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.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Children deserve legal standing when parents are sentenced

Children deserve legal standing when parents are sentenced

The current answer is “no.” The answer should be “yes.”

Today, the well-being of a defendant’s children is close to
irrelevant in criminal courtrooms. Institutional indifference to
children is official policy. This is the most profound legal error in
the last 35 years, the mistake that made mass imprisonment possible.

Criminal courts produce millions of orphans every year using
procedures that weigh only the interests of adults in the courtroom.
This is a profoundly ignorant way for a bureaucracy to act. Removing a
mother or father from a child’s life is a not mere “side effect”of the
day’s procedure; it is an “effect,” often the most important thing that
will happen that day.

Children deserve rights — legal rights, established in law — to end their mistreatment in criminal courts.

In domestic courts, the “best interest of the children” is the trump
card standard that overrides almost all other adult needs in divorce and
custody cases. In criminal courts, defendant’s children are treated as
trash in the back row.

This difference is legally shameful and morally indefensible.

A child is not a “get out of jail free” card. But neither is a
parent’s offense a license for the state to impose any amount of harm on
an innocent victim. The child did not commit the crime. The child did
not forfeit any legal rights.

The criminal justice system mechanistically, one case at a time,
orphans millions of children every year. Today, 2.7 million children
under 18 have a parent behind bars, reports
the Pew Charitable Trusts. One in 9 African American children has an
imprisoned parent, up from one in 38 in 1980. The cumulative toll of all
those who’ve lost a parent, temporarily or permanently, to imprisonment
runs in the tens of millions, disproportionately poor and
disproportionately people of color.

Yet the legal system doesn’t consider itself responsible for the
devastating consequences of its actions. It doesn’t even appear
institutionally aware of its role in destroying families as a matter of policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a 65 year old woman married for 44 years to the same man who will be 68 years old next month. Our son was sentenced to seven years in the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) last August. The mother of one of his children was sentenced to three years in DOC about the same time. The mother of the other child was (and still is) strung out on meth-amphetamines. After 20 months of offering the parents the opportunity to go to drug rehab programs to get off meth (which none did), the court terminated the parental rights and my husband and I adopted the two children.

The parents of these children had every opportunity to go to rehab and avoid a DOC sentence but they chose not to do it. These children should not be kept in limbo waiting year after year for their parents for clean up their acts or have the court send these children to foster or "kinship" homes for many years until the parents figure things out, if they ever do, and then expect the children to go back to parents they don't even know anymore.