Archive for the 'criminal justice' Category

Mark Waller And “Commie Cowboys” On Devil’s Advocate This Week

Posted by on Jan 10 2013 | criminal justice, Idiot Box (TV Show), Popular Culture, PPC

Be sure and tune in to the Independence Institute’s public affairs television show Devil’s Advocate this week. First, Colorado House Minority Leader Mark Waller sits down with host Jon Caldara to talk about why it has been so hard to cut the Colorado corrections budget and close empty prisons, even as the prison population is steadily declining. Then local author Ryan McMaken comes by to discuss his new book “Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoise and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.” That’s this Friday night starting at 8:30 pm on Colorado public Television 12.

You can look up your local CPT12 channel by zip code here.

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Independence Institute Writers in the News

Posted by on Aug 13 2012 | criminal justice, denver, Growth of Government, guns, Op-eds, PPC, Right to carry, Taxes

Gun laws, tax increases and the Californication of Republicans are all topics of recently published works by Independence Institute writers.

In USA Today, the Denver Post and National Review Online, Independence Institute research director Dave Kopel makes the case for both resisting calls for expanded gun control in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting and for not inadvertently making a celebrity of the killer.

Also in the Denver Post, guest writer joshua Sharf explains that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s proposed permanent property tax increase lacks vision:

The mayor’s proposal assumes that rising home values necessarily mean rising incomes. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Denver’s weekly income fell nearly 5 percent in 2011. The mayor’s mill levy override scheme would mean an immediate property tax increase of 10 percent for households who are still finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Whole thing here.

In the Colorado Springs Gazette, senior fellow Barry Fagin advises Colorado Republican against Californicating themselves:

Do Republicans want to be like Democrats, or do they want to beat them? If Colorado is to avoid California’s fate, then Colorado should avoid California’s Republicans. They should hit economic issues much harder, and stop obsessing over problems that the federal government can’t solve, are fundamentally religious in nature, or are better addressed through cultural change and not the ballot box.

Read it all here.

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Independence Institute Writers In The News

Posted by on Jun 25 2012 | Corporate Welfare, criminal justice, Criminal Law, Drug Policy, energy, Health Care, overcriminalization, PPC

Plea bargains, corporate welfare, twinkie taxes and fracking are all topics of recently published works by Independence Institute writers.

In the Colorado Springs Gazette, frequent Independence Institute guest author Ari Armstrong examines the consequences to the right of a jury trial from having over 97 percent of Colorado’s criminal convictions be from plea bargains.  Writes Ari:

Colorado criminal statistics for the years 2006 through 2011 show that Colorado prosecutors rely on plea bargains to reach convictions an overwhelming 97.6 percent of the time, according to documents obtained by the Independence Institute through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

According to those documents, only 4,241 felony convictions resulted from a jury trial, or 2.4 percent of the total of 175,015 felony convictions. A total of 6,101 felony cases went to trial, so the conviction rate at trial was 70 percent.

Read the whole thing here.

In the Denver Post, senior fellow Fred Holden and research director Dave Kopel explain that Gaylord style corporate welfare violates the Colorado Constitution.  Fred and Dave ask:

By what authority can the state government take tax money out of your pocket and give it away to a private corporation? The answer is that corporate welfare schemes, such as so-called “public-private partnerships,” flagrantly violate the Colorado Constitution.

Check it out here.

Also in the Denver Post, Health Care Policy Center Director Linda Gorman makes the case that giving government more power to tax and control “bad” food (think twinkie tax) is offensive to liberty.  As Linda notes:

Obesity can impose costs on others, and the obvious solution is to allow people who provide services to charge the obese more when they are more costly to serve.

Full piece is here.

In the current Denver Business Journal, research associate Donovan Schafer reminds us to keep the relative risk of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemicals, Benzyne in particular, in perspective, finding that:

While Benzyne and other air pollutants shouldn’t be ignored when discussing oil and gas development. it’s important for the public to recognize the estimates and limits set by the EPA represent very small-though perhaps not insignificant-risks, and that these risks are comparable to those associated with automobile emissions, urban living and industrial activities in general.

The piece is behind the DBJ’s subscription wall, but can be read on the Independence Institute energy blog here.


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Colorado Senators Prefer Warantless Federal Raids

Posted by on May 27 2012 | congress, criminal justice, Criminal Law, Economic LIberties, overcriminalization, PPC, Thuggery

Reason magazine’s Mike Riggs reports that the U.S. Senate on Thursday voted 78-15 to table an amendment offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY.) to basically demilitarize the Food and Drug Administration. As Riggs describes it Paul’s amendment would have, among other things, “prohibited FDA employees (as well as all other Health and Human Services employees) from carrying weapons and making arrests without warrants.” The amendment would have also added a mens rea, or “guilty mind” requirement for criminal prosecution of laws and regulations the FDA enforces.

Senator Paul’s wholly legitimate beef with overreach and abuse by the FDA comes from armed FDA bureaucrats raiding Amish dairy farms, seizing property and arresting dairy farmers without warrants for selling milk directly from the cow (raw milk).

Both of Colorado’s U.S Senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennett voted in favor of tabling the amendment, and thus voted in favor of continuing warrantless raids by militarized FDA bureaucrats on farmers earning a living by engaging in peaceful commerce with willing customers.

Update: While the 15 Senators who voted in favor of due process, the Fourth Amendment and reigning in over-zealous, armed federal bureaucrats were all Republicans, a sharp eyed facebook commenter notes that 28 other Republican Senators from across the country joined with Democrats to create a supermajority in the Senate in favor of warrantless raids by the FDA. Putting Bennett and Udall in poor company indeed.

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Are Opponents Of Drug Law Reform Dishonest, Ignorant, Or Both?

Posted by on Apr 17 2012 | criminal justice, Criminal Law, Drug Policy, PPC

Senate Bill 163 is a modest but important next step in scaling back the worst excesses of the expensive, intrusive and counter-productive War on Drugs in Colorado. The bill would lower the penalty for simple drug possession from a Class 6 Felony to a Class 1 Misdemeanor. In other words, possessing small amounts of currently illegal drugs would still be illegal, but without the lifetime punishment a felony drug conviction carries in lost opportunity. This is a long overdue reform that has some opponents making such hysterical and blatantly false claims about SB 163 that they must be dishonest, ignorant, or maybe a little of both.

An online petition against SB 163, addressed to Governor Hickenlooper and members of both the Colorado house and senate, has been started at the change.org website with the hysterically inaccurate title: “Stop Senate Bill 12-163 which Decriminalizes hard drugs.” The petition continues its fabrications: “Senate Bill 163 will make possession of up to two ounces of hard drugs such as Cocaine, Ecstasy and Methamphetamine a misdemeanor to possess in this state.” What a pack of nonsense.

To begin, moving simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor is not even close to the same as decriminalization. A Class 1 Misdemeanor is a serious criminal offense in Colorado. One for which the penalty could actually result as much time in a jail as you might spend in a prison for a Class 6 Felony.

Moreover, two ounces of Cocaine, Ecstasy or Methamphetamine is a significant amount of drugs that might cost thousands of dollars. SB 163 addresses possession of small amounts of drugs, two to four grams (depending on type of drug), which is less than the weight of an American nickel. Possession of two ounces of illegal drugs would obviously remain a serious felony crime.

So it’s not entirely clear if those responsible for the petition are simply lying about what SB 163 does, or if they are just not bright enough to know the difference between a misdemeanor crime and decriminalization, or the difference between ounces and grams. And as of this writing they have managed to fool nearly thirty people, apparently none willing to do a little basic research on their own, into signing the petition.

Whatever the case, hopefully the lawmakers who receive the petition won’t be fooled by either ignorance or lies about SB 163.

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Direct File Review In Colorado Good For Juvenile Justice

Posted by on Mar 09 2012 | criminal justice, Criminal Law, Justice

On March 7, House Bill 1271 passed out of the Colorado House Judiciary Committee by a 9-2 vote. The bill would allow, with certain exceptions, judicial review of district attorneys’ decisions to charge juveniles as adults in criminal cases. Currently, DAs have unlimited discretion to “direct file” against juveniles without review by a judge. The bill now heads to the appropriations committee.

The following is a letter sent in February to Colorado lawmakers on the need for judicial oversight of direct file by myself and Marc Levin from our sister think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). The letter is on behalf of the Independence Institute, TPPF and Right on Crime:

Dear Colorado Policymakers,

We are writing to share our perspective on modifications to Colorado’s direct file
policy, which would ensure judicial review of juvenile cases transferred to criminal court.

As you know, the Independence Institute is a free market think tank that has been
providing research and analysis to Colorado’s policymakers for almost thirty years. The
Independence Institute seeks to empower individuals and enhance personal and economic
freedom. The Institute’s Justice Policy Initiative researches the impact of criminal justice
policies and practices on prison spending, law enforcement priorities and the lives and
liberties of Coloradans.

In that same vein, Right on Crime works to advance conservative, principled solutions
that are proven to reduce crime, lower costs and restore victims. Right on Crime is a national
initiative led by the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, one
of the nation’s leading state-based conservative think tanks. The Texas Public Policy
Foundation’s mission is to promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free
enterprise by educating policymakers with academically sound research and outreach.

Through TPPF’s Center for Effective Justice, which researches policies that cost effectively
protect public safety, restore victims, and reform offenders, we have been at the
forefront of criminal justice initiatives in Texas that have gained national attention by
reducing both the incarceration rate and, most importantly, the crime rate. These principles
are anchored by our Statement of Principles, signed by some of the nation’s most respected
conservative leaders.

The Independence Institute, TPPF, and Right on Crime do not endorse specific
legislation, but we would like to briefly provide our perspective on reformation of
Colorado’s direct file policy.

Under current law, prosecutors have the legal authority to unilaterally transfer a
juvenile delinquency case to criminal court without judicial review. Such a decision cannot
be appealed by the juvenile.

The unique circumstances surrounding juvenile delinquency require care on the part of criminal justice system. Research has found juvenile offenders are especially capable of reform and rehabilitation, and the juvenile justice system is uniquely positioned to both hold youths accountable and change their ways.

Further, even serious juvenile offenders often benefit from the programming and
services available only in juvenile detention facilities. Facilities tailored to juveniles are
typically more effective and safe for these offenders, and the decision to transfer a juvenile to
criminal court forecloses these opportunities.

For these reasons, we believe that judges should have a role from the outset in
determining the proper venue for the adjudication of a juvenile. Certainly, taking advantage
of judicial expertise in making such difficult decisions does not preclude prosecutors from
obtaining a judicial determination that some youths’ criminal actions warrant transfer.
However, judges as neutral arbiters are best situated to objectively consider the facts and
circumstances of each case.

This is the procedure in Texas, where the process of trying a juvenile’s crimes in
criminal court, called certification, must be judicially directed. The judge is required to find
both probable cause the offense was committed, but also that the welfare of the community
demands criminal proceedings, based on the seriousness of the offense or the background of
the youth.

Based on a totality of the factors, we believe that judicial review must be an integral
part of transferring a juvenile to criminal court, given both the rehabilitative aspects of
juvenile offending and the specialized programing offered in the juvenile justice system. We
would encourage you to consider these factors in your deliberations regarding Colorado’s
direct file policy.

In conclusion, we wish to thank you for your public service and your consideration of
our perspective on this topic.

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2011 drug law reform in Colorado a mixed bag

Posted by on Dec 02 2011 | criminal justice, Criminal Law, Drug Policy, PPC, War on Drugs

In 2010, Colorado lawmakers took a meaningful step towards drug law reform by passing House Bill 1352, which nibbles at the edges of the disastrous War on Drugs by amending some of Colorado’s controlled substance statutes (see my HuffPost Denver piece on HB 1352).

And while lawmakers continued that reform momentum this year, those efforts were tempered by other bills that expanded an already intrusive and expensive drug law regime that returns questionable public safety value.

For instance, the 2011 Colorado Legislature voted overwhelmingly to create new drug felonies (and thus new drug felons) by passing Senate Bill 134 which added synthetic cannabinoids and the naturally occurring Salvia Divinorum as Schedule I illicit drugs under Colorado’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

The Legislature in 2011 also involved itself in human resource decision making by local school districts by passing House Bill 1121, which among other things bars those convicted of a drug felony from employment with a school for five years from the time of conviction. This despite a lack of any evidence that the hiring of drug felons by school districts is a problem in Colorado.

But in the same session where Colorado lawmakers expanded the scope and reach of Colorado’s drug laws, they also passed several drug law reforms.

In this ivoices.org podcast, I interview Christie Donner about these reforms, and what they are meant to accomplish. Besides being the Executive Director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Christie is also on the Drug Policy Task Force of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). The three bills were generated out of recommendations of the CCJJ and all have been signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. The bills are:

Senate Bill 96, which excludes Class 6 felony drug possession convictions as a qualifying offense to be convicted under Colorado’s habitual offender statute.

House Bill 1064, which establishes a presumption in favor of granting parole to an inmate who is parole eligible and serving a sentence for a drug use or possession felony that was committed before August 11, 2011 (inmates must meet other criteria related to their behavior in prison and criminal history to be eligible for the presumption).

House Bill 1167, which shortens the time frame people convicted of certain drug crimes (schedule is staggered based on the seriousness of the offense) must wait before petitioning the court to seal that criminal record.

For a more thorough explanation of these reforms give a listen here.

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Criminal Justice Bills in 2011

Posted by on Jul 21 2011 | criminal justice, Criminal Law, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

For those that couldn’t make it to their TV last Friday and missed this riveting episode of Devils Advocate starring yours truly, public defender Doug Wilson, and District Attorney Don Quick on where criminal justice has been and where it’s going in 2011.

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Criminal Justice Bills in 2011

Posted by on Jul 14 2011 | criminal justice, Criminal Law, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

Hey, break out the handcuffs for this Friday’s episode of Devil’s Advocate as I am joined by Colorado State Public Defender Doug Wilson and Adams/Broomfield District Attorney Don Quick for a discussion on criminal justice related bills in the 2011 General Assembly and the ongoing work of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile justice. That’s tomorrow night, 8:30 PM, on Colorado Public Television 12.

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Podcast On Drug Law Reform In The 2011 Colorado legislature

Posted by on Jul 01 2011 | criminal justice, Criminal Law, Drug Policy, PPC

In this ivoices.org podcast, I interview Christie Donner about three drug law and drug offense sentencing related bills passed in the 2011 Colorado legislative session. Besides being the Executive Director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Christie is also on the Drug Policy Task Force of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). The three bills were generated out of recommendations of the CCJJ and all have been signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. The bills are:

Senate Bill 96, which excludes Class 6 felony drug possession convictions as a qualifying offense to be convicted under Colorado’s habitual offender statute.

House Bill 1064, which establishes a presumption in favor of granting parole to an inmate who is parole eligible and serving a sentence for a drug use or possession felony that was committed before August 11, 2011 (inmates must meet other criteria related to their behavior in prison and criminal history to be eligible for the presumption). This a companion bill to last year’s drug law reform bill HB 1352, described in my Huffington Post piece here.

House Bill 1167, which shortens the time frame people convicted of certain drug crimes (schedule is staggered based on the seriousness of the offense) must wait before petitioning the court to seal that criminal record.

Give a listen here.

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