The case of Ankeney vs Raemisch the courts were asked to review the practice of earned time and good time credits applied to a person's sentence. After all the arguments, after all the "fact finding". The only thing we know is this...we still don't know how it works and that these credits towards a person's sentence can be applied based on interpretation. Read on......thanks Alan Prendergast from Westword.
"I think the Court of Appeals had it exactly right and the Supreme Court has it exactly wrong," says Ankeney attorney Lane. "But they are wearing the black robes and I am not.... A legislative fix is in order because I don't think the Supreme Court realizes what the legislature wanted when they passed the good time statute.":
For years now the issue of criminal justice reform has been boiling on the back burner, in this state and in this nation. Advocates for those held behind razor wire, in concrete buildings with tiny windows, have been using their voice to tell of the atrocities inside those buildings. Some have seen it with their own eyes, some have witnessed the despair, walked the echoing halls of cement and linoleum, seen the faces peering from behind iron doors. Others have taken up the cause for other reasons but the cry is the same from them all. How can we, as a nation, stand by while millions of our citizens are destroyed in this system we call justice?
We, as citizens, have called on the legislators of this nation to begin these changes with the most vulnerable of all that we condemn, our children. We have asked legislators to consider if what we are doing is RIGHT. We have asked them to consider the morality and social justice of our current laws. When that went nowhere the brave freedom fighters of our time waged a battle in the courts fighting all the way to the highest court in the land. They heard the pleas, they heard the arguments and stories of these youth. They considered all the information from psychologists, behavior specialists and they considered the constitution and found that we were indeed a cruel nation. The highest court in this land declared that the practices of justice concerning juveniles offenders was cruel and unusual and the laws in our states were unconstitutional.
Still nothing changes, still our nation drags its feet. For some reason state governments are unwilling to let go of their power to condemn, to harm and destroy, to torture its citizens. In spite of the law, in spite of the constitution. Some of you may be thinking to yourselves that the statements made are unwarranted and a little over dramatic so let me paint a picture for you.
A boy endures 14 years of abuse at the hands of his parents, the ones responsible for his safety and care. His life has been filled with violence, hate, anger and his body bears the scars, his heart yearns for a safe place. The cries have gone out time and again for help, for someone to save him but no one hears. The evidence of these pleas follow him from place to place until finally one day he realizes his survival is in his own hands. He picks up a gun and commits murder. Then this child who has been terrorized his whole life is handcuffed, thrown into an isolation cell, pulled from this cell to courtrooms to interrogations rooms. He is terrified...again and again...not understanding what is happening or what will happen to him. The names he has been called all his life, worthless, disposable, useless are written across his case files along with violent murderer but no one spoke words about the things he already endured. He is fitted with clothes too big for him, shackled and chained and left alone to try and navigate through a world doling out more abuse. Finally condemned and sentenced he is left alone. Totally alone with an emptiness of sole, a void unbearable to imagine. The child is finally destroyed.
A boy of 16 is 10 foot tall and bulletproof. He has his drivers licence, a car and some money in his pocket. He is finally going to have the time of his life. Off to party with friends, take his friends for a ride believing he has arrived. He turns the corner in his car, the music blasting, beer swirling in his brain, laughter and jokes filling the air and suddenly everything crashes in. An accident, a terrible accident and everything goes from bright colors to dark terror. His friends are injured, he is bleeding, the car is totaled and then he finds out that in the other vehicle someone died. Someone died. The boy that was ten feet tall suddenly shrinks to a child, sobbing as he is yanked from the curb, cuffs slapped on his wrists, he is screaming for his dad wondering what in the world is happening. His father is helpless, his son ripped from him and he cannot save him or protect him. This child is treated as a monster, called a monster, ripped from life and shackled, thrown into an isolation cell. The lights are on all day and night, no understanding of time, no knowledge of the day, not understanding what is happening or where he will be yanked to next. Terrorized, bewildered and confused he is brought into court. He cannot respond, he is in shock, the world spinning before him and a series of voices bouncing in his head, the prosecutor jabs a finger in his direction and shouts, "You see he shows no remorse!" Remorse? He doesn't even know where he is or how he got there...it is all a nightmare...we have terrorized another child.
In this city there is a neighborhood where no one travels unless you know the streets. Poverty, violence, drugs and oppression can be felt in the atmosphere. Boys become men on these streets. They are given a different rite of passage than the rest of us. It is called survival. A boy is given a gun and he is told he will need this if he is to stay alive. He believes it. He has watched neighbors and friends die. He has seen his friends beaten, harassed and intimidated. He holds the gun in his hand and looks it over. It is heavy and he doesn't like the way it feels but he carries it anyway as he leaves his house. He stands with his friends on the street talking about cars, girls and listening to music. A car rounds the corner and loud explosions come from inside the vehicle. He reaches into his pocket and finds the cold steel in his hand. He pulls the trigger for the first time, he has never shot a gun before. It kicks back against his hand and jolts his arm. As the explosions stop, as the crashing and screaming come to a halt, he looks and finds bodies on the ground, a car crushed against another vehicle and the screaming starts again. Mothers, families run to the streets wailing for the death that has just covered the street. The boy is grabbed, handcuffed and whisked away. He is thrown in an isolation cell. What just happened? Surely he didn't hurt anyone, he wasn't even good with a gun. How could he have hit anything? Then he finds out his gun, his hand, took the life of another boy. His gun. Everything spins out of control. His mama weeping, cops yelling at him, chains on his ankles, and the finger of the prosecutor jabbed at him, "You see he shows no remorse! He is a violent young man! A danger to this city!" No, he is a boy caught in a nightmare...we have terrorised another child. The destruction on the street that day claimed everyone, every family as it's victim and took a piece of the soul of the city.
It is true that the behavior of our children needs to be held in check. Yes, behaviors that are on a path of destruction need to be arrested by the authority of the adults in the community. Yes, children have a tendency to try everything once even when we warn them about the potential harm and sometimes the consequences are devastating. Sometimes they really screw up and there is no way to repair the damage. They are kids, they are impetuous, careless, adventurous and daring. They act without thinking, they follow without looking ahead, they believe they are immune to consequences and they try to fly without parachutes; drive without brakes and climb without ropes. As parents we have followed behind them with every step trying to prevent their falls and catching them when they do. Then something unimaginable happens. Something beyond our comprehension. When these things happen are we not supposed to continue acting as the parents, as the adults and find a way to get these kids back on the right course? Or are we to look in their faces and tell them they are beyond our help, that they cannot be salvaged and therefore must be locked away for the rest of their lives?
Prison doesn't work. It costs all of us too much and destroys our quality of life. The governments of our states, at the encouragement of prosecutors, have sought the harshest punishment in the most inhumane conditions to satisfy a false justice. Justice without compassion is vengeance. Compassion without justice is unmerited mercy. A nation whose base moral value declares Divine Forgiveness takes retribution and vengeance into its own hands believing that the creator of the heavens and the universe needs a hand in meting out justice. The conditions inside of prisons, the dehumanisation endured by kids, men and women condemned by us are atrocities that will go down in the annals of time as barbaric. The torture inflicted upon human beings not only destroys them but it destroys us. It takes us back to our base animal nature, our self-centered territorial possession and need to control and harm and brutalize anything that comes against us.
So today we, as the citizens of this state and this nation stand and tell lawmakers no more. We do not care about politics or careers or election platforms. Prison doesn't work. It costs all of us too much and destroys our quality of life. We care about our communities and the people who live in them. We care that there is poverty, violence, abuse, addiction and harm and we want to find a solution that brings healing, restoration and health. The laws and practices that our states and this nation have enacted have not worked and we don't want them. We have raised our voices, filled voicemail boxes, burned up fax machines and filled in boxes. Lawmakers have not listened and instead have continued the tired political arguments seeking to compromise justice at our expense. Lawmakers continue to play politics as if the lives and communities and futures at stake are no more than poker chips in the hands of lawmakers to be bargained with and bet in a game of chance.
Juvenile Life Without Parole is unconstitutional. Mandatory sentences for juveniles, that do not take into account juvenile disposition, is unconstitutional. Treating a child as an adult and punishing him/her as an adult is immoral. The law has to change. Lawmakers don't have a choice. The law and the constitution stands. If lawmakers continue to ignore the law and its citizens, citizens will use their right to vote to put into place those who values communities, this nation and the law.
COLORADO COURT OF APPEALS 2015COA14
Court of Appeals No. 12CA0066 Arapahoe County District Court No. 98CR2096
Honorable Marilyn Leonard Antrim, Judge
As of 2013, there were 80,000 men and women in solitary confinement in the United States, some of them as young as 14 years old. In this illustrated op-ed video, artist Molly Crabapple explains the psychological and physical trauma suffered by those forced to spend 22-24 hours a day alone — sometimes for arbitrary reasons, like reading the wrong book, or having the wrong tattoo — in a grey, concrete box. (According to the U.N. 15 days in solitary is torture.) “There is no limit to how long someone can be held in solitary confinement,” says Crabappple. “And very little evidence is needed to justify holding a person in solitary indefinitely.”
After advocating for prison reform, criminal justice reform and juvenile justice reform for 10 years there are times when I run out of new topics (for me) to write about. I can always count on the news and the media to spur me on. Thankfully the media and other advocates are starting to speak about a topic that I have long known to be the biggest obstacle in prison/justice reform and that is the free hand of District Attorney's to drive the wheels of justice (or injustice as it were).
Anyone who has been through the process of arrest, charges, jail, hearings and finally sentencing, will tell you that at no point in time is there consideration on the part of the District Attorney's office that they are wrong. In addition, any police officer or district attorney will tell you (if they speak candidly) that THEY are not required to tell the truth during questioning, during interviews or in the court room. It is all a show, a staged and scripted presentation for the jurors and the public based on their pieced together assumption of the crime. That is not true of course, in eyewitness accounts or crimes caught on film but still can be true in confessions and especially plea agreements. As a matter of fact I believe that the use and overuse of plea agreements have been the downfall of true justice.
I will use a case in point, one that I am very familiar with which is the story of Jonny. You may want to believe that his is an isolated story after I tell it but I have many others who have told the same story concerning their experience. Jonny was 17 years old when the police first spoke to him at school without an adult present, no parent was contacted and their was no legal representation. He was also 17 years old when police investigators came to his workplace and convinced him to take a ride to the police station for questioning while another officer drove his car to the station. His mother was greeted by an officer outside her place of work and told that her son was at the police station. During the 2 1/2 hours of questioning he was never given miranda rights and in spite of an alibi he was arrested. His arrest was based solely on the statement of a 16 year old. His home and his room were never searched. The district attorney, over the course of the next 2 1/2 years NEVER spoke to him. The prosecutors did not know who he was, who his family was, what kind of relationships he had, what his life was like at all. Everything they presented to the media and in the courtrooms was all fabricated based on the story they decided to tell. To this day the truth of the events of the crime are not known. In order to pressure Jonny into accepting a plea agreement for something he had minimal involvement with the prosecution charged him with 32 (that's THIRTY TWO) counts. They terrified him by telling him that they could send him away for the rest of his life. In the end they wore him down and he accepted a plea agreement. He got 68 years.....and after 2 1/2 years was finally sentenced to prison, which was all the DA wanted.
Recent findings from research shows that our current incarceration levels will not decrease with the end of the war on drugs. As a matter of fact those incarcerated on drug charges make up a very small percentage of the population of prisons. Why is that? Haven't we been told that the war on drugs was futile and we have incarcerated too many people as a result of those policies? Yes it is true. The REST of the truth is that DA's all around the country file numerous charges against almost everyone arrested to insure a conviction or to get those persons who have been arrested to agree to a plea agreement and avoid the long process of trial. Drug charges alone do not win many points for a DA but felony charges do such as "robbery" or "intent to sell" or any other charge that raises the stakes in the game.
Why would a DA "overcharge" an arrested person? For purely political gain. The more convictions the better the chances of reelection, the more publicity the better the chance of furthering a political career. It is also true that the biggest opposition to prison and sentencing reform comes from District Attorney's offices and their lobbyists. Yes you read that right...lobbyists. While many advocates and organizations have focused their energy and attention on the policies and prison sentences that came from the war on drugs; other advocates have focused on repealing the legislation that lengthened sentences or caused greater impact on sentences. Many of these efforts have been hit with great opposition....NOT from the public, but from DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S. I have long believed that we would not see meaningful reduction in incarceration rates or the elimination of harsh sentencing practices until district attorney's and their prosecutorial practices were reformed and brought under control. It is not in the interest of District Attorney's to reveal the truth of any situation...only that which supports their allegations. You can read an article on this subject here.
Then we need to consider the impact these distortions of truth, zealous prosecutions and incredible sentences have had on peoples lives and what happens when you decide to buck the system. Travion Blount (then 15) robbed some teenagers at a house party at gunpoint. His older friends took plea agreements and received sentences of 10 and 13 years. The prosecutors threw every charge they could think of at Travion and by the time he was sentenced he was looking to serve 6 life sentences...at 17 years old....for robbery.
There have been recent accusations of prosecutorial misconduct in the United States and thanks to a recent law that allows video of high court hearings, we are beginning to see just how big the issue of prosecutorial misconduct is.
Judge Alex Kozinski asked Vienna if his boss, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, wanted to defend a conviction "obtained by lying prosecutors." If Harris did not back off the case, Kozinski warned, the court would "name names" in a ruling that would not be "very pretty."
Judge Kim Wardlaw wanted to know why Riverside County prosecutors presented a murder-for-hire case against the killer but did not charge the man they said had arranged the killings.
"It looks terrible," said Judge William Fletcher.
The January hearing in Pasadena, posted online under new 9th Circuit policies, provided a rare and critical examination of a murder case in which prosecutors presented false evidence but were never investigated or disciplined
The article continues with this:
A 2010 report by the Northern California Innocence Project cited 707 cases in which state courts found prosecutorial misconduct over 11 years. Only six of the prosecutors were disciplined, and the courts upheld 80% of the convictions in spite of the improprieties, the study found. (Read the article here)
As with all things that we, as citizens of this country, are trying to comprehend and change, we need to educate ourselves, stop giving power over to political offices without accountability and DEMAND change. The lives of people are at stake and so are the futures of our communities.
BOSTON UNIVERSITY METRO COLLEGE - MASTER OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE
In the past there was a childhood development movement that states "it takes a village to raise a child". That mantra became very popular and inspired many community preschool and early intervention facilities. The truth is that it takes a village to have a healthy human....PERIOD. The need for community, for positive reinforcement, for support and to maintain a healthy psyche does not end with early childhood. We need human interaction and relationship in order to be healthy and balanced.
One of the strangest things about our incarceration practices, prison policies and the recent changes in visitation (video visits) is the fact that it seeks to destroy relationship rather than create strong healthy ones. First a person who is incarcerated may find him/herself housed in a facility 100, 200 or 300 miles from home. This makes it very difficult for families to visit on a regular basis. Visiting days are on weekends (fri, sat and sun) when many individuals may have to work. Add to that the high cost of phone communication and an incarcerated person finds that he is cut off from family. All these facts are well known and are not surprising to those of us who advocate for prison reform but I have another side of this break in relationships of persons who are incarcerated that we may not have considered before.
Think of any one of the juveniles who have been held in prison from the age of 16 or 17. He has grown up in prison, created relationships in prison and found his community in prison. Strange thought isn't it? All of his friends are people serving time in prison. Now remember that those held in prison move around. Some are released on parole. Some fail on parole and return. Some are transferred from one facility to another. Some are sent to administrative segregation. Some die. Since these young people have been inside the "prison community" for 10, 15 or 20+ years, they have met many people and made friends. They know people held in facilities all over their state and they have friends who have been paroled. These relationships help to create healthy, compassionate, honest and loyal individuals and they lend support to each other. We, on the outside of prison walls, would see that as healthy and balanced. We would be encouraged by the fact that these persons are able to establish long term healthy relationships. That is not necessarily true in the eyes of prison administrators. They are ever watchful of "friends" that hang out together all the time because they may be "gang members" or they may be inciting trouble. Prison officials are wary of relationships that were formed on the inside of prison walls and continue after a person has been released. A person held in prison must learn to walk the line between relationship and trouble because of the view prison officials and guards have on relationships formed in prison.
Now it is completely understandable and quite true that prison officials have to combat gangs and gang violence everyday inside of their facilities. The current prison model itself actually promotes prison subcultures and even creates the environment for extreme control, abuses of power and violence. It is completely within reason that measures must be taken to try and prevent the rise of gang activity in prison facilities but how do you do that without destroying the reformative benefit of human relationship?
I think the only logical answer IS relationship. For far too long prison officials and guards have operated with the "us vs them" mentality. Guards are instructed to refrain from regular interaction with persons held in their facilities. These guards are to be the enforcers and ever mindful of those boundaries. That may maintain security but it keeps the guards and officials from properly assessing and contributing to the rehabilitation of the people in their charge.
It may be time to consider a different education model for guards and prison officials. Wouldn't it be original if all of them were trained conflict managers, counselors and educators? Wouldn't it be more beneficial to establish relationship with those in their charge so that they can be the instruments of reform in the lives of those they manage every day? How about getting to know the guys, talk to them, listen to them, watch them while assessing their needs/risks?
Then prison may well become the corrections facilities they should have been when they were created.
The over diagnosis and the over medication of a childhood phenomenon called ADD or ADHD has become the largest contributing factor to lifelong propensity to addiction, violence and early death. The overly prescribed drug, Ritalin, is called kiddie cocaine. There are cases where children were taken from their parents by Child Protective Services because parents refused to put their children on these drugs at the demand of schools. There are cases where children died of heart failure after several years of use of this drug. In all cases the drug causes atrophy in the brain. When the drug causes strange behaviors in the child, instead of concluding that the drug is the cause, they medicate them further with psychotropic drugs. These drugs cause hallucinations. The power of these drugs on a child is deadly and causes great harm.
When I was a child I was curious, energetic and full of joy. I didn't like sitting still, I had things to see and do. I didn't like just waiting around for things to happen, I liked making things happen. I had within me the seeds of an inventor, the seed of an entrepreneur the seed of a creator. Those qualities are to be nurtured and directed. For some reason we have set a standard of acceptable behavior for children. Children....you know the ones who are supposed to run around the playground, ride bikes, and climb trees......are now supposed to be mini adults that sit properly and listen at all times. Seriously! What are we thinking. There are powerful stories in this video, from parents whose children have committed violent crimes as a result of these drugs. The children in the video will tell you of hallucinations, blackouts, night terrors and violent tendencies. If we want to save our children, if we want to stop juvenile violence, we have to stop drugging them.
The reports of these hallucinations and the violent tendencies are well known in medical reports. The medical communities know that these kids who have committed violent crimes as in Columbine, did so because of the drugs they had been given. Please take the time to watch this powerful video.
Last week State Supreme Courts and the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments calling for a clarification or legality of current criminal justice sentencing and parole practices. For some reason, state criminal justice systems refuse to change unless required to do so after a binding legal ruling. Why is this? Why is it that states argue and disagree about criminal justice reforms and treating those in conflict with the law fairly?
The United States Supreme Court has already handed down landmark rulings concerning the unconstitutional practice of juvenile life without parole, calling it cruel and unusual. The UN Committee on Torture agrees and has called the United States to account on it's continued use of this sentencing practice. The problem NOW is the application of this ruling retroactively. In other words states MAY agree that the sentence cannot be used going forward with new cases but refuse to address the individuals that have already been sentenced to life in prison. For me, that is very curious indeed. The cases that were heard in the Supreme Court involved individuals already sentenced and serving time in adult prisons. Surely this would mean that the ruling applied retroactively. Not so, Attorney General's offices and District Attorney's across the United States have been standing against sentencing reform policies proposed by state governments. Now states are asking the United States Supreme Court for help in settling this dispute. The case will settle, once and for all, the retroactive application of Miller.
In Colorado, reform of the Juvenile Life Without Parole sentence has been challenged and the Supreme Court Rulings have yet to be announced. In the meantime, advocates and attorneys have been working diligently to draft a reform bill that would bring Colorado into constitutional compliance with the US Supreme Court Rulings and also bring sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. Their greatest opposition is from District Attorney's and legislators who are hesitant to take ANY stance on this issue. As a matter of fact Colorado legislators have been reluctant to address any but the most menial reforms to its criminal justice system.
In addition the Colorado Supreme Court has been asked to rule on the application of earned time and good time to sentences. The complex and often misinterpreted parole and sentencing guidelines in Colorado have been challenged several times but this will be the first time that the state supreme court will have the opportunity to address this issue. This ruling could affect the time served by every inmate in this state and release many inmates who have already served their required sentence.
All of this brings me back to the original questions. Why are state governments so reluctant to make these reforms on their own? Why do they not care that the criminal justice system is unconstitutional, overzealous or just plain broken? Why do they want to be forced to change? Maybe it's politics, maybe there is no one to step forward and lead the change, maybe they really don't care, maybe they have a vested interest in things remaining the same. Whatever the reason.......CHANGE IS INEVITABLE and THE PUBLIC is calling for it.
This week is full of information concerning the impact that our current social, economic and justice practices have on children. Our child poverty statistics are an embarrassment. The number of families who are not able to make a living wage and provide for their families is an open wound that has not been healed from the last recession. The instance of homelessness for families in the United States is far too high and far too frequent. According to the Huff Post article on Oct. 29, 2014, 32.2% of children in this nation live below the poverty line and this nation has seen a 2% increase in poverty from 2008 to 2012. The United States ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthiest countries for poverty levels.
Our school policies that promote zero tolerance for any infraction have disenfranchised large groups of students, expelling them from classrooms and placing them in juvenile detention facilities. These policies will place a student in harms way for simple infractions such as refusing to follow a teacher's direction, wearing clothing that does not fall into the schools guidelines, skipping class, arguing with a teacher, having a conflict with another student and the list goes on. These students can be arrested....listen again....ARRESTED and placed into juvenile detention. These practices remove a student from the educational environment, from their families, from all things familiar and throw them into a conflict ridden, punishment driven environment that crushes them. Talk about childhood trauma!
Add to these atrocities the number of homeless youth in our nation and we should be appalled. According to national estimates there are 550,000 youth a year that are homeless for longer than a week. The average age when a youth becomes homeless is 14.7 years. Many of these youth left abusive homes, many have aged out of the foster care system and had no place to go or found themselves in a few financial hard spots on their way to independence. Many of these young people just need support and guidance as they try to navigate from youth to adulthood. We all needed that guidance! Yet, merely because of their circumstance, these kids are vulnerable to violence and conflict with law enforcement which further errodes their opportunities for a successful transition.
At the end of November, the United Nations Committee Against Torture challenged the practices of the United States concerning juvenile justice policies, solitary confinement, cruel and unusual punishment of children and prison conditions. Recent advocacy in New York has ended the practice of sending juveniles to Rikers Island after the case of the teen who had been held at Rikers for three years without a trial or conviction. Many of those kids held at Rikers were held in solitary confinement because of their age. The UN Committee Against Torture challenged the practice of solitary confinement while the United States responded that is had no sanctioned standards of practice for the use of solitary confinement. Almost all children in conflict with the law who are awaiting trial in adult court are held in solitary confinement in county jails in this country "for their own protection". Many children who have taken plea agreements or who are convicted and sentenced to adult prisons are held in solitary confinement when they arrive at prison "for their own protection". The United States is the only nation in the world who sentences it's children to life without parole. The practice of sentencing juveniles to spend the rest of their lives behind bars is in direct violation of the United Nations Convention On The Rights of The Child, an international treaty that the United States helped to draft but has refused to ratify because they want to maintain the right to throw away children.
Even the highest court of this nation seems to have no impact on the way we deal with our children. We have two powerful rulings from the highest court of the land that declare that life without parole for a child is cruel and unusual punishment and that he age, mental capacity and the ability to rehabilitate a should be considered in every individual case and that a meaningful opportunity for parole must be provided. Yet the nation, as a whole, has not moved to rectify these archaic laws and begin the process of resentencing the children (now adults) that are serving these harsh and illegal sentences. Even beyond the life without parole sentences are the THOUSANDS of children who were sentenced to the equivalent of life, serving terms of 40, 50, 60 or more years for offences that would have garnered a 15-20 year sentence for an adult.
Add to this the lack of affordable healthcare, our high infant mortality rate, the deteriorating education system, the cost of college tuitions and we have set insurmountable obstacles before our children, their survival and their success. What do we have against our kids? Why is it that we have turned away from our children, abandoning them to punishment, abuses and humiliation at our own hands? Have we forgotten that our prosperity, our heritage and our future is shaped by the way we educate, instruct and nurture our children?
It is time for the United States to humble herself, open up her heart and care about the most vulnerable of her population....her children.
"Evidently, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps isn’t enough to overcome a system that’s stacked against you." Think Progress.org
The national spotlight is on Colorado this week concerning Juvenile Justice Policy Reforms and specifically juvenile life without parole. The Colorado 48 who are serving life without parole are awaiting decisions in their individual cases and the first Colorado Supreme Court decisions after hearings this past June. While many think that it is a difficult and complex issue I want to present another view.
I believe that the reason Colorado legislators are dragging their feet has more to do with politics than it does adhering to the constitutional rulings of this nation's Supreme Court. Colorado legislators have always bowed the knee to aggressive prosecutors and lobbyists. Legislators will seek (and are more concerned with) the opinion of prosecutors and back down from any legislative reform if it appears they will meet opposition. Colorado legislators and the Governor are more concerned with the political climate than they are with the law, with justice and with the lives of the people who are impacted by their decisions.
The changes that have been made in California to their incarceration, rehabilitation and juvenile justice policies came as a result of three reasons: California was broke and so were the people, their prisons had reached dangerous capacities and the people DEMANDED change.
While the Supreme Court rulings in the state of Colorado are supposed to be based on case law and the constitution, we have seen examples in other states where the law and constitution was of no consequence. HOWEVER, we CAN require that juvenile justice reforms and just sentencing practices that adhere to the recent constitutional rulings DO become policy by DEMANDING CHANGE.
I want to thank Campaign For Youth Justice, National Juvenile Justice Network, Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, The Pendulum Foundation and all those who are working tirelessly to bring reform to this issue. The change will come.....but it will take all of us standing and requiring that our government DO it!
Please read this article from Law Week Colorado to understand the battle that is happening in this state for juvenile justice reform Two Years, No Cert, More Confusion
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