Colorado Jail Stories

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1 The Reality of Pre-Trial Detention: Colorado Jail Stories Report Sponsored By: Colorado Criminal Defense Institute

2 As we speak, close to three quarters of a million people reside in America s jail system... Across the country, nearly two thirds of all inmates who crowd our county jails - at an annual cost of roughly nine billion taxpayer dollars - are defendants awaiting trial.... Many of these individuals are nonviolent, non-felony offenders, charged with crimes ranging from petty theft to public drug use. And a disproportionate number of them are poor. They are forced to remain in custody - for an average of two weeks, and at a considerable expense to taxpayers because they simply cannot afford to post the bail required. Attorney General Eric Holder at the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice, ,000 People in Jail CONVICTED WAITING FOR TRIAL 2/3rds Waiting for Trial = 9Billion Dollars Taxpayer Dollars 2 Colorado Criminal Defense Institute

3 History of Bail Release from jail prior to conviction for a criminal offense respects and gives meaning to the presumption of innocence. Both the US and the Colorado Constitutions protect the right to bail prior to conviction. Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Colorado Constitution, Article II, section 19(1): All persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties pending disposition of charges... (unless certain enumerated exceptions are present, such as a capital case in which the proof is evident of presumption is great, or, in certain cases, the court finds that the public is at risk if the person were released on bail). When money is the basis for release, it is the poor who are disproportionately affected and our system of justice becomes discriminatory and fundamentally unfair. Despite robust efforts to reform the pretrial system in this country, research shows that the use of monetary bonds and the dollar amount of monetary bonds continue to increase. Colorado s bail statute is codified in Title 16, Article 4 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. It has been revised several times, most recently in 2013 when Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law H.B This Bill appears to address three distinct issues: First, to decrease the unnecessary incarceration of an unacceptable number of relatively low risk pretrial inmates who are unable to afford the financial condition of bail; second, to reduce the use of money as bail, including monetary bail bond schedules; and, third, infuse research driven, best-practices into the administration of bail. 1 [1] Schnacke, Timothy, Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices, Best Practices in Bond Setting: Colorado s New Pretrial Bail Law, July 3, 2013, p Colorado Jail Stories 3

4 The time spent in jail awaiting trial has a detrimental impact on the individual. It often means loss of a job; it disrupts family life; and it enforces idleness. Most jails offer little or no recreational or rehabilitative programs. The time spent in jail is simply dead time.... Imposing those consequences on anyone who has not yet been convicted is serious. It is especially unfortunate to impose them on those persons who are ultimately found to be innocent. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, (1972). 4 Colorado Criminal Defense Institute

5 Reality of Bail Despite Colorado s reform efforts in H.B , low risk individuals continue to be held pre-trial due to an inability to afford the cost of their bond. These are real people whose lives have been disrupted and ruined due to their pretrial incarceration. In late 2014, over a year following enactment of H.B , the Colorado Criminal Defense Institute sought to identify and interview individuals whose lives were disrupted due to an inability to post their bond. As a result of many hours of interviews, several themes became evident. Loss of Jobs and Homes Loss of Personal Belongings Disruption to Families Reliance on Public Assistance Following Release From Jail Colorado Jail Stories 5

6 STORIES Loss of Jobs and Homes Rodney I served in the Army and for the ten years before my arrest, was employed as a professional artist. I lost everything, including my art supplies, studio and everything I owned to make a living. I had an art studio within my home and at least $10,000 worth of art supplies in addition to a number of pieces of art work. Some of my art pieces were valued at, minimally, $4000. Vision, Navigation and Flight, by Rodney I lost everything, including my art supplies, studio and everything I owned to make a living. Rodney 5 Colorado Criminal Defense Institute 6

7 Loss of Jobs and Homes (continued) Deandre A Broncos player was my mentor and he was able to get me connected with the Job Corp right before I was arrested. I was on a track to hopefully pursue a football career when I turned 21 and then got arrested right after my 20th birthday. I was arrested for a felony and my bond was $50,000. I plead guilty to a misdemeanor, but now I m not sure if I ll be able to get into the Job Corp again since I lost my chance. Jesse I had a job installing carpet for the past six years and an apartment I rented with my girlfriend. My bond was first $10,000, then the judge made it $5,000 but I still couldn t post it. By the time I got to court to get my bond reduced, I was evicted from my apartment. My girlfriend also got evicted because I made more money and she couldn t afford the rent by herself. Joaquim I started a small moving company and worked another job to help make ends meet. My wife and son and I were able to move to a larger condominium recently since I was doing well. I spent almost all my time working, with my family and attending church. Now, my wife is having problems paying the mortgage and is worried she will lose the house. Craig I have worked as an electrician and handyman for many years and was doing pretty well, especially since I had a steady contract doing janitorial services for a theater. I lost the contract and all my other clients found someone else to do the job while I was in jail. Colorado Jail Stories 7

8 STORIES Loss of Personal Belongings Rodney During the ten months I was incarcerated before trial, I lost my home, all my worldly possessions including furnishings and clothing. I also lost my entire art studio and all the pieces of artwork contained within my home studio, valued at more than $20, Kristopher I lost both of my jobs and the apartment I was living in, including everything I owned at the apartment. I had lived in this apartment for six month and was definitely getting back on my feet and everything I owned was put out on the street as part of the eviction. I didn t even own a pair of shoes when I was released from the jail. Ray I got kicked out of my apartment as my roommate needed someone who could pay the rent. I had a dog that was more like a therapy dog for me, and owned a lot of haircutting supplies, which was a side job for me for many years. My girlfriend had to sell my dog. All of my personal belongings, including my haircutting supplies, were stolen since no one was keeping an eye on them. Craig By the time I was released from jail I d lost all of my personal belongings, furniture, tools for my business, everything I owned. 8 Colorado Criminal Defense Institute

9 STORIES Disruption to Families Nakita Before my arrest, I was six months into a program at the Community College of Denver to get my GED. I was only 9 days from taking the test and hopefully getting my GED. I received SSI (disability income) because I have bipolar disorder, and I lived at home with my 8 year old son, my parents, and my siblings. I haven t seen my son in over two months since my arrest and have no idea when I will see him again. He is confused and worried about me. If I want to take the class for my GED, I have to start all over with the 6 month program and pay the $45 fee again. I have a home to go back to, which is more than others have, but I ll have to start over on the things I was working on to better my life. Joaquim The biggest problem is that my 6 year old son doesn t understand where I went and is very scared and depressed that I m not home anymore. I haven t seen my son in over two months since my arrest and have no idea when I will see him again. He is confused and worried about me. Nakita Colorado Jail Stories 9

10 STORIES Reliance on Public Assistance Following Release From Jail Rodney When I was released on probation ten months later, I was forced to live in a transitional homeless program. After months and months of networking and use of a community art gallery, I was able to finally rebuild my art studio. Today, I am once again an accomplished artist with a home and studio, but this took a great deal of time and public resources in order for me to rebuild what I lost after I was arrested and unable to post bond. Kristopher When I was sentenced, the judge at first gave me work release, but since I lost my job when I was arrested, I wasn t able to do work release and instead did a straight jail sentence. This means when I get out I will have to start over completely and my family isn t in a position to help me out.... took a great deal of time and public resources in order for me to rebuild what I lost after I was arrested and unable to post bond. Rodney 410 Colorado Criminal Defense Institute

11 Reliance on Public Assistance Following Release From Jail (continued) Ray I was getting paid about $13 per hour when I was arrested. I probably could have posted a $10,000 bond, but the judge set my bond at $50,000 and I didn t have the money to make this bond. Although I was originally charged with a felony, I plead guilty to a misdemeanor but had to spend five months in jail before I resolved my case. Craig If I had gotten a PR bond, I could have kept my clients and work contracts, would have hired a private attorney instead of relying on a public defender paid for by the tax payers, and would have maintained my home. I could have posted a $10,000 bond and had many friends and family in the community so I wasn t going to jump bond. For some reason, I was never able to get a bond reduction. It s been almost six months since I got out of jail and I m still trying to rebuild my life. Jesse While I was in jail, my girlfriend had nowhere to put my belongings, so they ended up on the street and she ended up in a shelter. When I get out of jail I am going to have to live in a shelter too. If I had gotten a PR bond, I could have kept my clients and work contracts, would have hired a private attorney instead of relying on a public defender paid for by the tax payers, and would have maintained my home. Craig Colorado Jail Stories 11

12 The Colorado Criminal Defense Institute is a non-profit organization operating in conjunction with the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar for the purpose of promoting justice and best practices in all matters relating to the Colorado criminal justice system. The organization concentrates on the education of criminal justice practitioners and the development of policy that is based on evidence and research while respecting the constitutional rights and dignity of all persons. With the support of the Public Welfare Foundation and the Colorado criminal defense community, CCDI has played a critical role in pretrial reform efforts in Colorado and will continue to work to implement best practices throughout Colorado Colorado Criminal Defense Institute ccdinstitute.org

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