Skip to main content
Colorado General AssemblyToggle Main Menu
Agency NameToggle Agency Menu

I_SentencingReform_2017A 08/09/2017 09:00 AM Committee Summary

Final

STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING



SENTENCING IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Date: 08/09/2017
ATTENDANCE
Time: 09:04 AM to 04:32 PM
Kagan
X
Lundberg
X
Place: SCR 357
Weissman
X
Wist
X
This Meeting was called to order by
Cooke
X
Representative Lee
Lee
X
This Report was prepared by
Bo Pogue
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call, R = Remote Participation
Bills Addressed: Action Taken:
Practitioner's Perspective: Advocates for those Impacted by Crime

CCJJ on Mandatory Minimums, Extraordinary Risk, Parole

Practitioner's Perspective: Defense

Practitioner's Perspective: Prosecution

Practitioner's Perspective: The Bench

Practitioner's Perspective: Community Organizations

CCJJ Task Force Community Corrections Recommendation

Public Testimony

Committee Discussion and Other Business
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only

Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only





09:04 AM -- Practitioner's Perspective: Advocates for those Impacted by Crime



The committee was called to order. All members were present. Chairman Lee made some opening remarks about the committee, its charge, and its efforts so far. Ms. Nancy Lewis, Executive Director, Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA); Ms. Sasha Hutchings, Director, Victim Services Network, Denver District Attorney's Office; Ms. Monica Chambers, Victim Services Coordinator, Colorado Department of Corrections; and Ms. Emily Tofte Nestaval, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center, appeared before the committee to discuss their perspectives on sentencing in Colorado's criminal justice system. Committee members received a Department of Corrections (DOC) time computation diagram prepared by COVA (Attachment A), background information on the DOC's Victim Notification Program (Attachment B), and a pamphlet about the DOC Victim Offender Dialogue Program (Attachment C). Ms. Hutchings discussed some data on the crime rate in Colorado, and the need for transparency in criminal justice and criminal sentencing.



170809 AttachA.pdf170809 AttachA.pdf170809 AttachB.pdf170809 AttachB.pdf170809 AttachC.pdf170809 AttachC.pdf













09:17 AM



Ms. Chambers provided an overview of the Victim Notification Program. Ms. Chambers responded to questions regarding funding sources for the Victim Notification Program. Discussion ensued regarding credits received against an offender's sentencing for presentence confinement, as shown in Attachment A, and the Victim & Offender Dialogue Program.



09:31 AM



Ms. Tofte Nestaval provided further input on how the victim notification process operates, and suggested some ways for improving the process. Ms. Tofte Nestaval responded to questions regarding the best way to balance early release of offenders and victim notification, and the potential for changing the Victim Notification Program from an "opt-in" program to an "opt-out" program during the entire length of the process. Ms. Lewis provided input on the latter issue. Discussion followed regarding the manner in which crime victims are notified about case milestones, such as release of an offender.



09:46 AM



Ms. Lewis responded to questions regarding why a crime victim might not want to be notified of case developments, and issues raised during earlier discussion.



09:49 AM -- CCJJ on Mandatory Minimums, Extraordinary Risk, Parole



Mr. Doug Wilson, State Public Defender, and Ms. Kim English, Research Director, Office of Research and Statistics, Division of Criminal Justice within the Department of Public Safety, addressed the committee on certain issues germane to the committee's charge from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) perspective. Committee members received an overview of legislative recommendations made by CCJJ during its tenure (Attachment D). Mr. Wilson discussed these recommendations, and responded to questions regarding the processes observed by CCJJ. Committee members also received two packets of slides providing the basis for the presentation (Attachments E and F), and recommendations brought to CCJJ by its various task forces (Attachments G, H, and I). Mr. Wilson responded to questions regarding who participated in making these recommendations.



170809 AttachD.pdf170809 AttachD.pdf170809 AttachE.pdf170809 AttachE.pdf170809 AttachF.pdf170809 AttachF.pdf170809 AttachG.pdf170809 AttachG.pdf170809 AttachH.pdf170809 AttachH.pdf170809 AttachI.pdf170809 AttachI.pdf



10:00 AM



Mr. Wilson returned to addressing the committee on legislative recommendations made by CCJJ. Mr. Wilson responded to questions regarding action taken by CCJJ on the legislative recommendations, and the sentencing ranges proposed by CCJJ. Discussion ensued regarding the potential for simplifying and clarifying Colorado's sentencing scheme, including increasing judicial discretion.





10:19 AM



Mr. Wilson briefed the committee on the recommendations made by CCJJ in Attachments H and I. Mr. Wilson responded to questions regarding a change from time-based sentencing to risk-based sentencing by one of the recommendations. Discussion returned to judicial discretion in sentencing.



10:35 AM



Discussion ensued regarding the rate of sentencing for certain crimes of violence. Discussion returned to judicial discretion.



10:41 AM -- Practitioner's Perspective: Defense



Ms. Carrie Thompson, Legislative Policy Coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, provided the perspective of criminal defense stakeholders on Colorado's sentencing scheme. Committee members received a packet of slides forming the basis of Ms. Thompson's presentation (Attachment J), a series of publications concerning sentencing reform (Attachments K, L, M, and N), and a Colorado Court of Appeals case about proportionality review (Attachment O). Ms. Thompson discussed the rate at which individuals are incarcerated, and Colorado's habitual offender statute. Ms. Thompson also discussed some cases that invoked the habitual offender statute, and responded to questions regarding proportionality review in these cases.



170809 AttachJ.pdf170809 AttachJ.pdf170809 AttachK.pdf170809 AttachK.pdf170809 AttachL.pdf170809 AttachL.pdf170809 AttachM.pdf170809 AttachM.pdf170809 AttachN.pdf170809 AttachN.pdf170809 AttachO.pdf170809 AttachO.pdf



10:55 AM



Ms. Thompson responded to questions regarding the concept of a "trial tax," and the fairness of plea bargains. Ms. Thompson returned to her presentation, discussing motions for reconsideration under Colorado Rules for Criminal Procedure rule 35(b) and crimes of violence sentencing modifications. Ms. Thompson responded to questions regarding judicial and prosecutorial discretion.



11:08 AM



Ms. Thompson made some proposals for reforming mandatory penalties.



11:17 AM



The committee recessed.







11:30 AM -- Practitioner's Perspective: Prosecution



The committee returned to order. Mr. Tom Raynes, Executive Director, Colorado District Attorneys' Council; Ms. Amy Fitch, Deputy District Attorney, Fourth Judicial District; Ms. Katharina Booth, Assistant District Attorney, Twentieth Judicial District; and Mr. Rich Orman, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District, provided the perspective of prosecutors on criminal sentencing in Colorado. Mr. Raynes provided background on how legislation has been enacted and has evolved in recent decades in the areas falling under the committee's charge, and discussed the role of CCJJ in policy formulation. He addressed the issue of transparency in sentencing. Ms. Fitch addressed the issue of mandatory sentencing from the prosecution perspective, and explained what types of offenses result in mandatory sentences.



11:45 AM



Ms. Fitch catalogued the types of offenses that constitute crimes of violence, and responded to questions regarding the use of sentence review as allowed under state law. Ms. Booth provided background on changes in sentencing law for certain crimes, discussing in particular legislation concerning extraordinary risk crimes. Ms. Fitch noted some potential inaccuracies in earlier testimony, and talked about complexities inherent to sentencing in Colorado. Ms. Fitch responded to questions regarding judicial discretion.



12:00 PM



Mr. Orman explained why sentencing law needs to be simplified for clarity, and discussed the impacts of crime. Mr. Orman discussed statistics associated with sentence modifications, and addressed questions raised during earlier testimony. Ms. Booth returned to the issue of habitual criminal sentencing, and responded to questions regarding habitual criminal statistics. Mr. Raynes provided input on this issue, and also discussed plea bargaining. Mr. Orman responded to questions regarding a report he discussed about sentence modifications.



12:16 PM



Discussion ensued regarding the "stacking" of offenses and how this invokes the habitual criminal statute.



12:18 PM



The committee recessed.



01:30 PM -- Practitioner's Perspective: The Bench



The committee returned to order. The Honorable David Shakes, District Court Judge, Fourth Judicial District, appeared before the committee. Judge Shakes discussed his background, and his experience as a judge working with Colorado sentencing laws. He provided examples of sentencing under existing law using specific crimes and facts.



01:40 PM



Judge Shakes continued by discussing incarceration rates and evidence-based sentencing. Judge Shakes further discussed recidivism, its causes, and means to limit repeat offenders. He responded to a question concerning treatment mentioned in his presentation. Judge Shakes discussed community corrections. He explained that community corrections boards make decisions about sentencing offenders to community corrections, and that judges do not have the authority to overrule those determinations. Judge Shakes also explained and discussed the sentencing of habitual offenders, including the cost of incarceration. Judge Shakes encouraged the committee to make decisions based on data, and to make sure that there are resources available in the community to help manage and treat offenders.







01:52 PM



In response to a question, Judge Shakes discussed making sentencing decisions when multiple sentence-enhancing circumstances exist. He responded to a question about sentence modifications for crimes of violence (Section 18-1.3-406, C.R.S.). Judge Shakes also responded to a question concerning the relationship between the complexity of the existing sentencing scheme and the purposes of sentencing.



02:03 PM



Judge Shakes continued responding to questions concerning incarceration rates in the United States, prosecutorial discretion in charging crimes under the habitual offender statutes and judicial discretion in making sentencing decisions, and recommendations made by the CCJJ. Judge Shakes responded to a question concerning sentencing as a furtherance of the interests of justice.



02:14 PM



Judge Shakes responded to a question concerning sentencing under laws that permit determining a sentence based on non-specific aggravating or mitigating factors. Judge Shakes stated that he teaches judges to use specified aggravating factors; and that he has never sentenced based on a non-specific aggravating or mitigating factor. At the request of the chair, Judge Shakes discussed problem-solving courts.



02:20 PM -- Practitioner's Perspective: Community Organizations



Ms. Christie Donner, Director, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, and Mr. Hassan Latif, Executive Director, Second Chance Center, appeared before the committee. Ms. Donner discussed the prison population in Colorado, and the costs associated with incarceration. She discussed the use of alternatives to incarceration, including the use of community corrections. Ms. Donner discussed drug sentencing and recent legislation. She also discussed increases in the incarceration of women. Ms. Donner discussed her concerns with existing drug laws. Ms. Donner responded to a question concerning resource allocation.



02:37 PM



Mr. Latif discussed his experience working with the Second Chance Center, and the number of people being served by the center. Mr. Latif addressed issues raised in Ms. Donner's testimony concerning the incarceration of women. He responded to a question concerning the services provided by the Second Chance Center.



02:50 PM



Mr. Latif continued to respond to questions concerning the Second Chance Center's philosophy, and the curriculum used in the center's mentoring program. Ms. Donner discussed serving crime survivors in addition to offenders.





03:00 PM -- CCJJ Community Corrections Task Force Recommendation on New Community Corrections Reentry Referral Process



Ms. Melissa Roberts, Parole Director, Department of Corrections, appeared before the committee. A copy of her presentation is appended as Attachment P. Ms. Roberts discussed the process by which offenders are placed in community corrections, including the difference for offenders who have committed a crime of violence. She further discussed the work of the CCJJ Community Corrections Task Force ("task force") and recommendations concerning those who have completed the community corrections program, but are not granted parole by the Parole Board.



170809 AttachP.pdf170809 AttachP.pdf



03:11 PM



Ms. Roberts and the committee discussed recent legislation concerning the purposes of parole. Ms. Roberts continued to explain recommendations made by the task force.



Ms. Roberts, in response to a question, stated that the task force's work was complete, and that the task force was no longer in existence. She stated it was unlikely that the task force would be reformed. Ms. Roberts also responded to a question concerning local control of programs such as community corrections. In response to questions, Ms. Roberts stated that DOC voted in support of task force recommendations 1 and 3, and not in support of recommendation 2. Senator Kagan commented.



03:24 PM -- Public Testimony



Mr. Tom Sullivan testified to the committee. Mr. Sullivan discussed certain aspects of the Victims Rights Act concerning notifications, including a specific notice he received concerning the offender convicted of murdering his son. Mr. Sullivan, in response to a question, clarified his testimony. Representative Wist commented, and Mr. Sullivan responded.



03:38 PM -- Ms. Leanna Stoufer, representing herself and Project Safeguard, testified before the committee. She discussed a crime of which she was a victim. She explained that information she received as a victim concerning sentencing was not accurate. Ms. Stoufer explained issues with opt-in victim services. She also discussed concerns with plea deals.



03:48 PM



Ms. Stoufer continued to discuss her experiences. She responded to questions concerning facts considered by the Parole Board, and the appropriateness of the sentence in her case.



03:56 PM --
Mr. Tim Lopez, representing himself, testified about a case in which the offender plea bargained to a twenty-year sentence and committed subsequent crimes after release. He further discussed the parole system. Mr. Lopez discussed issues relating to plea bargains. He discussed the circumstances specific to a case in which he was a victim.



04:08 PM



Mr. Lopez continued to speak on the issues relating to opt-in and opt-out victims services.











04:13 PM --
Ms. Doralee Larson, representing the Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, testified before the committee. She provided written information to the committee (Attachment Q). Ms. Larson discussed a study of offenses committed by domestic violence offenders. She discussed issues with plea bargains and the facts of cases and related pleas.



170809 AttachQ.pdf170809 AttachQ.pdf



04:21 PM --
Ms. Jenn Doe, representing herself, testified before the committee. She explained a situation in which she was a victim of violent crime, and discussed her experience with victims services. Ms. Doe specifically advocated for opt-out victims services, and increased options for means by which victims receive notifications.



04:27 PM -- Committee Discussion and Other Business



The chair opened the floor for committee discussion. Representative Wist discussed problem solving courts, which was addressed in Judge Shakes' presentation earlier in the meeting.



Representative Weissman commented on ideas that were raised during the meeting. Representative Lee commented on CCJJ proposals that were presented at the meeting.



04:32 PM



The committee adjourned.




The House and Senate are temporarily adjourned.  The building is closed to the public.

COVID-19 Resources

Written Testimony and Witness Sign-up