Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Evan Ebel was part of Colorado parole system under strain

The Denver Post

By Christopher N. Osher
The Denver Post

Evan Ebel stepped from years of solitary confinement into a parole system straining under high caseloads, complicated new policies and an inadequate support system for violent parolees, according to documents and interviews with people close to the system.

It is a system undergoing significant change in recent years, one that is having to deal with more paroled prisoners at the same time state officials are pushing for fewer parole revocations for technical infractions.
Little is publicly known about Ebel's time on parole from Jan. 28 until his shootout with authorities on March 21, when he was fatally wounded.But during that time, he killed pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon and shot dead Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements at his home, law enforcement officials now believe.
It was at least the second time in March that a recent parolee allegedly killed someone: A Jefferson County grand jury has indicted 52-year-old parolee Warren Watson in the robbery, sexual assault and strangulation of Lakewood attorney Claudia Miller. Watson had been on parole two weeks.
Internal corrections documents show the parole system charged with monitoring people such as Ebel and Watson was struggling with higher caseloads. Documents also say parole officers have been confused by new restrictions on their parole revocation powers.

State officials and legislators believe new services and an increased reliance on halfway-house beds will help those on parole adjust to life out on the streets.
Tim Hand, Colorado's director of parole, relayed through corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan that he would not be available to comment on those issues until this week.
But some of those close to the parole system say conditions had been ripe for a violent parolee to go off the rails.

"From the parole officers working the streets with the responsibility of keeping track of those on parole, I'm hearing they are letting them out of prison like crazy now, and the parole officers have caseloads that aren't manageable," said David Michaud, who retired as chairman of the parole board in 2010.
The number of individuals on parole in Colorado in 2011 was 8,181. Due in part to efforts by state officials to drive down parole revocations and to grant parole sooner to prisoners who participate in educational programs, state officials project their numbers will swell to 10,986 by 2014 — a 34 percent increase in three years.

"It's a lot like a bubble, and if you squeeze it at the prison end and release more, that bubble is going to balloon at the parole level," Michaud said. "If you're going to do that, you have to be prepared at the parole level to deal with your caseloads."  Colorado Department of Corrections officials this year submitted documents to legislative leaders showing that the average caseloads for parole officers are rising.
The typical parole officer supervising lower-risk parolees is overseeing nearly 69 cases at a time now, the documents show.

Parole officers in 2001 each averaged 60 cases in that category. A parole officer engaging in intensive supervision of higher-risk cases now has nearly 23 cases to monitor. In 2001, parole officers each averaged 20 cases in that category. "These supervision ratios have been lower in the past, and the department states it would like to re-establish the historical ratio," according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Council given to legislators earlier this month. That analysis said the state corrections department's funding request would not trim the higher caseload rates.

The American Probation and Parole Association recommends a case to staff ratio of no higher than 20 to 1 for intensive parole supervision and no more than 50 to 1 for moderate- to high-risk parole supervision.
Ebel was released from prison under a mandatory parole, which means the parole board could not continue to keep him in prison since his prison term for assault and other charges had come to an end. Most parole releases are mandatory, with about 20 percent of parolees being released early from prison at the discretion of the parole boards. About 65 percent of those released on mandatory parole end up back in prison within three years, statistics show.

Parolees come out of prison with $100 in what corrections officials call gate money, an amount that has not increased since the 1970s. Often their bus lets them off at 20th and Arapahoe streets in Denver. If they turn right, they hit the bars on Larimer Street. If they turn left, they're at the Holy Ghost Church, where there's often an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting underway. "That one direction they turn can determine whether they will be successful or not out on parole," Michaud said. "What they need are effective treatment programs that work."

He said such programs were lacking during his time on the parole board. Michaud recalled that at the time he retired from the board, the most effective treatment program with the highest rate of success was offered in only three of the 29 prisons in the state. He said he doubts the gap in services has closed.

Implementation problems
Parole officers also are facing new restrictions on their parole revocation powers. The state now requires them to use an assessment tool that grades the risk level of parolees before moving to revoke their parole and send them to prison for new violations. The idea is to create consistency on such decisions and to keep low-risk offenders from returning to prison when less-severe sanctions could bring them into compliance with parole conditions.

But the implementation of the assessment tool hasn't always gone smoothly, according to documents.
"Some staff expressed feeling overwhelmed with new tasks while still meeting existing responsibilities," a December 2011 report from the Colorado Department of Corrections' Office of Planning and Analysis found when reviewing how parole officers were reacting to the new tool.
That report also found "some confusion about priorities" and questions about whether participating in new projects "was more important than meeting contact standards" with parolees.

The outside world
After nearly eight years in prison, Ebel was released on intensive supervision parole in January with conditions barring him from frequenting bars, driving, contacting victims, drinking alcohol or consorting with gang members. He also had to comply with therapeutic conditions, which corrections officials will not reveal because of privacy laws. Ebel was released straight from Sterling Correctional Facility's administrative segregation to the outside world for three years of parole supervision. Ironically, Clements had spent his two years as head of corrections in Colorado working to reform and limit administrative segregation, commonly known as solitary confinement.

The riskiest type of release for a prisoner is to go from the isolation of administrative segregation to the jarring reality of life outside prison, said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for alternatives to incarceration.

"When someone is going from admin seg to the streets, there is very little they can do to plan," Donner said. "They just land on the moon when they come out. It's got to be the least desirable transition path."
Ebel's history should have flagged him for special treatment and services upon his release, Donner said.
"When he was released on parole, did his parole officer do anything with his mental health?" Donner asked. "Was there any effort on the part of his parole officer to address the fact that this man came out of admin seg and spent years and years and years in admin seg and had a history of mental health problems and a history of violence within the prison, a history of banging his head against the walls and smearing his feces on the wall? What happened in that transition?"

Crime rates in Colorado have plunged in the past four years by more than 30 percent, but some still question whether the increase in those on parole is jeopardizing public safety. About a year ago, Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner and other law-enforcement officials wrote Gov. John Hickenlooper saying they were concerned about what they perceived as a surge in parolees in their part of the state. Garner recalled that Clements and one of his assistants came to talk to him to try to reassure him. "They didn't think the numbers were as drastic as we thought they were," Garner recalled.

"I definitely formed the opinion that Mr. Clements was a good, caring man," Garner said last week. "What I have found incredibly sad and ironic is that he told me my concerns about parolees were exaggerated, and I have since his killing thought how incredibly ironic and sad it is that he was then killed by a parolee."
On March 20, the day after Clements was killed, the parole board issued an arrest warrant for Ebel. Corrections officials have not released the details behind the warrant or said whether it was for some unspecified violation of his parole conditions or on suspicions he was involved in Clements' killing.

The parole system that inherited Ebel was the subject of a critical state audit just over four years ago that found parole officials struggling with outdated equipment and in need of modernization.

At that time, the parole board members charged with deciding whether to release a prisoner didn't even have laptop computers, the audit found. They also hadn't been properly trained in the use of the assessment tool they were supposed to rely on to determine whether a prisoner up for parole was a high risk for committing new crimes.

"Because the board does not collect and review data related to its decisions, including the outcomes of its decisions, or make full use of evidence-based research, it cannot ensure that offender transitions from incarceration to the community are likely to be successful," the audit stated. The audit further recommended that the state invest more funds to find out which vocational services, substance-abuse treatment services and academic programs that were offered prisoners actually worked.

Since that audit, the parole board has received training on the Colorado Actuarial Risk Assessment Scale, the tool that board members are supposed to rely on to determine how likely a person up for parole is to commit a new crime.

But Kevin Ford, an analyst with the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, said that for four years he has been unable to do his statutorily mandated reports on the efficacy of parole board decisions in the proper way. His reports mostly have cataloged the efforts to create technical improvements so the data he needs is collected properly.

"The reports are supposed to be on the quantity and quality of parole board decisions," Ford said. "There was so much going on to automate the system that the data wasn't available yet. That was the focus pretty much up to the last report. The next report, I'll be able to do more detailed work on the actual decision data."

Parole reform
The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, formed by former Gov. Bill Ritter and lawmakers in 2007, also has made parole reform a top priority. In 2008, that commission released more than 60 recommendations on probation and parole issues. The recommendations range from ensuring that parolees leave prison with a driver's license or an ID whenever possible, to finding a way to house the nearly quarter of the people on parole who are homeless in the Denver metro area.

Many of those recommendations still have not been implemented, said State Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, a task force member of the commission.

"There are still many gaps that need to be addressed in order to have successful transitions from prison to the community," said Donner, who pushes for prison reform. "We have had a massive buildup in the prison system, and we have not adequately thought about what happens when they get out. So we are playing catch-up."

The tragedy in the killing of Clements was that he was just the man to think through those problems, Donner said. "He was trying to modernize the department," she said. "Tom was the first corrections director we've had in 30 years that actually had a background in corrections, and that matters. He was trying to modernize the department so its operations were consistent with known best practices in prison management and parole supervision. No question."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"He Was Freaking" Friend says of Ebel's Isolation

Colorado Independent
DENVER– In the weeks before his death, Evan Ebel, suspected killer of Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements, had broken ties with white supremacist prison gang 211 Crew and was debilitated by the transition from prolonged isolation to social contact, according to a friend and former fellow inmate.

In a series of interviews conducted with The Colorado Independent, parolee Ryan Pettigrew dismissed widespread media speculation that Ebel shot Clements as part of an orchestrated 211 Crew “gang hit.” He said that, over the course of the last few weeks, Ebel was growing increasingly agitated in his adjustment to life outside of prison and beyond the tiny “administrative segregation” cells in which he spent years deprived of regular human contact.

“Trust me, this was no gang hit. This was about what was haunting Evan Ebel,” Pettigrew says. “Clements’ name never came up.”
Pettigrew supported his statements by producing dozens of text messages he exchanged with Ebel over the last two months. The messages reveal Ebel as wrestling with anxiety about his freedom and grappling with the urge to ease that anxiety through violence. The texts span from February 1, four days after Ebel’s release from prison on January 28, to March 5, less than two weeks before Ebel is alleged to have killed pizza delivery man Nathan Leon and then murdered Clements before he led Texas authorities on the high-speed highway gun battle that left Ebel clinically dead last week.
Pettigrew, 33, is on parole and studying to become a real estate investor. He was released in August from a ten-year sentence on a witness intimidating conviction. He served most of his time in Colorado State Penitentiary, the state’s highest security prison, where he befriended Ebel.
Ebel was released from Sterling Correctional Facility at the end of January after serving roughly nine years for a series of stick-ups and assaults.
Both of the men served long periods of their sentences in solitary confinement. As practiced in Colorado, so-called administrative segregation isolates prisoners for months, years and even decades with virtually no human contact other than with corrections officers who pass meals through their food slot and escort them to a room where they exercise alone.
Pettigrew and Ebel didn’t know each other face to face. But over their years at the State Penitentiary, they exchanged frequent notes called “kites” sent through an elaborate delivery system called “fishing.” It entails a chain of prisoners passing notes through plumbing and sliding them under doors in cell-block pods.
In their notes, Pettigrew and Ebel discussed books, philosophy, their families, frustrations with the prison system and plans for businesses they would start when they got out.
Life on the Outside
They kept in touch by mail while Pettigrew served out his last months at Centennial Correctional Facility and Ebel served out his at Sterling Correctional Facility. Once Ebel was released, they spoke by phone almost every day during Ebel’s first several weeks on the outside.
“At first he was telling me how he was freaking out, just freaking out,” Pettigrew recalls. “He was saying that he couldn’t sleep and [was] having a hard time eating and being around people. He didn’t want to have any associations with anybody. He was feeling extremely anxious. It was all the same stuff I was experiencing when I got out. He was a lot like me.”
In one text to Pettigrew from mid February, Ebel said he wanted to get into a fight as a form of coping.
“…im just feeling peculiar & the only way i know i know to remedy that is via use of ‘violence’ even if that ‘violence’ be something as petty & inconsequential as a fist fight which id prefer be with someone i can trust as opposed to some renegade civilian who odds are will tell.”
Pettigrew said that, coming from Ebel, he understood the sentiment.
“He told me that he needed to release some anxiety. He needed that violence as a release so he could calm down. He didn’t know any other way.”
The text messages between the two men — and obtained by The Independent — detail Ebel’s plans to get a tattoo and his thoughts about setting up a for-profit website for inmates and for members of the public interested in news with “street cred” about contemporary prison culture. He planned to post correspondence between prisoners and their attorneys, columns authored by inmates, roundups of actions taken by authorities against prisoners and resistance mounted by prisoners in the form of hunger strikes, for example. Ebel’s promotional strategy was to “advertise by way of regular mail and word of mouth (not a problem).” “Maybe we’ll do a whiteboy discount as an additional selling point,” he wrote.
In one text, Ebel said he was spending most of his evenings since his release “reading & talking to folks on the phone.”
Pettigrew said Ebel was living in a house in Commerce City and that Ebel’s father Jack, an attorney, paid at least part the rent. Pettigrew also said Ebel was working as a researcher at a law office.
He said Ebel and several gang members recently had broken with the 211 Crew over disagreements that Pettigrew, who is still a member, would not discuss. Ebel’s apparent suicide-by-cop was motivated by his own struggles, he said, not out of allegiance to his former gang.
Pettigrew sensed early on that Ebel and he didn’t share the same goals for their lives after incarceration.
“I’m trying to get on with my life, leave [the Department of Corrections] behind me and make a living. [Ebel] seemed still pretty focused on what happened in prison.”
Clements Anxious about Abrupt Transitions
Pettigrew laments the death of Clements, a reform-minded chief who was particularly concerned with the negative effects of solitary confinement.
“It sucks for the inmates he was changing the system for,” he wrote last week in a text to The Independent.
“I’d say there [would be] something pretty ironic [if Ebel] killed the guy who was trying to fix things. It’s unfortunate, because Clements was in a position to help,” Pettigrew elaborated in a phone interview Monday.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, in revealing his longtime friendship with Ebel’s father, said in a statement last week that Evan Ebel had a “bad streak” and, assuming he in fact murdered Clements, was “hell-bent on causing evil.”
It’s exactly that kind of violent tendency that Clements was hell-bent on preventing, especially among prisoners being released from solitary.
In an exclusive interview last spring, Clements said that, immediately after Hickenlooper recruited him from Missouri to run the Colorado corrections department, he found disturbing “one very alarming statistic” he said kept him up at night — that 47 percent of Colorado prisoners being released from isolation were walking directly out onto the streets without help reintegrating into social environments and interacting with people.
Clements wanted longer transition periods and step-down programs before setting isolated prisoners free. As Pettigrew tells it, Ebel said he had little help making that transition. He said altercations during his brief period in a step-down program landed him back in isolation.
“You have to ask yourself the question – How does holding inmates in administrative segregation and then putting them out on a bus into the public, [how does that] square up?” Clements said.
“We have to think about how what we do in prisons impacts the community when [prisoners] leave,” Clements continued. “It’s not just about running the prison safely and securely. There’s a lot of research around solitary and isolation in recent years, some tied to POWs and some to corrections. My experience tells me that long periods of isolation can be counter-productive to stable behavior and long-term rehabilitation goals.”
Soon after taking office, Clements launched a study of solitary confinement and decided to close Colorado State Penitentiary II, the state’s two-year-old supermax prison, which was designed and built entirely for isolation. By last spring’s interview, Clements said he had reduced the 47 percent isolation-to-streets release to 22 percent. His goal, he noted, was to drive to zero the number of isolated prisoners being released without step-down programs.
Pettigrew said he thought many corrections officers weren’t receptive to the reforms Clements was making.
“The old school guards in there, they just hated what he has doing and would come down even harder on us. You develop such a hatred not only from being in solitary but from having been pocked with a stick that long.”
‘It’s Hate that’s Building up in You’
Those sentiments were echoed by Colorado State Penitentiary prisoner Josue Gonzales in National Geographic Channel documentary that showed him walking into freedom after five years in isolation.
“I think 90 percent of the people that are locked up here, if they ran into a staff member on the streets, they’d hurt ‘em,” Gonzales was quoted to say in the film.
“It’s hate that’s been building up in you. And you kind of just kind of try to just swallow it down. That stuff builds up. The tension builds up, builds up, builds up, and I still have them thoughts still, though, that I want to basically get into it with somebody.
“Those are the things that I want to get away from. But I still deal with them all the time.”

House Judiciary rejects Death Penalty repeal

the Denver Post

After several last-minute hallway discussions and wrangling of votes, a House committee on Tuesday struck down a measure to repeal Colorado's death penalty.
The Democratic-controlled committee killed House Bill 1264 on a 6-4 vote. Democratic Reps. Lois Court, Denver, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, joined Republicans in opposition to the measure.
Tuesday's vote comes after a week's delay as action on House Bill 1264 was postponed after Gov. John Hickenlooper talked to fellow Democrats about a potential veto.
"I've been in the middle this whole time through testimony," Pettersen said. "I know the governor has concerns and I think they're valid."
And the bill's sponsor, Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, cited Hickenlooper's warning as a key reason for the measure's defeat.
"I think had the governor not signaled so strongly he wouldn't sign the bill, I think we would have had those votes ... We would have repealed the death penalty in Colorado and I think we could all stand up proud and strong and know that we did the right thing," Levy said
Last week committee chairman Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, indicated to The Denver Post that Democrats had the votes to pass the measure.
The bill, co-sponsored by Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, would have repealed the option of capital punishment for any crimes committed after July 1, 2013. This would leave life in prison without possibility of parole the most severe punishment prosecutors could seek.
Hickenlooper told House Democrats at their caucus luncheon last week that he's uncertain about the repeal and might veto the bill if it arrived on his desk. He said he's not sure the public supports it.
The measure received nine hours of testimony last week from proponents and opponents of the measure.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, has filed a bill that would have voters in 2014 decide whether the death penalty should be repealed.
Her measure was also laid over last week and is set to be heard in a House committee Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hickenlooper hints at veto of Death Penalty repeal

The Denver Post

Gov. John Hickenlooper has let his fellow Democrats know he has issues with a bill that allows lawmakers to repeal Colorado's death penalty, mentioning a "veto" as the sponsors say they have the votes to get it passed.
Hickenlooper on Tuesday spoke with House Democrats at their regular caucus luncheon in a building across the street from the Capitol, one hour before a committee was scheduled to hear the death-penalty bill.
Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, said it was the first time he has heard the governor use the term "veto."
"He did not say, 'I will definitely, undoubtedly with no question veto this,' " Pabon said. "But he did say that is something he is bouncing around. He used the 'v' word."
Another Democrat,
who asked not to be identified, said Hickenlooper told the caucus, "There are some things we're going to have to disagree on ... and those things we disagree on I'll have to veto." Rep. Lois Court of Denver, the House Democratic caucus chairwoman, said she was busy with the luncheon and missed some but not all of the governor's points.
"He kind of said he thinks we need more public conversation," she said. "He wants to have more opportunities to ask the public for their input."
The House Judiciary Committee heard the death penalty bill one hour after the luncheon on Tuesday, but took no official action.
Some lawmakers said Hickenlooper's concerns could doom the measure.
"It's no secret the governor has conflicting feelings about the death penalty," Hickenlooper's spokesman, Eric Brown, said via e-mail Wednesday. "Those feelings are still unresolved."
When Hickenlooper ran for office in 2010, he answered a Denver Post question about whether the death penalty should be repealed by saying, "No, but it should be restricted."
Late last year,

though, Hickenlooper was less decisive about the death penalty."I wrestle with this, right now, on a pretty much daily basis because we are in a position where we have a couple of death-row inmates that are going to come up, and I haven't come to a conclusion," he told The Associated Press.
House Bill 1264 was laid over Tuesday night after nine hours of impassioned testimony by proponents and opponents. The measure would repeal capital punishment in Colorado for offenses committed after July 1.
A date for when a final committee vote will occur on the measure has not been set.
Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, the bill's co-sponsor, said she's eager to move forward.
"I have the votes in the House to pass the bill and it's not just partisan, it's bipartisan," Levy said Wednesday. The measure is also co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Kevin Priola of Henderson.
On Wednesday, another committee heard a separate death penalty measure by Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. Her bill would have voters decide in 2014 whether to repeal the death penalty. It was laid over after a brief committee hearing.
Fields opposes Levy's bill. Two of the three men currently on Colorado's death row — Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray — were convicted of killing Fields' son in 2005.
Neither Fields nor Levy's measures would impact those already on death row, or someone charged with a crime before their proposals became law.
The last person the state of Colorado put to death was Gary Davis in 1997.

Tom Clements, DOC Executive Director, Killed at his home in Monument

Reporter Herald

Authorities appealed to the public for help in their investigation into the death of Tom Clements, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, who was shot and killed as he opened the door to his Monument home Tuesday night.
More than 15 hours after Clements was shot, authorities have not confirmed if the shooting was random, or if Clements, 58, was a target because of his two-year stint as head of the corrections department. Investigators said robbery does not appear to be a motive, and they have not identified a suspect.
Federal agents have joined state and local authorities scouring the area for clues.
"We know of his position and realize that it is a possible motive for a crime such as this,"
said Lt. Jeff Kramer, spokesman for the El Paso County Sheriff's office. "It's a quick, rapidly evolving investigation. We've been on scene through the night."Kramer said he did not know whether there had been specific threats against Clements.
In response to Clements' killing, state officials have increased security at the governor's mansion, state buildings and the governor's personal security detail, according to a source at the state Capitol.
All of the state's prisons were placed on modified lock-down after the shooting, said Alison Morgan, assistant director of finance and administration for the DOC.
Clements' family released a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
"We are thankful for the overwhelming support and concern that we have received in the wake of Tom's death. Our family has lost a devoted husband and a beloved father," the statement read. "There are no words at this time to describe our grief and loss. We thank our friends and those praying for us here and across the nation. Your well-wishes and prayers bring us strength. We appreciate your continued respect for our privacy during this terrible loss."
At 8:42 p.m. on Tuesday, deputies received a 911 call from Clements' home.

Investigators search the wooded area surrounding the home of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Dept. of Corrections, on Colonial Park Drive east of Monument Wednesday morning. (Steve Nehf, The Denver Post)
Clements' distraught wife, Lisa, told a 911 dispatcher that the gunman rang the doorbell and then shot her husband in the chest, according to a dispatcher's recording. Authorities arrived at the home minutes later. They found Clements and his wife inside the home on a set of stairs.
Medical crews started performing CPR on Clements while deputies worked to secure the area and search for a suspect. Clements died at the home.
On Wednesday afternoon, deputies said they want to speak with a woman who may have been speed-walking through Clements' neighborhood on Tuesday night. The woman is not a suspect in the case, but authorities say she may have useful information.
The woman was wearing light pants, a dark wind breaker
and a hat. She was described as being 30 to 50 years old. Authorities urged that woman to call 719-390-5555 to speak with an investigator. Authorities also released the description of a car spotted in Clements' neighborhood about 15 minutes before the shooting.
A neighbor told authorities they saw a "boxy," two-door, late model car sitting outside Clements' home. The car was running with no one sitting inside, the witness told deputies.
Minutes later the car was gone.
The car may be a dark colored or black Lincoln or Cadillac, Kramer said. A witness reported seeing a light green glow coming from the dashboard.
The car was last seen Tuesday night, traveling west on Higby Road, before turning south onto Jackson Creek Parkway. The witness told officers that the only person in the car was the driver, but they could not provide a description.
Anyone who may have seen a car matching this description is asked to call authorities at 719-390-5555.
Kramer said authorities have heard from three or four residents who also saw the car. He also said investigators are checking with nearby shops that might have had surveillance cameras. Kramer said he did not know whether Clements' home was equipped with such gear.
Clements' home is in the 17400 block of Colonial Park Drive, in an upscale, wooded neighborhood east of Interstate 25. The two-story home, like others in the Bent Tree Subdivision, is nestled into the woods, well off Colonial Park
Drive. Clements and his wife have lived in the home for only a couple of years, neighbors said.Several neighbors told the Post they knew Clements lived in the subdivision, but said they did not know the couple well. They also said they didn't see or hear anything unusual Tuesday night.
The FBI, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Palmer Lake Police Department and the monument Police Department are also helping with the investigation.
Clements was appointed to his role as executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections by Gov. John Hickenlooper in January 2011. He came to Colorado from Missouri.
Clements supervised a staff of 6,022 employees at 20 public prisons. There were 20,379 Colorado inmates as of the end of 2012.
He was instituting dramatic change throughout Colorado's corrections system, said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for alternatives to incarceration.
"The reverberations from his death are multi-layered because it's so much broader than just his family and the Colorado Department of Corrections family," she said.
One of his top initiatives, she said, included an overhaul of how the state handled solitary confinement of prisoners — a push that also resulted in the closure of Colorado State Penitentiary II, also known as Centennial South, and its 948 solitary-confinement cells.
Clements' death occurred a week after he denied a request by a Saudi national, Homaidan al-Turki, to serve out the remainder of a Colorado prison sentence in Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported. He cited al-Turki's refusal to undergo sex offender treatment in his denial.
Al-Turki, a well-known member of Denver's Muslim community, was convicted in state court in 2006 of unlawful sexual contact by use of force, theft and extortion and sentenced to 28 years to life in prison. Prosecutors said al-Turki kept a housekeeper a virtual slave for four years in his home and sexually assaulted her. A judge reduced the sentence to eight years to life. Al-Turki insisted the case was politically motivated.
Al-Turki's conviction angered Saudi officials and prompted the U.S. State Department to send Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and al-Turki's family.
Dave Joly, Denver spokesman for the FBI, said agents are looking at all angles. He did not say if federal agents joined the investigation as a result of the al-Turki case.
"Nothing is off the table," Joly said in an e-mail. "If a lead comes up in another state or out of the area, the FBI is here to assist in any way we can."
Mike Knight, chief investigator for the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, said the prosecutors who worked on the al-Turki case and other high-profile prosecutions at the DA's office are taking increased security measures as a result of the slaying.
Knight would not specify what those measures are, but he said they were initiated by the DA's office and not on the advisement of law enforcement.
"Out of an abundance of caution for the attorneys who worked on those cases, we wanted to make sure that they take precautions," Knight said.
Hickenlooper fought back tears as he addressed questions during a news conference on Wednesday morning. He was notified about the shooting around 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
 "Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and two daughters," Hickenlooper said. "Tom Clements dedicated his life to public service."
Clements is survived by his wife and their two adult daughters.
Tony Carochi, DOC interim executive director, wrote to all corrections employees on Wednesday.
"It is with deep sadness that I reach out to each of you this morning," Carochi wrote. "Even as the hours have passed since we first learned about the death of Mr. Clements, the shock and grief still feels unreal."
Hickenlooper also reached out to corrections employees early Wednesday, and he ordered all flags lower to half-staff until the day after Clements' funeral.
"I can hardly believe it, let alone write words to describe it," Hickenlooper said in the statement sent to employees.
"As your Executive Director, he helped change and improve DOC in two years more than most people could do in eight years," he said in the statement. "He was unfailingly kind and thoughtful, and sought the 'good' in any situation. As you all know, in corrections that is not easy."
In a statement issued Wednesday about Clements' death, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said: "This is a heartbreaking tragedy for Tom Clements' family and everyone who was fortunate enough to have known him, including his many friends at the Missouri Department of Corrections."
Adrienne Jacobson, a DOC spokeswoman, said the first roll call for corrections employees was at 5 a.m.
"It is heartbreaking," Jacobson said.
Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206, denverpost.com/coldcases or twitter.com/kmitchelldp

Colorado prison chief Tom Clements pushed reforms

The Denver Post

During his two years as executive director of Colorado's Department of Corrections, Tom Clements pushed a series of reforms, ranging from closure of two Colorado prisons to backing lowering felony drug sentences to pay for more drug treatment programs.
Here is a list of some of the initiatives and changes that occurred during the tenure of Clements in Colorado:
• Commissioned consultants from National Institute of Corrections to do an independent look at Colorado's solitary confinement system. That report found shortcomings and a high rate of Colorado prisoners in "administrative segregation." Clements instituted reforms based on study.
• Oversaw closure of Colorado State Penitentiary II, also known as Centennial South, which consists of 948 solitary-confinement cells.
Implemented closure of Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas.
• Commissioned prison utilization study, which is still underway and is expected to be released in June. That study is expected to guide and shape further decisions on potential prison closures.
• As member of the newly formed Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice backed lowering felony drug sentences so savings could be used to bolster drug treatment programs in prison.
• Oversaw an overhaul of the classification system the corrections department uses to determine what security level prisoners should be incarcerated in. The last time the corrections system changed that classification system was 17 years ago.
• Hired outside consultants to review the sex offender treatment programs in prisons and embraced recommendations for change those consultants made.
• Reevaluated how state prisons provide treatment to mentally ill prisoners.
• Pushed new partnerships with faith-based institutions, non-profits and government agencies to assist in transitioning parolees back to society. Also pushed for reforms to programs that train prisoners for eventual re-entry back to society.
Christopher N. Osher: 303-954-1747, cosher@denverpost.com or twitter.com/chrisosher

Admirers of Tom Clements: "Our hearts are breaking"

The Denver Post

Stunned and saddened politicians and state workers paid tribute Wednesday morning to Tom Clements, Colorado's easy-going corrections director who was slain in his home the night before.
"Tom was one of the finest, kindest, most generous people I've ever met. He was the salt of the earth," Agriculture Secretary John Salazar said. "For someone to do that to him really upsets me."
Senate President Pro Tem Lucia Guzman called Clements "one of the best innovators for reforming the whole (prison) system."
"He was just so easy to work with," the Denver Democrat said.
Guzman, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, worked closely with Clements and was scheduled to meet him Saturday at the Sterling facility to research how life without parole inmates are housed and serving out the sentence.
"He was a reformer in the sense he was leading the discussion of reforming the penal system in using evidence-based practices," Guzman said.
Bent County Commissioner Bill Long has been in discussions with Clements for two years over the closing of Fort Lyon Correctional Facility, which at one time was the second largest employer in the county.
Long said he ran into Clements twice Tuesday at the state Capitol. Long was heading into a meeting about what to do with the closed prison when Clements was leaving a cabinet meeting.
Later that afternoon, as Long was sitting in the basement cafeteria waiting for another meeting, Clements stopped to talk to him.
"He said, 'Bill, I really want you know how much I enjoyed working with you and I admire your dedication to this Fort Lyon repurposing,' something like that," Long said. "Of course, now recalling that conversation is almost eerie.
"He was a wonderful man, a very nice man. I don't get it. This just breaks my heart."
Colorado WINS, the state employees union, also praised the prison director.
"Tom Clements was a leader who looked out for those he led," executive director Scott Wasserman said.
"As we worked on any number of issues facing the Corrections workforce, we always knew we had a reasonable and enlightened man at the other end of the table who wanted to reach a fair solution. He was a friend of this union and we are shocked by this tragedy."
Mike King, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said Clements did not fit the stereotypical image of a hardened career corrections official.
"Tom was just a beacon o

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Alby Zweig Goes from Drug Addict to Drug Court Magistrate

Colorado Independent

Alby Zweig Drugs
Alby Zweig.
From The Colorado Independent's Susan Greene.
Alby Zweig knows what it’s like to need a heroin fix so badly you’re willing to pawn your parents’ stereo to score it. He gets what it means to be so strung out on cocaine you’re convinced police are hiding under your house.
Zweig knows because he’s a recovered junkie.
He’s also Denver’s newest drug court magistrate.
“I have a suspicion that in the history of American jurisprudence, nobody else has ever gone from criminal defendant to judicial officer,” says Denver District Court Chief Judge Robert Hyatt, who appointed Zweig and swore him in earlier this month. “This story is emblematic of what drug court is all about. It’s a therapeutic court that gives people a second chance. I doubt that anybody has taken advantage of a second chance as much as Alby Zweig.”
Zweig, 44, started with the kind of occasional drug use common to members of his generation. He took mushrooms and LSD in high school and drank a lot in college. It was the late 1980s when, despite the “the whole Nancy Reagan don’t-do-drugs” messaging of the era, he says his recreational substance use didn’t affect his schoolwork or relationships like the public service announcements warned they would.
But then he tried heroin, and tried it again, until he went from smoking it to injecting it and would do almost anything for a fix. He likens heroin addiction to “having a chain around your neck that’s tied to a semi-truck pulling you forward while you’re trying to pull the other way.”
“It was super, super powerful. I really, really wanted to quit. I wanted to so bad but I could not. I just could not,” he says.
Zweig spent much of his 20s moving from city to city, time zone to time zone, convinced each time it would be tougher to find dealers in a new place.
“There was San Francisco, Denver, Portland, Chicago, New York, Boston… I’d score in one city just to make it to the next city. It became clear that regardless of where I went, the addiction would follow.”
Figuring he could get clean in a city where heroin was more difficult to find, he moved to Ottawa, the Canadian capital, to seek counseling from a Buddhist psychologist known for his success helping clients kick heroin habits. While in treatment, Zweig got hooked on cocaine, learning how to break down crack with vinegar so he could inject it. His coke addiction brought on paranoia that led him to see police everywhere – if only in his head.
“I remember digging down into the crawl space in my parents’ house because I was convinced there was a police-monitoring operation down there and I was trying to out them,” he says.
Zweig went from detox to rehab, then back again – in and out, unable to get clean. Nothing worked. His parents kicked him out of their house and Zweig learned to survive homeless. He lived for a spell in a closet for rollaway beds in a Super 8 motel in northwest Denver. When he was kicked out of the Super 8, he took up residence in a grove of trees alongside I-25.
In 1995, he was arrested for heroin possession and spent a night in jail going through withdrawal.
His mom, Marlene Zweig, remembers noticing her son teetering between two identities during the height of his addiction. Sometimes he was himself, Alby – “loving, tender and honest.” And sometimes he was “Albz” – someone who was angry, dying inside and unknowable.
Zweig became convinced he couldn’t quit or endure the probation program he was offered in Denver Drug Court. He figured it was a matter of time before he’d be hauled off to prison where, at 5’7” and 135 lbs, he was pretty sure he’d be “eaten alive.” At age 29, he set his mind on killing himself.
“I went to the library and got a book called ‘Final Exit’ for people who are terminally ill and want to commit suicide without screwing it up. I thought it was better not to live than to live an entire life in the heroin and coke scene. So I was going to try to overdose on opiates with a plastic bag over my head. It was all supposed to be kind of painless and foolproof,” he says.
Zweig being Zweig – pathologically honest and thoughtful, even while high – went to his parents to say that, should anything ever happen to him, his addiction wasn’t their fault.
“What kind of kid tells his parents he’s going to kill himself? That’s so Alby,” says his mom, half laughing, half crying as she remembers the conversation 18 years ago.
She also remembers what she told him: That he couldn’t die. No way. She couldn’t bear it.
“At that point, that moment, it was like there was a crack in the dam that had been keeping me from seeing how much I’d been hurting my family and friends,” Zweig recalls. “That dam broke and I decided I was going to give this probation a real shot.”
Mother and son went that day to put him on a waiting list for a methadone clinic at Denver Health. Over about four years, the methadone helped him stay off heroin. He got jobs as a tree trimmer and working the front desk of a Residence Inn whose manager let him use a hotel room before each shift to shower. Zweig worked at regaining the trust of his family and friends. And he learned to get comfortable accepting the support of the public defender, social worker, methadone clinic worker, probation officer and judge who – working together as part of the drug court’s program – were invested in his recovery.
“Once I stopped using, I felt carried along by people, by the system. It’s hard to explain, but the way I picture it is like a river. If you flow with the river, everything is easy, effortless. And if you go against it, everything seems impossibly difficult. I don’t really take credit for what happened to me. I just finally let myself be supported.”
With characteristic candor, Zweig disclosed his drug history when he decided to apply for law school. In hindsight, he thinks his drug past may have helped far more than his college grades or LSAT scores. His classmates at the University of Denver chose him in 2002 to give their commencement speech in which he reminded his classmates that every one of them had benefited from the help of others, and therefore were obligated to give back to the community.
Zweig at first decided not to practice, convinced that law “drains everything it touches of its magic.” About four years after law school, after stints in a graduate program in public policy and a job as a private investigator, he took the bar exam and passed. Then he had to convince the state bar to admit him despite his criminal record. Zweig snagged a job in the same public defenders office that had advocated for him. Soon after, he was sitting in his boss’s office when a call came that Denver was revamping its drug court and would need a public defender. Something clicked.
“I wanted to be that guy representing those clients. I pestered my boss, Charlie Garcia, for about a week to put me in drug court,” he says of an assignment that many of his more ambitious colleagues tried their hardest to avoid.
The work was close to home and the clients familiar. He says he rarely meets a client whose addiction doesn’t make sense. “There’s a certain type who becomes an addict. They’re really sweet, sensitive people who feel really deeply. It’s because of that that the drugs work with them. It’s rare that I meet an addict that I’m not empathetic with.”
Despite many of his similarities with his clients, though, he knows he has had many advantages that they don’t have – a college education, a supportive family, no mental health issues and the fact that he is white.
Defending addicts put Zweig in some tough spots. It was his job to get them help for their addictions if they wanted it. But for the many who didn’t, his role was to advocate his hardest to keep them out of jail and, in effect, leave them out on the streets, where he knew they’d just continue using.
“It was hard because part of my job was to enable them,” he says. “Now, as a magistrate, I can say ‘Try this even if you don’t want to try this.’ If they say no, I’m going to say, ‘I’m requiring you to try this, even if you don’t want to because we’re going to do it my way.”
Hyatt says he appointed Zweig not for his personal history — “as interesting and inspiring as it is” — but because he was the “most experienced, knowledgeable and outstanding candidate out of dozens upon dozens of applications.”
“It would have been very hard not to hire him,” he says.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's Time To Repeal the Death Penalty in Colorado

Action Needed before Noon on Tues, March 19th

Sponsors:  Senators Guzman (D), M. Carroll (D) and Representatives Levy (D), Melton (D), Priola (R)
CCJRC is part of the statewide coalition led by Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Foundation in support of House Bill 13-1264.
We urge CCJRC members to add their voice and effort to help make Colorado the 19th state in the country to abolish the death penalty.  In doing so, Colorado would join Maryland which last week became the sixth state in six years to pass legislation ending capital punishment.  
In 2009, a bill to repeal the death penalty in Colorado passed the House of Representatives (by one vote) but was defeated in the Senate (by one vote).   We need to make sure that doesn’t happen again!

Action Needed before noon on Tues, March 19, 2013

CHAIR: Rep. Daniel Kagan (D) (HD 3-Arapahoe): 303-866-2921 repkagan@gmail.com
VICE-CHAIR: Rep. Pete Lee (D) (HD 18-El Paso):303-866-2932 pete.lee.house@state.co.us
Rep. John Buckner (D) (HD 40-Arapahoe): 303-866-2944 john.buckner.house@state.co.us
Rep. Lois Court (D) (HD 6-Denver): 303-866-2967 lois.court.house@state.co.us
Rep. Bob Gardner (R) (HD 20-El Paso): 303-866-2191 bob.gardner.house@state.co.us
Rep. Polly Lawrence (R) (HD 39-Douglas, Teller):303-866-2935 polly.lawrence.house@state.co.us
Rep. Mike McLachlan (D) (HD59-La Plata, Archuleta, Gunnison, Ouray, Hinsdale, San Juan):
Rep. Carole Murray (R) (HD 45-Douglas): 303-866-2948 murrayhouse45@gmail.com
Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D) (HD 28-Jefferson): 303-866-2939 brittany.pettersen.house@state.co.us
Rep. Joe Salazar (D) (HD 31-Adams): 303-866-2918 joseph.salazar.house@state.co.us
Rep. Jared Wright (R) (HD 54-Mesa, Delta): 303-866-2583 jared.wright.house@state.co.us

As fellow human beings, when a person is murdered we grieve for the victim and their loved ones.  We pray that they find strength and peace and that they are surrounded by love, compassion, and support.  Some will also pray for the person who committed the murder and their devastated loved ones.  The ripple effect of trauma and suffering is incalculable.
When the death penalty is sought and imposed it is done so in the name of The People of the State of Colorado.  For most of us, we have an opinion one-way-or-the-other but we’re removed from the process and go about our lives largely unaffected.

However, having the death penalty requires that some people be active participants in the “machinery of death”– regular people sitting as jurors will have their lives invaded by the responsibility of deciding who lives and who dies -- defense attorneys will fight to the core of their existence to keep their client alive, whether s/he is guilty or not – and medical and prison staff who must perform the execution are turned into killers. This is what we require of some people because The People of the State of Colorado have the death penalty.  So, the ripple effect of trauma and suffering expands….

HB13-1264 would repeal the death penalty as a sentencing option in future cases. This is our opportunity to say, Not In My Name, as part of the community that is The People of the State of Colorado.

The death penalty will never be consistently or fairly applied.  
Colorado has executed 103 people since 1859.  A 102 of them were executed before the US Supreme Court struck down almost all state death penalty laws in 1972, including Colorado’s. Our last execution was in 1997.  There are currently three men on death row in Colorado.  All three are African-American and all were convicted in Arapahoe County’s 18th Judicial District. A University of Denver law school study found that 92% of Colorado’s first-degree murder cases between 1999 and 2010 met the criteria for a death sentence.  However, prosecutors sought a death sentence in only 3 percent of the cases and a death sentence was imposed in only 0.6 percent of cases. http://www.denverpost.com/commented/ci_22793170?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com#2928675

We don’t need the death penalty to serve the ends of justice
If the death penalty is repealed, a person convicted of first degree murder would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.   According to the Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Foundation, in Colorado, it costs 20 times as much to prosecute a capital murder case as it costs to prosecute a first degree murder case where the death penalty is not sought. This does not include the cost of hearing appeals that can stretch for years and even decades.

Executing an innocent person is a risk we can completely avoid doing again
Several people executed in Colorado avowed their innocence – although it is impossible to know if that’s true.  However, in 2011 then-Governor Bill Ritter granted a full and unconditional posthumous pardon to a severely developmentally disabled man, Joe Arridy, who was executed in 1939.  Governor Ritter stated in his press release that he granted the pardon on the basis that there was a great likelihood that he was innocent and that although a pardon wouldn’t undo this tragic event, “[i]t is  in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name.”
Two other men know the fallible of the criminal justice system all too well.  Tim Masters was convicted in 1999 in Ft. Collins of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.  His conviction was vacated and he was exonerated in 2011 based on evidence indicating that he was innocent of the crime.  Similarly, Robert Dewey was convicted in 1996 in Grand Junction of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. His conviction was vacated in 2012 based on evidence that proved his innocence.

It’s time to stop tinkering with the machinery of death
In the effort to have “humane” executions, the method of execution has changed from hanging, to asphyxiation in a gas chamber, to lethal injection.  Court decisions have deemed unconstitutional the execution of juveniles or those who are severely developmentally disabled.
In order to address concerns about “unfairness” and “inconsistency”, the decision to impose a life or death sentence was changed by the Colorado legislature in 1995 from a unanimous vote of the jury to a three-judge panel. The three-judge panel law was deemed unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2003 and the three death sentences that had been imposed by a panel of judges were all converted to life sentences.
US Supreme Court Justice, Harry A. Blackmun, a life-long Republican and conservative jurist dissented in the opinion in 1972 that invalidated capital punishment (Furman v. Georgia) and voted to reinstate the death penalty in 1976 (Gregg v. Georgia). In 1994, shortly before his retirement from the US Supreme Court, Justice Blackmun announced that he now believed that the death penalty was unconstitutional, in all circumstances.

``From this day forward, I no longer will tinker with the machinery of
death.  For more than 20 years I have endeavored -- indeed, I have
struggled, along with a majority of this Court -- to develop procedural
and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of
fairness to the death penalty endeavor...  Rather than continue to coddle
the Court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been
achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and
intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty
experiment has failed.  It is virtually self-evident to me now that no
combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save
the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies.  The
basic question -- does the system accurately and consistently determine
which defendants `deserve' to die?  -- cannot be answered in the
affirmative...  The problem is that the inevitability of factual, legal,
and moral error gives us a system that we know must wrongly kill some
defendants, a system that fails to deliver the fair, consistent and
reliable sentences of death required by the Constitution.''
-- Supreme Court Justice Harry A.  Blackmun (1994)
For more information:
History of the Death Penalty in Colorado, by University of Colorado Professor Michael Radelet http://pdweb.coloradodefenders.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=151&Itemid=103
Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Foundation http://www.coadp.org/
National Coalition Against the Death Penalty http://www.ncadp.org/

Friday, March 15, 2013

DOC Monthly Population Reports * Feb 2013

Doc Monthly Population Reports

DOC Dashboard

Prison space should match our needs (poll) | prison, government, story - OUR VIEW - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Prison space should match our needs (poll) | prison, government, story - OUR VIEW - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

If we want more prison cells, empty or full, we simply need to pay for them. It is no more complicated than that, as seen in a recent government transaction documented in The Gazette by Colorado Public News.
The story tells of Gov. John Hickenlooper and members of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee negotiating a deal in 2012 to give 3,300 prisoners, at $20,000 each, to Corrections Corporation of America to keep the company from closing one or more of its Colorado prisons. The state’s incarceration rate has declined at a faster-than-expected rate, along with crime rates, and space is in surplus at Colorado’s 24 state-owned and private prisons.
Private-sector profits make this country great. Nothing is more fair and benevolent than an economic system that rewards merit. Because of potential profits, individuals and groups are able to fund research that cures diseases. We find and produce energy in pursuit of profits. Entrepreneurs work days and nights, risking their homes and savings, on the hope they will profit after improving the lives of consumers. Profit generates the wealth that pays for governments to keep us free and provide common assets, such as bridges and roads, that are not always practical as private-sector undertakings.
When the public wants more and better smartphones, they get them because of the efforts of people who seek profits. Everyone wins.
But not all profit is virtuous. Just as profit motive can provide a surplus of cars, it can provide surpluses we do not want.
Private prisons run on a profit motive that creates a perverse incentive for governments to supply prisoners. Politicians don’t want closure of private prisons because it means layoffs in communities that depend on these institutions to provide good jobs.
Coloradans, and those in the state government they pay to serve them, should be delighted that incarceration rates are plummeting. Colorado’s prison population is 20,140, about the level state officials expected two years from now, after crime rates dropped by a third in the past decade. The state has 1,000 empty prison beds throughout its facilities and the number rises by about 100 each month. Coupled with crime reduction is a bipartisan decision to improve the state’s sentencing structure in a manner designed to spend less money feeding and housing offenders who pose minimal risk to public safety.
The logical response to less need for prison space should be fewer prisons. Two half-full prisons can become one full prison and a decommissioned prison.
We can find no aspect of incarceration, a necessary evil, that serves as legitimate economic development. Some individuals must lead part or all of life behind bars and that may never change. While incarcerated, a person lives as a liability to the public. A person in prison costs an economy more wealth than a prisoner can possibly produce. If prisons benefit the economy, we should build more of them immediately. They do not.
Yes, prisons create jobs for wardens, guards and maintenance workers. But their wages come from private-sector revenues that could otherwise fund endeavors that grow the money, create good jobs, pay taxes and spread the wealth through voluntary, mutually beneficial transactions.
Unlike a private prison owner, governments benefit from declining prison populations. To a politician, fewer prisoners should be seen as more money for bridges, roads, education and other investments that move society forward.
To a private prison operator, fewer prisoners means cause for panic. That’s why CCA pays lobbyists to keep prisoners coming. CCA lobbyist Mike Feeley helped broker the multimillion-dollar deal to keep the company’s prisons on life support.
With Colorado’s enviable incarceration decrease, CCA makes less money. It mothballed its Walsenburg facility in 2010 because of a lack of prisoners. The Pueblo Chieftain reported in March of 2012 that CCA had threatened to shut down another prison, most likely its half-full facility in Burlington, if the state could not supply more prisoners and/or money. The Chieftain quoted Hickenlooper’s chief of staff, Roxane White, explaining the need for up to $15 million to keep Colorado’s private prisons in business.
We respect that politicians want to delay closure of prisons that will create hardships for communities that depend on them for payrolls. No one wants anyone to lose a job at a time like this.
But we must reduce our prison space, as quickly and painlessly as possible, to match demand.
We should pay for no more incarceration than we need to punish criminals and keep the public safe. Let’s free the hard-earned capital of Colorado taxpayers. They could use it to create wealth and jobs that make more sense

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Crime Lab Scandal Leave Mass. Legal System in Turmoil

A scandal in a Massachusetts crime lab continues to reverberate throughout the state's legal system. Several months ago, Annie Dookhan, a former chemist in a state crime lab, told police that she messed up big time. Dookhan now stands accused of falsifying test results in as many as 34,000 cases.
As a result, lawyers, prosecutors and judges used to operating in a world of "beyond a reasonable doubt" now have nothing but doubt.
Already, hundreds of convicts and defendants have been released because of the scandal. Now, the state's highest court may weigh in on how these cases should be handled.
"I don't think anyone ever perceived that one person was capable of causing this much chaos," says Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrisey, one of many DAs now digging through old drug cases, trying to sort out how many should now be considered tainted.
"You can see the entire walls full of boxes," Morrissey says, gesturing at dusty files piled six feet high in a conference room near his office. "In one of these cardboard boxes, there could be hundreds of cases ... in each box."
The cases represent nearly a decade's worth of work that could take years and tens of millions of dollars to review.
For Prosecutors, 'Unsettling And Maddening'
In Massachusetts, special courts have already heard hundreds of cases of convicts and defendants arguing they were denied due process. Their evidence, they argue, was handled — or mishandled — by Annie Dookhan.
In a recent hearing, public defender Julieann Hernon is arguing for release of a man charged with selling cocaine and heroin in a school-zone to an undercover officer. Hernon recites a list of alleged misconduct by Dookhan.
"It was, we now know, mistesting evidence, drylabbing evidence, saying she had conducted tests when she had not, deliberately tainting drugs," she says.
Hernon's client had pleaded guilty, but now, Hernon says, he should be allowed to take it back.

Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey is reviewing thousands of files to determine which cases must be thrown out or retried because of potentially tainted evidence.

"Certainly, I think, we have to presume a taint here when Annie Dookhan was the chemist in the case," Hernon tells the judge.
The whole dynamic in court has now flipped in Massachusetts. Defendants tend to smile while prosecutors watch their cases crumble. Today, Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Tom Finigan tells the court that the Commonwealth will not oppose Hernon's motion.
"It's unsettling and maddening, because you're now going to have a lot of people get released to the street prematurely," says Middlesex County District attorney Gerry Leone, one of many hoping the state supreme court will curb the releases.
While some defendants could still be on the hook for gun or assault charges, for example, he says most drug cases where Dookhan was the primary chemist will be impossible to re-prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
But Leone says it's unclear where to draw the line. Some offenders, he says, are just trying to jump on the bandwagon, arguing that every test from that lab should be considered tainted.
"If someone's in jail, they're doing downtime," Leone says. "So there's no reason to try to file something that gets you back before the court."
In another recent case, defense attorney William Sullivan successfully argued to withdraw a client's guilty plea in a case where Dookhan was a secondary chemist.
"This is a lab that was pretty much wholly and fully contaminated by Ms. Annie Dookhan," Sullivan told the judge. "She had full access to everyone's drugs."
While the judge decided in his client's favor, Sullivan is quick to add that clients like his also have plenty of reason to be bitter.
"The tragedy is that he's already did four years on this," Sullivan says. "I mean, that is disturbing in itself."
Other defendants have lost jobs, driver's licenses, kids and marriages, and many have been deported. And in federal court, many defendants received stiffer sentences, because of prior state convictions based on evidence from Annie Dookhan.

Death Penalty in Colorado to be debated

The Denver Post

First they scored with guns, then civil unions. Now, Colorado's Democratic lawmakers are ready to go for a hot-button-issue hat trick: repealing the state's death penalty.
It's been tried before — the 2009 effort died by one vote. But when death penalty opponents introduce legislation this time, as they plan to soon, they will employ a revamped strategy that relies less on arguments of morality and compassion than on dollars-and-cents and fairness. And they will call on a strange-bedfellows collection of voices, including prosecutors and victims' families, to carry their message.
People like Bob Autobee.
In 2002, Autobee's son, Eric Autobee, was murdered by an inmate at the Limon prison where he worked.
Autobee was a corrections officer himself, and a self-described tough-on-crime guy. But as the effort to have his son's killer join the three others on Colorado's death row dragged on, Autobee said he soured on the death penalty, so much so that he has become a spokesman for anti-death-penalty forces.Autobee said that when prosecutors initially wanted the death penalty for Edward Montour, "I said, 'Sure that seems like justice.' "
Mountour was convicted of killing Jason Autobee, and a judge sentenced him to death. That sentence was overturned; a higher court ruled only a jury could impose death. By last August, Bob and Lola Autobee wrote to then-District Attorney Carol Chambers that they were exhausted and no longer wanted to be involved in the case.
"It is a helpless feeling to see the constant continuance of court proceedings and hearings and the wasteful use of taxpayer money in trying a case that shows no true end in sight . . ." they wrote.
Now, Bob Autobee said he is a reluctant voice for death penalty foes. "I want to get away from this issue and go on with my life but I have to do what's right for my son."
Hearings on Montour's future continue; prosecutors continue seeking the death penalty.
In a statement released by his office, District Attorney George Brauchler, Chambers' successor, said: "While all murders are tragic, some are truly heinous. Execution should remain a potential sentence for the very most culpable, calculated, and cold-blooded killers."
In their current effort, Colorado Democrats find hope in the fact that Gov. John Hickenlooper's pro-death-penalty stance has wavered lately. They also will rely on the Democratic majority that put through gun restrictions and civil unions.
But one key Democrat in the gun-control debate isn't expected to line up with the party this time.
The killers of Rep. Rhonda Fields' son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe, are two of the three men now on Colorado's death row. The couple was killed because they were set to testify in another murder case.
Rhonda Fields declined to comment for this story. In December she told The Denver Post she wants the death penalty question put to voters. "I believe that society must be protected, and the voters should decide the fate of capital punishment," she said.
Sen. Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat who will sponsor the Senate version of the repeal bill, also experienced the murder of a family member. Her father was 73 when he was shot during a robbery at a gas station where he worked.

Guzman said the bill won't make exceptions for certain types of victims, and won't be retroactive. She also said she disagrees with Fields on who should decide the issue. "We're the elected trustees of this state and we should perform our duties to the best of our abilities," she said.

In a December Denver Post poll, 52 percent of respondents said they would abolish the death penalty; 43 percent would keep it, and 5 percent were unsure.

Since 2007, five states have abolished the death penalty. Maryland lawmakers are considering the same.
While tactics used by death penalty opponents shift, supporters' arguments don't waver.
In a January commentary in The Colorado Observer, Rep. Frank McNulty, R- Highlands Ranch, summed it up: ". . . the fear of losing one's own life if one takes another life does save lives. The fear of death prevents future murder victims."

Even death penalty opponents concede Colorado is no Texas. Gary Davis, put to death in 1997 for kidnapping, raping and murdering a Byers wife and mother, was the last person executed in the state.
A study last year by the University of Denver law school — which was commissioned by Edward Montour's attorneys — found that while the death penalty was an option in 92 percent of Colorado's first-degree murders between 1999 and 2010, it was sought only 3 percent of the time. Death was the ultimate sentence in only 0.6 percent of cases.

But that apparent arbitrariness is part of the problem, said Lisa Cisneros, of Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

She pointed out that all three men currently on Colorado's death row are African-American and all were sent there by juries in Arapahoe County, which is part of the 18th Judicial District. If Edward Montour, who is Hispanic, joins them, he would be the fourth from the 18th District.
Brauchler, through a spokeswoman declined to comment on that.

As the legislature prepares to debate the issue, Brauchler must decide whether to ask a jury to make James Holmes, accused in the Aurora theater shootings, the fifth.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Party of Prison Reform

The Party of Prison Reform

Michael Hough​—​a second-term Republican state legislator from Frederick County, Md.​—​is about as conservative as blue-state legislators come. He played a prominent role in opposing the state’s new gay marriage law, holds an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, and received a 100 percent score from the state’s business lobby.

The major focus of his legislative agenda, however, crushes any stereotypes that might come to mind, given his résumé. Hough wants to reform America’s prisons and help the more than 500,000 people who come home from correctional facilities every year.
In the past few years, he’s successfully pushed programs that offer well-behaved offenders the chance to significantly shorten their time under state supervision and that replace potentially long sentences with “swift and certain” stays in prison for failed drug tests and other slip ups. This year, he’s working to pass mental health reforms and to create a “certificate of rehabilitation” program that allows ex-offenders to present formal evidence that they’ve mended their ways.
“As a fiscal conservative, it just made sense to me. We spend a lot on prisons,” he says. “On a human level, I know that people sometimes just get trapped in addiction.”
Hough isn’t alone. Around the country, dozens of political leaders with rock-solid conservative credentials have begun to take a new line on crime and, particularly, the issue of reintegrating ex-offenders into society. This loose movement represents a sea change in conservative thinking and, arguably, the largest social reform effort to emerge from the right in several decades.

Monday, March 11, 2013

State pays millions as prison populations sink | prison, sink, colorado - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

State pays millions as prison populations sink | prison, sink, colorado - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO

Colorado Public News
Colorado’s governor and legislature quietly agreed last year to pay millions to a private prison company for cells the state would not need.
Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, who headed the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee at the time, said the deal was negotiated in the governor’s office. She and other legislators agreed with the plan because it delayed the threatened closure of private prisons by Corrections Corp. of America. That would have resulted in devastating job losses in several rural Colorado communities where the jails are located.
Officials knew the number of inmates had been declining in Colorado since 2009, and five state and private prisons already have closed. Projections now show that in the near future, two to 10 more state and private prisons could close, depending on the size of the facilities chosen.
In the end, officials decided to wait until after a study is completed this June, with recommendations on which ones would be most efficient to shut down.
The deal to keep sending inmates to private prisons wasted at least $2 million in state tax money, says Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
The total could be far more. The state already has 1,000 empty beds in various state prisons and that number is rising by nearly 100 a month. That includes 300 beds in cellblocks shut temporarily until the study is completed. Officials need some beds open for flexibility, but won’t say how many.
The deal gave CCA a written promise of 3,300 prisoners, at $20,000 each, for the fiscal year that ends this June. Details were hashed out a year ago during meetings between the governor’s office, CCA and its Colorado lobbyist, Mike Feeley.
Eric Brown, spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said, “The General Assembly and the governor agreed to have a year where no other communities were affected by a prison closure” due to uncertainty about the number of prisoners and the impact of closing other prisons last year.
CCA said in an email that the agreement with state officials was part of its “flexibility to manage their changing needs.” CCA also pointed out that it provides 600 jobs in the Eastern Plains towns of Olney Springs, Burlington and Las Animas.
Department of Corrections director Tom Clements added, “I think it’s worth the time and investment to do the analysis.”
Colorado currently has 20 state-owned prisons. Another four are privately owned, including the three CCA facilities for minimum-to-medium-security inmates from Colorado and other states.
“The whole idea around private prisons was that they were overflow, that we would only use them to the extent that we needed them,” Donner said.
Donner was critical of the deal, which she noted was “negotiated behind closed doors.”
“There was no (public) hearing on this whatsoever,” said the longtime activist. “I didn’t even find out about it until way after the fact, when all of a sudden I started to see the number of people in the private prisons start to increase. And I thought, ‘That’s odd…’
“Somebody just made a comment that they had given a 3,300 bed guarantee to Corrections Corporation of America, and I was stunned.”
The state’s Joint Budget Committee staff confirmed there was no announced hearing on the decision.
The secrecy is also backed by a lack of documentation of any of the discussions that occurred between Hickenlooper’s staff, CCA and legislators. The governor’s office responded to two Colorado Open Records Act requests seeking details about the deal without providing a single record of the negotiations, or how the 3,300-prisoner figure was reached.
Asked how the governor justified making such an important and expensive decision in secret, Hickenlooper’s spokesman responded, “There is no way for the governor to send funds to a private company as a result of a backroom meeting,” because the legislature makes all funding decisions.
Office calendars for the governor, his chief of staff Roxane White and his budget director Henry Sobanet show a meeting with CCA executives and lobbyist Feeley in the governor’s offices in the morning of March 28, 2012.
That afternoon, the budget committee began an unannounced discussion of the possible shutdown of CCA’s prison in Burlington, if Colorado continued to reduce inmates there.
State Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, said he worked with the governor’s office to contract for the prison closure study, modeled on a military base closure report. It is being conducted by a contractor, without a personal stake. “We don’t want to close a prison while the study is being done,” he said at the meeting that day.
The next morning, the Pueblo Chieftain quoted chief of staff White saying CCA had threatened to cut jobs and shut a prison if it didn’t receive help. The prison in Burlington was only half-full. “CCA has said that if we don’t figure something out, they will be in a situation where they have to close a prison,” she was quoted as saying. “We need in the neighborhood of $10 million to $15 million to keep the private prisons all operational.”
Feeley, a former legislator and a Democratic powerbroker in Colorado, denied any threat to shut a prison. But he did note that everyone knew CCA had mothballed its prison in Walsenburg in 2010 for lack of inmates. “CCA really feels we’re in a partnership with the state,” which compromised on a figure that shared the pain of reduced inmates, he said.
The budget committee effectively signed off on the deal when it later budgeted the extra CCA funds. The legislature then approved the budget containing the payment.
Because the number of inmates in Colorado is dropping even faster than projected, the deal is costing more than expected. Legislators thought the inmate population would drop anywhere from 160 to 1,256 by this June. Instead, the total fell by far more – 1,700 by February. The current population of 20,140 is close to where legislators thought the state would be two and a half years from now.
Colorado has fewer prisoners largely because the crime rate has dropped by a third in a decade. The state also changed its sentencing structure, and has allowed prisoners to earn more time off for good behavior.