Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Changing Racial Dynamics of Womens Incarceration

Sentencing Project

The Changing Racial
Dynamics of Women’s
Marc Mauer
February 2013
In the first decade of the 21st century the United States began to experience a
shift in the 30 year buildup to a world record prison system. Although the
decade ended with an increased number of people in prison, the rate of growth
overall was considerably below that of previous decades and since 2008 the overall
number of people in state prisons has declined slightly each year.
Scholars are beginning to analyze the relative contributions of changes in crime rates,
criminal justice policies, economics, and demographics to the slowing
growth rate of the prison system, but one area that has gone largely unexplored is the impact of
such changes on racial disparities in imprisonment. As is well known black/white
disparities in the use of incarceration have been profound for quite some time. Since
the 1980s a series of analyses have documented these trends at the national level as
well as examining variation in disparity among the states.
As prison populations fluctuate, though, the relative rate of incarceration among
racial groups may or may not reflect prevailing patterns. Further, as the prospect of a
declining prison population has now become a distinct possibility for the next
decade, it will become increasingly important to monitor whether reduced
incarceration is experienced in similar ways across racial/ethnic groups.
This report first describes trends in incarceration for the first decade of the century,
and contrasts this with patterns of the previous decade. We then assess the extent of
change in the race and gender dynamics of incarceration over the past decade, and
suggest factors which may be contributing to these trends. The data in this report
document the following key findings:

Racial/ethnic disparities in U.S.incarceration remain substantial
In 2009, African Americans and Latinos constituted more than 60% of imprisoned
offenders. African American males were incarcerated in state and federal
prisons at 6.4 times the rate of non Hispanic white males, and Hispanic
males at 2.4 times the rate of non Hispanic whites
Declining rate of incarceration for African Americans from 2000 to 2009
the rate of incarceration in state and federal prisons declined 9.8% for black men and 30.7% for black women.  
Rates of incarceration for whites and Latinos generally rising
–Incarceration rates for white men and women rose 8.5% and 47.1%, respectively from 2000 to 2009. For Hispanics the men’s rate declined by 2.2% while the women’s rate rose by 23.3%.
Dramatic shift in racial disparities among women
In 2000 black women were incarcerated in state and federal prisons at six times the rate of white
women. By 2009 that ratio had declined by 53%, to 2.8:1. This shift was a result of both declining incarceration of African American women and rising incarceration of white women. The disparity between Hispanic and non Hispanic white women declined by 16.7% during this period.
Similar trends can be seen among men, but at a lesser scale, with a decline of 16.9%
in the black/white incarceration ratio over the decade. The disparity between
Hispanic and non Hispanic white men declined by 11.1%

Beginning in the early 1970s the United States embarked on an unprecedented
escalation of the use of imprisonment. The 2.2 million people behind bars in prisons
and jails in 2010 represented more than a 500% increase from the level of 1972.
During the highest growth years in the 1980s, state prison populations increased by
as much as 12% in a single year. Nationally, the rate of prison growth of earlier decades slowed consi
derably in the first decade of this century. The total number of individuals in state prisons rose by
an average of 1.1% per year and in federal prisons by an average of 3.3% between
2000 and 2010, compared to 5.6% and 8.6% respectively in the 1990s.
The substantial growth of the 1990s is best seen in states such as Texas, in which the
number of persons under state prison jurisdiction tripled, as well as in ten states in
which the population more than doubled (Appendix Table 1). Overall, the median
change in the number of people in state prison systems was 71% for the 1990s. In
contrast, from 2000 to 2010 the median increase declined to 21%, with only three
states experiencing more than a 50% rise in their populations. Further, five states
Delaware,Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York had fewer people in
their prisons at the end of the decade and 47 states experienced at least one year of
While reduced crime rates are likely to have contributed to these declines, deliberate
changes in policy and practice are also playing a role in these reductions in some
These include initiatives such as treatment diversion programs, sentence
reduction incentives for participation in prison programming, enhanced reentry
support, and reduced technical violations of parole.

Incarceration Rate for Blacks Dropping

New York Times

Incarceration rates for black Americans dropped sharply from 2000 to 2009, especially for women, while the rate of imprisonment for whites and Hispanics rose over the same decade, according to a report released Wednesday by a prison research and advocacy group in Washington. 

The declining rates for blacks represented a significant shift in the racial makeup of the United States’ prisons and suggested that the disparities that have long characterized the prison population may be starting to diminish.

“It certainly marks a shift from what we’ve seen for several decades now,” said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, whose report was based on data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Justice Department. “Normally, these things don’t change very dramatically over a one-decade period.”

The decline in incarceration rates was most striking for black women, dropping 30.7 percent over the ten-year period. In 2000, black women were imprisoned at six times the rate of white women; by 2009, they were 2.8 times more likely to be in prison. For black men, the rate of imprisonment decreased by 9.8 percent; in 2000 they were incarcerated at 7.7 times the rate of white men, a rate that fell to 6.4 times that of white men by 2009.

For white men and women, however, incarceration rates increased over the same period, rising 47.1 percent for white women and 8.5 percent for white men. By the end of the decade, Hispanic men were slightly less likely to be in prison, a drop of 2.2 percent, but Hispanic women were imprisoned more frequently, an increase of 23.3 percent.

Over all, blacks currently make up about 38 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons; whites account for about 34 percent.

More than 100,000 women are currently incarcerated in state or federal prisons. The overall rate of incarceration varies widely from state to state, as does the ratio of blacks to whites and Hispanics.
But the trend is clear, Mr. Mauer said, adding that no single factor could explain the shifting figures but that changes in drug laws and sentencing for drug offenses probably played a large role. Other possible contributors included decreasing arrest rates for blacks, the rising number of whites and Hispanics serving mandatory sentences for methamphetamine abuse, and socioeconomic shifts that have disproportionately affected white women.

Alfred Blumstein, an expert on the criminal justice system at Carnegie Mellon University, said his own findings from research he conducted with Allen J. Beck of the Bureau of Justice Statistics also indicated that the rate of incarceration for blacks was declining compared with that for whites.
“A major contributor has been the intensity of incarceration for drug offending,” Dr. Blumstein said, “and that reached a peak with the very long sentences we gave out for crack offenders, stimulated in large part by the violence that was going on in the crack markets.”

But crack cocaine has become far less of an issue in recent years, he noted, a fact reflected in revisions of federal sentencing laws. And inmates serving time for crack offenses are now emerging from prison, “so there would be a disproportionate black exodus from prison that as a result would be reflected in a lowering of the incarceration-rate ratio,” he said.

Mr. Mauer said that especially for black women, the drop in incarceration compared with whites was “all about drug offenses.”

In New York State, for example, where the overall prison population has dropped substantially, for women “virtually the entire decline was a decline in drug offenses,” he said. Increasingly severe drug laws and stiff sentences for drug offenses resulted in disproportionate numbers of black women going to prison, he said, “and now they are disproportionately benefiting from reductions in that area.”

“We’re not going to see necessarily the same level across all 50 states, but the patterns are there,” he said.
One thing that has not changed, Mr. Mauer said, is that incarceration rates for women as a whole continue to increase at a higher rate than those for men.

“All we’ve seen is a shifting in which women are locked up,” he said

Get Rid of Private Prisons

The Denver Post

As Colorado's prison population declines, we need to ask ourselves if we want our state to continue sending taxpayer dollars to corporations that profit from the incarceration of human beings. Today, Coloradans spend $52 per inmate per day on for-profit prison corporations that are accountable primarily to their shareholders, not taxpayers.
As the state's inmate population declines, the state must commit itself to prioritizing use of public prisons, state workers, and taxpayer accountability over for-profit prisons. Colorado's corrections policy must emphasize responsibility, not profitability.
In the past two years, the Colorado Department of Corrections has taken state beds offline and outright closed state-run facilities. And while there have been some closures of for-profit facilities, state appropriations for Corrections Corporation of America's for-profit prisons rose in the 2012-13 fiscal year by nearly $4 million. For the 2013-14 fiscal year, the department is now requesting an additional $1.3 million increase in payments to our for-profit prison providers.
For-profit prisons are a multibillion-dollar industry. The two largest for-profit prison corporations (CCA and GEO Group) had over $2.9 billion in revenue in 2010. Industry profits have grown exponentially since 1984, when the first for-profit prison in the country opened. But with their bottom line threatened, for-profit prisons are seeking ways to keep making money, including inmate bed guarantees and buying state facilities. They also pay workers as little as possible, so little that many private prison workers qualify for public assistance.
The industry's interests are the same as any other for-profit industry or corporation: maximum profits for shareholders. And while there certainly is nothing wrong with the pursuit of profit, there is a huge question mark over whether or not that motive belongs in our correctional system. The more prisoners, the better for them. The for-profit prison model is marketed to policymakers and taxpayers as a way to save the state money, but the daily rate that is paid covers only the most basic costs associated with inmates. Health care, emergency response (including riot response), legal liability and oversight of the facilities are still public obligations.
Taxpayers should be wary of the for-profit prison industry's instinct to shave costs and find savings anywhere they can, which in turn puts the public, workers and inmates at risk. A prime example of this lies in what happened at CCA's Crowley County facility in 2004. There, during a riot by about 300 inmates, the for-profit staff was ordered to abandon their posts and stand down until CDOC arrived. After the state cleaned up the mess, reports later found that everything that could go wrong did go wrong, costing taxpayers millions.
By contrast, public facilities are safer and better equipped to respond to the challenges of a 21st century corrections system. Employees are better compensated through health and retirement benefits and can envision a long-term career in public safety. At the end of the day, a public corrections facility is fully accountable to the taxpayers.
A Prison Utilization Study was recently commissioned by the state legislature in order to examine how best to handle the changes in inmate population. While that study will provide policymakers with brick-and-mortar data, no study will be able to provide us with an answer to the ethical questions raised by the state's continued reliance of the for-profit prison industry.
Taxpayers deserve better, and the first step should be to implement a state-bed-first policy. As public beds become available, inmates in the private system should be automatically transferred to public facilities. Colorado must begin transitioning away from private prisons.
David Pertz is a correctional officer in Delta and secretary of Colorado WINS. Paul Carlson is pastor of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Denver.

Read more: Git rid of for-profit prisons - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_22682465/git-rid-profit-prisons#ixzz2MCOqYfMd
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Two New Reports Show Juvenile Confinement Reform in Five States

Justice Policy Institute

Two New Reports Show Juvenile Confinement Reform in Five States

Removing young people who engage in delinquent behavior from their homes and communities, and incarcerating them in locked facilties is no longer the status quo in five states, according to two new reports released today by the Justice Policy Institute.
Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut: How Collaboration and Commitment Have Improved Public Safety and Outcomes for Youth, in addition to Common Ground: Lessons learned from five states that reduced juvenile confinement by more than half, shed light on the pronounced trend toward reduced confinement of youth nationwide. Through a variety of methods, the reports find, Connecticut, Arizona, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Tennessee all reduced youth confinement by more than 50% between 2001 and 2010, with no resulting uptick in juvenile crime.
A deeper look at Connecticut’s juvenile justice system reforms shows that, through a system-wide culture change and major investments in evidence-based services, a previously wasteful, punitive, ineffective, and often abusive juvenile justice system was transformed into a national model, at no additional cost to taxpayers (after adjusting for inflation).


(PDF)Executive summary of Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut: How Collaboration and Commitment Have Improved Public Safety and Outcomes for Youth
(PDF)Full report of Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut: How Collaboration and Commitment Have Improved Public Safety and Outcomes for Youth
(PDF)Full report Common Ground: Common Ground: Lessons Learned from Five States that Reduced Juvenile Confinement by More than Half

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 Annual Fundraiser

CCJRC’s 2013 Voices for Justice Annual Fundraiser
Our annual fundraiser will be held on Thursday, September 26th, 2013 at Mile High Station in Denver.

We are hard at work securing items for our silent and live auctions and would deeply appreciate donations.

As you can imagine, the higher the quality of our inventory, the better our chances of meeting or exceeding our $30,000 goal.

“Hot” items that have always done well include
Spa packages/personal services
Restaurant coupons
Theater, orchestra, and sports event tickets
Cabin/condo rentals and hotel stays
Gift baskets of all kinds
We welcome your ideas for other donations of goods and services.
We regret we are unable to accept donations of used clothing, appliances or vehicles.
Donations may be tax-deductible – please consult your tax advisor.
Or you can mail anything you have available to
1212 Mariposa St. #6, Denver CO.  80204
Tickets to the event are also available online at WWW.CCJRC.ORG

Friday, February 22, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update 2/23/13

CCJRC 2013 Legislative Update

February 22, 2013

Here’s our weekly legislative update.  A couple of new bills were introduced this week including:

You can read more on each below.  Bills are ordered in sequence, starting with Senate Bills (SB).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
Sponsors: Senator Morse (D) and Representative Waller (R)
CCJRC position: support
Description:  The Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) has a repeal date of July 1, 2013.  This bill would eliminate the repeal date and continue the CCJJ. This bill is based on a recommendation from the CCJJ.
Status:  Passed the Senate on 2/22; will next be introduced in the House

Sponsors: Senator Aguilar (D)
CCJRC position: support
Description:  This bill would provide immunity from criminal prosecution and immunity from civil liability if a person, acting in good faith, administers an opiate antagonist to another person whom the person believes to be suffering an opiate-related drug overdose. A licensed health-care practitioner who is permitted by law to prescribe or dispense an opiate antagonist shall be immune from criminal prosecution for and is not liable for any civil damages resulting from such prescribing.
Status:  Passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee (5-1) on 2/14.  Scheduled in Senate Appropriations Committee on 3/1 at 8:00am

Sponsors: Senator Steadman (D) and Representative Levy (D)
CCJRC position: support-priority
Description: Under current law, drug convictions are eligible for record sealing; this bill extends the eligibility for sealing to most other crimes. Sets specific waiting periods, other eligibility criteria, and procedures.  The bill also provides that a pardon issued by the governor waives all collateral consequences, unless the pardon limits the scope.
Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary; not yet calendared.

Sponsor: Senators Lambert (R), Hodge (D), Steadman (D); and Representatives Gerou (R), Duran (D) and Levy (D)  (Joint Budget Committee Members)
CCJRC position: Support
Description: Reduces the number of available juvenile detention beds statewide from 422 beds to 382 beds as of April 1, 2013.
Status: Passed the Senate on 2/22; will next be introduced in the House

Sponsors: Representative Levy (D) and Senator Steve King (R)
CCJRC position: support
Description: The bill moves the crime of newspaper theft and renames it interference with lawful distribution of newspapers. This bill is based on a recommendation from the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Status: Passed House 64-0 and passed Senate 35-0; awaiting action by Governor

Sponsors: Representative Rosenthal (D)
CCJRC position: support
Description:  For youths confined in a juvenile facility in the custody of the Division of Youth Corrections (DYC) who will be 18 years of age or older on the date of the next elections, this bill requires the administrator of DYC facilities to provide information and facilitate voter registration and voting by mail-in ballot.
Status:  Passed House (36-28-1) on 2/11; introduced in Senate and assigned to State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee; not yet calendared for hearing

Sponsors: Representative Labuda (D)
CCJRC position: support
Description:  This bill requires the court to initiate expungement proceedings not more than thirty days after a juvenile’s sentence is expired; however, for a juvenile adjudicated as an aggravated juvenile offender or violent juvenile offender or adjudicated for a felony offense of unlawful sexual behavior, the court shall initiate expungement proceedings not more than five years after the sentence is discharged.  The bill also limits public access to arrest and criminal records information to those juveniles adjudicated for a class 1 felony or the crime of possession of a handgun by a juvenile.
Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Committee – not yet calendared

Sponsors: Representative Buck (R) and Senator Renfroe (R)
CCJRC position: support
Description:  Under current law, it is a crime for a person convicted of any felony offense to possess a firearm. This bill would limit the prohibition on possessing a firearm to those felony convictions under the victim’s rights act, burglary, arson, or any felony involving the use of force or the use of a deadly weapon.
Status: Will be heard in House Judiciary Committee for action only; not yet calendared.

Sponsors: Representatives Waller (R) and Fields (D)
CCJRC position: monitor
Description:  In a DUI prosecution, if the driver’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of delta THC per milliliter in blood (based on a blood test), such fact gives rise to a permissible inference that the driver was under the influence.  This bill is based on a recommendation from the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Status: Scheduled to be heard in House Judiciary Committee on 2/26  in Old Supreme Court Chambers

Sponsors: Representative Pettersen (D) and Senator Newell (D)
CCJRC position: support
Description: This bill creates a resource center in the Division of Criminal Justice to promote evidence-based practices by criminal justice agencies. An advisory board will oversee the resource center which includes, at a minimum, the executive directors of the department of public safety, department of corrections, the department of human services, and the division of probation. The Division of Criminal Justice will report to the General Assembly by July 1, 2014 and every 3 years thereafter.  This bill is based on a recommendation by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Status:  Passed House Judiciary unanimously on 2/19; referred to Appropriations- not yet calendared
Sponsors: Representative Foote (D) and Senator Roberts (R)
CCJRC position: priority support
Description: This bill repeals the extraordinary risk sentencing enhancer.  Also adds certain child abuse crimes and stalking crimes to the list of Crime of Violence offenses.  This bill is based on a recommendation by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Status:  Assigned to House Judiciary Committee; not yet calendared
Sponsors: Rep Levy (D) and Senator Steadman (D)
CCJRC position: priority support
Description: Creates a pre-filing diversion programs for adults statewide. The district attorney is required to develop eligibility guidelines and may enter into a diversion agreement with a defendant for up to two years without filing a criminal case against the defendant. This bill is based on a recommendation by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Status:  Assigned to House Judiciary Committee; not yet calendared
Sponsors: Rep Pabon (D) and Senator King (R)
CCJRC position: priority support
Description: This bill repeals theft of rental property and theft by receiving as separate statutes and incorporates these crimes into the theft statute. It also changes the amount for various offense levels. This bill is based on a recommendation by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Status:  Passed House Judiciary Committee unanimously on 2/21; will next be heard in Appropriations

Sponsors: Rep. Kagan (D) and Senator Steadman (D)
CCJRC position: support
Description: This bill will make Colorado law consistent with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding the right to legal counsel during critical stages, including plea negotiations, this bill repeals the statute that requires an indigent person charged with a misdemeanor, petty offense, or motor vehicle or traffic offense to meet with the prosecuting attorney before legal counsel is appointed.
Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Committee-not yet calendared.

Sponsors: Rep. Waller (R)
CCJRC position: Monitor
Description: Under current law, a conviction for DUI, DUI per se, or DWAI  is considered a misdemeanor offense.  The bill states that such an offense is a class 5 felony if:  the violation occurred not more than 7 years after the first of two prior convictions or if the defendant has 3 prior DUI or DWAI convictions
Status: Passed unanimously in House Judiciary Committee on 2/21; will next be heard in Appropriations
Sponsors: Rep. Szabo (R); Rep. Priola (R)
CCJRC position: Oppose
Description: Under current law a person who commits vehicular homicide and is sentenced to prison is eligible for parole after serving 50% of his or her sentence. The bill changes parole eligibility to 75% of the sentence served less earned time awarded if the person is convicted of vehicular homicide and has a serious previous driving offense conviction, including vehicular assault, DUI etc.
Status: Will be heard in House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on 3/4 at 1:30 in LSB-A

Sponsors: Rep. Williams (D), Pabon (D), Buckner (D), Court (D), Hullinghorst (D), Melton (D), Pettersen (D), Salazar (D);  and Senator Guzman (D)
CCJRC position: Support
Description: With certain limitations, the state shall compensate a person, or the immediate family members of a person, who has been: wrongly convicted of a felony, or wrongly adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for the commission of an offense that would be a felony if committed by a person 18 years of age or older; incarcerated; and exonerated and found to be actually innocent.
Status: Will be heard in House Judiciary Committee on 3/7 at 1:30 p.m., Room 0112

Sponsers:  Senator Ulibarri (D), and Rep. Levy (D)
CCJRC position: support
Description: The bill repeals and reenacts the provisions of the criminal procedure code related to bail bonds. The new provision places a greater emphasis on evidence-based and individualized decision-making during the bond-setting process and discourages use of monetary conditions for bond. This bill is based on a recommendation by the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Status: Will be heard in House Judiciary Committee on 2/28 at 1:30pm in the Old Supreme Court