounces of hard drugs such as Cocaine, Ecstasy and Methamphetamine a misdemeanor to possess in this state.” What a pack of nonsense.
To begin, moving simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor is not even close to the same as decriminalization. A Class 1 Misdemeanor is a serious criminal offense in Colorado. One for which the penalty could actually result as much time in a jail as you might spend in a prison for a Class 6 Felony.
Moreover, two ounces of Cocaine, Ecstasy or Methamphetamine is a significant amount of drugs that might cost thousands of dollars. SB 163 addresses possession of small amounts of drugs, two to four grams (depending on type of drug), which is less than the weight of an American nickel. Possession of two ounces of illegal drugs would obviously remain a serious felony crime.
So it’s not entirely clear if those responsible for the petition are simply lying about what SB 163 does, or if they are just not bright enough to know the difference between a misdemeanor crime and decriminalization, or the difference between ounces and grams. And as of this writing they have managed to fool nearly thirty people, apparently none willing to do a little basic research on their own, into signing the petition.
Whatever the case, hopefully the lawmakers who receive the petition won’t be fooled by either ignorance or lies about SB 163.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Prison on the plains is a city unto itself | animas, brown, sits - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Prison on the plains is a city unto itself | animas, brown, sits - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

From the outside, Bent County Correctional Facility in Las Animas looks as silent and colorless as the flat plain on which it sits, bleached pale brown.
A drive down 6th Street takes travelers through Las Animas’ empty center, out of town and past empty past fields, until the prison appears. But on an early April morning, the rural setting was deceptive — inside the prison’s neat walls more than 1,420 men had eaten their breakfast and shuffled off to computer classes, the barber shop, a catholic mass, and other daily activities.
Built in 1993, Bent County became Colorado’s first privately run prison in 1996 when the Corrections Corporation of America bought it.
It’s a business with 285 employees, but it is also a small city that relies on Bent County for just about everything except toilet paper and propane. The prison spends about $900,000 for local products and produce — for instance, the dairy products come from nearby Gohlson’s Dairy.
While a county jail can feel like a kennel, with a stench and no-nonsense discipline, Bent County feels like the home it has become, for better or for worse, for its medium security inmates. It is at home in the county, too, with inmates and staff filling the roles of painters, decorators and school bus cleaners.
Forty-five percent of the prison’s employees live in Bent County, the rest come from nearby Otero and Prowers Counties. Warden Brigham Sloan hired the facility’s computer science teacher, Tim Berry, after the two met on the bleachers during their sons’ football game.
“This is where we all live. We’re not just employees of a company town,” Sloan said. “This is our hometown.”
The prison is a well-oiled machine with the credentials to prove it — it recently was awarded a score of 100 percent, its third since 2003, from the American Correctional Association (ACA).
Since the 1870s, the ACA has run inspections, or audits, of U.S. prisons every three years. In September, auditors came to Bent to scrutinize programs, policies and inmates. Sloan said it’s the top of the mountain when it comes to inspections, but only one of several — fire safety, food programs, health — inspections the prison goes through regularly.

Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/animas-136876-brown-sits.html#ixzz1s7A83xXn

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Colorado House Takes Money From Prison and Puts It Into Schools

Because of a more optimistic state-revenue forecast issued in March, lawmakers were able to fund a $98.5 million property-tax break for seniors that had been the largest single point of contention over the budget. The rosier budget picture also allowed lawmakers to keep per-pupil spending levels for K-12 students at current-year levels and to keep higher-education funding close to the current level.
The budget also would close Colorado State Penitentiary II, saving $13.5 million a year by 2013.
Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, offered an amendment, which passed with bipartisan support, that takes $4.2 million from the Department of Corrections to increase funding for full-day kindergarten. Waller argued that inmate populations had been falling and that the money could be spared to help more kids get into full-day kindergarten.
But Democrats, the minority in the House, also proposed multiple amendments to take millions specifically from private prisons and transfer the money to programs for early-childhood literacy, preschool programs and services for veterans and the developmentally disabled, and for cash payments to the disabled.
All those amendments failed amid Republican arguments that such cuts to private prisons could cause economic devastation to small towns on the Eastern Plains.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Parole Officer Accused of Forging Documents

9 News
GRAND JUNCTION - A Colorado Department of Corrections parole officer faces allegations he forged documents that kept parole violators in jail longer than allowable under state law.
9Wants to Know obtained a report from Office of the Inspector General within the Colorado Department of Corrections. The report documents several cases in which Parole Officer Jeffrey Wells was suspected of forging arrest dates of parolees.
The forged dates, according to the report, kept parolees in jail beyond time frame known as the 10-day-rule. Under Colorado law, parole officers have 10 days to file paperwork once someone is arrested on a parole violation. If paperwork is not filed within 10 days, the parolee should be released under the law.
The report suggests Wells changed arrests dates of parolees which extended the paperwork deadline.
"Parole Officer Wells' conduct is egregious. He took away a huge portion of these people's lives," attorney Siddhartha Rathod said.
Rothod has filed a federal lawsuit against Wells and the Department of Corrections on Sunday for false imprisonment and for depravation of liberty and due process. Four parolees are listed as plaintiffs.
"He was committing the crime of forgery and false imprisonment. And this is not just our client saying this. This is the Office of Inspector General saying Parole Officer Wells and the Department of Corrections have falsely imprisoned our clients," Rathod said.
Rathod told 9Wants to Know one of his four clients was illegally held for six months because of falsified paperwork.
Department of Corrections response
The Department of Corrections declined an on-camera interview with 9Wants to Know.
In a statement, DOC said it could not disclose or acknowledge any action taken against Wells.
"Under the constraints of state employees' right to privacy, the Department is restricted in the information that it can share in the public domain regarding actions taken by an appointing authority to correct behavior or carry out disciplinary action on any employee," the DOC statement said.
DOC also said in its statement it "has implemented short-term measures to address the issues raised through the investigation."
A call and an email to a DOC spokesperson on Monday was not returned to 9Wants to Know seeking to clarify what short-term measures were implemented.
Click here to see the entire DOC response.
Case sent to district attorney
9Wants to Know learned the case was handed over to the Mesa County District Attorney for possible prosecution against Wells.
On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the District Attorney's office told 9Wants to Know, "We reviewed the case last year. We determined we could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt criminal intent."
Wells is still currently working as a parole officer in Grand Junction. The Department of Corrections said in its statement he was recently named employee of the quarter by co-workers.

Monday, April 09, 2012

SB 163 in Senate Finance Tuesday


SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE  ON TUESDAY APRIL 10 in Senate Committee Hearing Room 356,
Please contact the following Senators and Urge Their Support of SB 163

Senate Bill 12-163 was introduced by state Senators Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) and Pat Steadman (D-Denver) and Representatives Don Beezley (R-Broomfield) and Claire Levy (D-Boulder) in a bipartisan effort to promote a more effective and humane approach to reducing drug addiction and the over-use of imprisonment.  SB-163 passed Senate Judiciary 5-2 on March 28 and is now scheduled for Senate Finance on Tuesday, April 10.

Specifically, SB 163 would:
  • reduce from a class 6 felony to a class 1 misdemeanor the crime of “simple possession” which is possession of less than 4 grams of a schedule I or II controlled substance (like cocaine, crack, heroin) or possession of less than 2 grams of methamphetamine
  • reduce from a class 4 felony to a class 6 felony the crime of possession of over 4 grams of a schedule I or II controlled substance or more than 2 grams of methamphetamine
  • require savings in corrections be reinvested into substance abuse treatment

SB 163 does not make any changes related to drug distribution offenses. If there is evidence that even small quantities of drugs are possessed with the intent to distribute, prosecutors can still file a felony charge of drug distribution at any quantity of drugs.

SB 163 is also co-sponsored by Senators Aguilar (D-Denver), Cadman (R-Colorado Springs), Grantham (R-Canon City), Guzman (D-Denver), Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge), Neville (R-Littleton), Spence (R-Centennial) and Representatives Barker (R-Colorado Springs), DelGrosso (R-Loveland), Ferrandino (D-Denver), Massey (R-Poncha Springs), McCann (D-Denver), Nikkel (R-Loveland), Singer (D-Longmont), and Vigil (D-Fort Garland)

The bill also has the backing of diverse organizations including the Independence Institute, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Foundation, Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, Pendulum Fund, Drug Policy Alliance-Colorado, Youth Transformation Restorative Services, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Harm Reduction Action Center, Coloradans Against the Death Penalty, Colorado CURE, Colorado Providers Association, It Takes A Village, the Colorado Behavioral Health Council, the Colorado Center for Law and Policy, the Colorado Prison Law Project, the Mile-Hi Council Behavioral Services, ACLU - CO, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry.
Chair - Senator Michael Johnston (D-Denver), 303-866-4864  mike.johnston.senate@state.co.us
Angela Giron, Vice-Chair (D-Pueblo) 303-866-4878 angela.giron.senate@state.co.us
Greg Brophy  (R-Cheyenne, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Prowers, Sedgwick, Washington,  Yuma)              303-866-6360 greg@gregbrophy.net
Cheri Jahn    (D-Jefferson)  303-866-4856 (CO-SPONSOR-please thank her) cheri.jahn.senate@state.co.us
Lucia Guzman  (D-Denver) 303-866-4862 (CO-SPONSOR- please thank her) lucia.guzman.senate@state.co.us
Keith King  (R-El Paso) 303-866-4880 keith.king.senate@state.co.us
Mark Scheffel (R-Douglas, El Paso, Lake, Park, Teller) 303-866-4869 mark.scheffel.senate@state.co.us
SB 163 needs our support!

CCJRC is asking its coalition partners and allies throughout the state to support SB 163.  The District Attorney’s Council and Attorney General John Suthers will oppose SB 163 so we need to demonstrate strong community support. This is a common sense and humane approach to addressing addiction through the hope and tools of recovery rather than the threat and fear of incarceration in prison.  The average annual cost of incarceration is $32,000 per person.
If your organization would like to join the list of supporters, please contact pam@ccjrc.org
Click here to read the full text of SB 163 at

In the fall of 2011, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) analyzed data provided by the Division of Criminal Justice on drug cases in Colorado from August 2010 – November 2011. This data demonstrated that, of ALL drug offenders sentenced to prison, 60% (310 people) were convicted of drug possession at an average cost of $32,000 per inmate per year.

In 2009, CCJRC hired national expert Roger Przbylski (RKC Group, Lakewood, Colorado) to review the research available on effective drug policy. The following are key findings from his report entitled, Correctional and Sentencing Reform for Drug Offenders: Research Findings on Selected Key Issues:

  • Research has produced clear and convincing evidence that substance abuse treatment reduces alcohol and drug use and crime.

  • Studies that have examined the monetary costs and benefits of incarcerating drug offenders have produced clear and consistent evidence that imprisonment of drug offenders is not a cost-effective use of public resources and that substance abuse treatment provides a greater return on tax dollars than incarceration.

  • A large body of scientific evidence indicates that the incarceration of drug offenders does not have a significant deterrent effect on drug use.  In fact, our enhanced understanding of the science of addiction helps explain why the threat or experience of incarceration has so little impact on chronic abusers.  The repeated use of addictive drugs eventually changes how the brain functions.  These brain changes affect natural inhibition and reward centers causing the addict to use drugs in spite of the adverse health, social and legal consequences.

THE RAND Corp. study “Controlling Cocaine: Supply Versus Demand Programs” found that each dollar spent on treatment issues reduces the cost of crime and lost productivity by $7.46, while traditional domestic drug enforcement (arrest, seizure and incarceration) returns just 52 cents.  Researchers for the conservative American Enterprise Institute concur stating “treatment of heavy users is a far more cost effective policy at the margin than any kind of enforcement.”

A felony conviction is a lifetime punishment, resulting in significantly reduced ability to obtain housing and employment, the basics of productive life.  Low-level drug possession does not warrant a lifetime of diminished opportunity.

Close to 20 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have some level of schedule I or II controlled substances classified as a misdemeanor offense. The states differ on quantity and structuring of offenses.  Other states are currently considering similar changes.

Christie Donner, Executive Director
Pamela Clifton, Communications Coordinator
Ellen Toomey-Hale, Finance and Development Coordinator
John Riley, Coalition Coordinator

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Colorado Bill To Reduce Some Drug Offenses Under Fire

The Denver Post

Prosecutors and sheriffs across Colorado are upset about a bill in the state legislature that would reduce the crime of possessing small quantities of some drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor — a move they say would be a financial nightmare.
But supporters of Senate Bill 163 say the legislation is a way to get chronic drug users treatment rather than prison terms and felony convictions that condemn them to a life of poverty and hopelessness.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said the bill would kill the city's successful drug court and could drive up the cost of dealing with petty drug offenders.
"And it has a fiscal impact from anywhere from $3 million to $5 million for a city that has had to cut budgets for the past three to four years," Morrissey said.
Mesa County officials say that jail costs would climb by more than $400,000 a year for a sheriff's office that had to lay off 33 people last year.
Mesa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein says there are studies that show the consequences of a felony are effective in encouraging drug abusers to find treatment. Plus, he said the downgrading of charges is the "wrong message to send to our citizens that these drugs shouldn't be taken seriously."
But one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said the bill's purpose is to better help drug users find treatment and supervision that would be more effective than the current system of "escalating punishments that often result in a prison sentence."
The bill would reduce the penalty for possession of 4 grams or less of certain drugs from a Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor and reduce possession of more than 4 grams of those drugs from a Class 4 felony to Class 6. Savings generated would be routed to drug treatment.
According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, about $2.2 million would be transferred to drug treatment in its first full year.
Drug-dealing and -manufacturing remain felonies.
Support is coming from the Colorado Criminal Defense Foundation, the Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and the Independence Institute.
"There are 20 states who have misdemeanors for low-level possession," said Christie Donner, director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. "It is not radical. We are trying to do a justice-reinvestment strategy, which is to identify ways you can reduce the prison population, capture those dollars and put it into strategies that we know reduce crime and recidivism."
Opponents include Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, the Colorado District Attorneys Council and the Colorado Methamphetamine Task Force.
Morrissey said it is a myth that drug offenders disproportionately go to prison, especially in Denver, which has one-third of the state's drug cases.
Of more than 420 drug offenders prosecuted in Denver in 2011 for a Class 6 felony, 21 went to prison. Twenty of those convicts had felonies other than the drug charge. And only one of those was convicted for simple possession. That person had an extensive criminal history, Morrissey said.
The biggest problem with the bill, he said, is drug offenders wouldn't be able to access Denver's drug court — which is part of Denver District Court, not County Court, which is separate.
Morrissey said he does not have the authority to file misdemeanors directly into District Court — thus those offenders wouldn't be eligible for Denver's drug court.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, through a spokeswoman, said the city has yet to take a stand on the bill but doesn't like its current language "due to the projected fiscal impacts on the city and the disruption on the effective drug-court strategies currently in place."
Co-sponsor Steadman said the bill is based on evidence of what works.
"The money we spend on prison cells is not well-spent when you are talking about people with drug addiction," he said. "When you keep people in the community and in treatment, they don't cost taxpayers the money of a prison bed, and they can get the help they need."

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Prison bill to allow CSPII closure introduced - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local News

Prison bill to allow CSPII closure introduced - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local News

DENVER — Bills were introduced in the Colorado Legislature on Wednesday to authorize closure of a Canon City prison and launch a study to guide future management of the state’s prison system.
A declining prison population and a shift toward treatment and away from administrative segregation (solitary confinement) of prisoners drove the General Assembly’s decision to close the south campus of Centennial Correctional Facility, also known as Colorado State Penitentiary II.

It has been open less than two year and carries a total financial obligation to the state of $220 million that stretches into the next decade. Just last year the Legislature acted to close another Southern Colorado prison, Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas, driving more than 200 jobs out of Bent County, where one in seven working people were employed at the prison.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration, members of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee and Southern Colorado lawmakers have expressed the need for a thorough assessment of the prison system to inform decisions regarding the course of corrections in the state for the next five years, including possible prison closures.
That study would be authorized by HB1336, sponsored by budget committee members. It directs the governor’s budget office to commission a study of corrections and authorizes spending $350,000 for the study.
It recommends seating an advisory group of stakeholders and experts versed in the operation of prison systems, and calls for quarterly reports on the subject from the governor’s budget office to the budget committee.
The system-wide study sought in the bill would assess the most appropriate and cost-effective use of state and private-prison beds, considering scenarios that range from growing or declining inmate population to risk classification of prisoners.

If You Build It, They Won't Come

Huffington Post
We can discuss the fate of CSP II -- Colorado's newest high-tech, state-of-the-art, solitary confinement (administrative segregation) prison. It cost several hundred million dollars. We've used a small part for one year and are about to mothball it. It will likely never again be used for any purpose.
In the 1980s and 1990s Colorado, like most of the rest of the country, doubles prison sentences, then doubles them again. Prison population explodes; a bonanza for the private prison industry. As fast as they build them, the industry fills their facilities with low and moderate risk inmates. They don't want, and Colorado won't give them, high risk prisoners.
By my first year in the legislature, 2003, we need a new administrative segregation prison. But in the midst of a recession, there's no money. Certificates of Participation ride to the rescue. These allow the State to effectively borrow money without voter approval. Theoretically the State, at any time, can give the prison to the lender and walk away. No state has ever done it. They'd never again have access to a COP.
To get his legislative votes, our governor cleverly marries unlikely bedfellows. Tough on crime Republicans want a prison to lock folks up and throw away the key. Education-loving Democrats want to build out the CU Med School Fitzsimmons - Anschutz campus. The two projects are combined into one COP. The campus has a tuition revenue stream to pay off its share of the COP. The prison doesn't. I can't see a way to make the payments and vote no. The bill passes anyway.
After several years of litigation, the state builds the campus and prison. Meanwhile crime rates drop and the legislature timidly rationalizes a few sentences. We no longer need maximum security cells. We now need prison psychiatric services for the folks incarcerated due to inadequate outside mental health treatment.

Homeless Aren't Criminals

Denver Post Opinion

A proposed Denver city ordinance banning unauthorized "camping" would criminalize survival activities for persons experiencing homelessness. This would essentially criminalize the status of being homeless even though there are no adequate or appropriate alternatives for them.
As someone who has been working for 26 years to end homelessness in Colorado, I strongly believe that no person should have to live on the streets of Denver to survive. We share the goal of the city and business community to reduce homelessness on our streets. Yet we must urge our leaders to avoid policies that would effectively criminalize homelessness.
City officials say it is inhumane to allow homeless persons to sleep outside. We agree.
However, it is even more inhumane to make it illegal while acknowledging that there is not sufficient shelter or housing alternatives.
There is a significant lack of adequate emergency shelter to meet the needs of our citizens in Denver, such that tonight, after every shelter bed in the city is full, there will be hundreds of men and women sleeping on the streets, in their cars, or in abandoned buildings.
Compounding the problem is the lack of health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment services for those experiencing homelessness, which creates multiple barriers to housing and employment. Last year, more than 2,000 individuals who are homeless and mentally ill in Denver were on the waiting list for mental health services at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless' Stout Street Clinic due to lack of capacity to serve them. There is also an extreme lack of supportive housing and affordable housing for those in need.
We believe Denver's proposed ordinance would not only be unfair and shortsighted, it would also be counterproductive. It would force those without shelter further into our neighborhoods and further out of sight. This would make outreach and engagement even more difficult. It would also negatively impact the quality of life in our neighborhoods as people without shelter would be hiding in alleys, dumpsters and cars throughout the city.
Equally important, this proposed ordinance would divert our efforts from fighting to end homelessness to fighting efforts to criminalize homelessness.
While there has been an increase in homelessness over the past two years due to the recession, economic dislocation, and budget cuts at the federal, state and local level, we have been successful in helping thousands of individuals and families move from the shelters and the streets into housing and employment.

Read more: Guest Commentary: Homeless aren't criminals - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_20327312/homeless-arent-criminals#ixzz1rB9dQvq6
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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Counties fear private-prison closures - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local News

Counties fear private-prison closures - The Pueblo Chieftain: Local News

A report last week that Corrections Corporation of America needs a subsidy from the state or it will start shedding jobs has caught the attention of officials in Bent and Crowley counties.
Las Animas is home to the Bent County Correctional Facility, the city's largest employer at 280 employees.
Las Animas County Commissioner Bill Long said Tuesday that if CCA decided to cut jobs or shut down the prison it would cripple the county.
"It would be an absolute disaster for Bent County," Long said. "To first lose the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility, which used to be our largest employer, and then possibly this, it just can't be described as anything other than awful."
Long said that in addition to the correctional facility being the county's largest employer, it also is its largest taxpayer at around $400,000 annually. He added that the prison purchases its utilities from the city of Las Animas and has a monthly bill around $80,000.
Long said he and his fellow commissioners are getting word from the state that no facilities are going to be shut down but that staff reductions are certainly possible.
"We're unhappy that this is even being proposed," he said.
Olney Springs, which is home to the Crowley County Correctional Facility that also is operated by the CCA, is another correctional facility at risk of losing jobs.
Crowley County Commissioner Tobe Allumbaugh said funding from the Colorado Department of Corrections is the core issue.
Allumbaugh said the Colorado Department of Corrections gives private prisons such as the one in Crowley County $52.69 per day per inmate compared with $77.98 that state prisons receive per day, per inmate.
"It makes you wonder why we wouldn't use private facilities to the fullest," Allumbaugh said. "How the DOC believes private facilities can make a living being paid $25 per day per inmate less than they claim it costs is a little hard to understand."
Still, Allumbaugh said he is hopeful that a practical resolution will come out of all of this.