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, June 18, 2012

At Bo Robinson, a Halfway House in New Jersey Bedlam Reigns

The New York Times
TRENTON — Most of the attacks happened inside the supply closet. Away from workers or security cameras. A dark space that Vanessa Falcone tried desperately to avoid.

Ms. Falcone was an inmate at the Albert M. “Bo” Robinson Assessment and Treatment Center, a 900-bed halfway house here that is at the vanguard of a national movement to privatize correctional facilities.
She was assigned to the cleaning crew, under the supervision of a janitor. One night in 2009, he ordered her into the closet.
“He took his pants off and grabbed my hair and pushed me down,” Ms. Falcone, now 32, said in an interview. “That started a few weeks of basically hell.”
Finally, she told a senior guard that she was being sexually assaulted, according to internal reports written by the guard.
She was immediately transferred to another halfway house. The janitor was dismissed. And that is where it ended.
State officials and prosecutors did not conduct an inquiry into the allegations or the halfway house, which is run by Community Education Centers, a company with close ties to New Jersey politicians, including Chris Christie, who became governor in 2010.
“They shipped me off to another place like it never happened,” said Ms. Falcone, who had gone to prison for forging prescriptions.
Located next to a highway in an industrial stretch of Trenton, the Bo Robinson center is supposed to represent the new thinking in corrections. To save money, the state releases inmates early from prisons and turns them over to privately operated halfway houses.
These facilities are not the street-corner halfway houses of the past. They have hundreds of beds and are promoted as therapeutic communities with a focus on preparing inmates for society.
Yet Bo Robinson, behind its walls, often seems to embody the worst in the prisons it was intended to supplant. Imagine a sizable penitentiary, filled with inmates, some with violent records, but lacking the supervision that prevents such places from falling into bedlam.
The New York Times, during a 10-month investigation of New Jersey’s system of state-regulated halfway houses, put together a portrait of life in Bo Robinson from dozens of interviews with inmates and workers and a review of hundreds of pages of internal reports, court filings and state records.
Inmates are housed in barracks-style rooms, not cells. At night, one or two low-wage workers typically oversee each unit of 170 inmates. Outnumbered and fearful, these workers sometimes refuse to patrol the corridors.
Robbery, sexual assault, menacing of the weak — in the darkness, the inmates’ rooms turn into a free-for-all.
Inmates regularly ask to be returned to prison, where they feel safer, workers said.
Government agencies pay millions of dollars annually to Bo Robinson for drug counseling, yet drugs have been so rampant inside that when one group of inmates was tested, 73 percent came up positive, Mercer County records show.
The government requires that Bo Robinson provide therapy, job training and other services, but current and former workers said they had neither the skills nor the time to do so.
They said that as a result, they falsified inmate records. The workers said that when they did deliver these services, they had to do so haphazardly, knowing they were accomplishing little, if anything.

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