Saturday, December 31 at 11:30pm - Sunday, January 1, 2012 at 1:00am
Outside & inside La Plata County Jail (Durango, CO)
742 Turner Drive
(Not in or near La Plata County? Organize NYE noise demos outside prisons, jails, and detention centers in your area!)
Join us in making a ruckus outside (and inside!) La Plata County Jail in Durango, CO this coming New Year's Eve (& *every* NYE!).
This easy, safe, and simple expression of solidarity can have amazing positive impact for those behind and inside the walls and bars of the incarceration system. Let's make some noise and let them know that they're not alone and not forgotten.
(Note: Remaining on public property for a noise demo outside a prison, jail, or detention center is perfectly legal. As long as participants remain on public property, they are not placing themselves at legal risk.)
Bring noise makers, drums, instruments, sound systems, your voice, your friends, your family, your lovers, and your indomitable spirit of resistance.
This event, which we hope to make a yearly event in our community, is inspired by the North American call out for a day of action against prisons in the New Year of 2011, which remains relevant unchanged:
Noise demos outside of prisons in some countries are a continuing tradition. A way of expressing solidarity for people imprisoned during the New Year, remembering those held captive by the state. A noise demo breaks the isolation and alienation of the cells our enemies create, but it does not have to stop at that.
My first cellie when I came to prison was a 73 year old man. Mr. Montoya had escaped from a Colorado halfway house in 1982 and subsequently stabbed a man in a bar fight in Wyoming and got 30 years. After that, he’d been returned to Colorado to finish his sentence here. How an old man, bent over and needing a walker to traverse even the short distances to medical or chow hall, Mr. Montoya was being let out of prison. One of the few prisoners to see the street at his first parole eligibility date, he was not enthusiastic about the prospect of his upcoming release on parole, something less than ‘freedom.’ Whatever family he’d once had were long since dead. He was being returned to a community he was tied to only by some ancient crime with a parole plan that called for things like regular attendance at AA meetings. Afflicted with diabetes, and having suffered two heart attacks in the preceding decade, drinking was the least of Mr. Montoya’s worries.
Maybe at one time he’d dreamt of getting out and drinking a cold beer, of making love again to a woman, of having a car or a bike. Those dreams had died decades ago. How he wondered how he would negotiate getting to his medical appointments in a small town in southern Colorado with no public transportation, wondered where he would lay his head when the $100 in gate money they hive him runs out, and he uses up the one week motel voucher. Barely able to negotiate the yard, his eyes so bad he could no longer read, his mind itself stating to fail, Mr. Montoya was terrified by the prospect of his impeding release. There was no one and nothing on the other side of the fence of the penitentiary he cared about anymore.
By Tom Gomez
Every year in Washington D.C. police officers from cities and towns throughout the U.S. gather for a solemn ceremony that pays tribute to the men and women of law enforcement to lose their lives in the line of duty. While most of those to be arrested by police each year are neither violent nor especially dangerous, some are extremely violent, very dangerous, and can only be taken into custody at all after being subdued by force. In such instances the law has historically given the officers wide latitude to judge how much force was needed to effectively subdue an uncooperative and defiant subject. The roll call of the dead argues persuasively that in such situations nice guys wind up getting killed. Faved with subduing suspects who are drunk, high, enraged and not infrequently utterly insane officers more often than not opt for using more force than is needed than less, and for obvious reasons.
By Tom Gomez
At only 23 Gilbert ‘Cash’ Gonzales has already spent more than ten years of his life in the juvenile and adult prison system. Now Gonzales is facing new charges for escape in Adams County. Those charges, stemming from Gonzales’ decision to walk away from a halfway house, may result in his being sentenced to serve as much as eight additional years should Adams County prosecute him as a habitual offender. Despite the fact that Gilbert was gone only 15 hours, Colorado law allows him to be charged with felony escape after as little as two hours, and gives the DA up to three years to bring the charge. Gilbert learned about Adams County’s decision to prosecute him ten days before his scheduled release from prison, and won’t know if the DA will press a habitual criminal charge against him until he is arraigned and has a chance to meet with his public defender.
Sadly Gilbert’s situation is not unique. According to figures supplied to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition by DOC itself in its monthly population and capacity report, 285 of the 2,030 prisoners housed in Colorado’s community correctional facilities were returned to custody as of January 31, 2010. Many, like Gonzales, will face new felony charges for little more than essentially technical violations of their placement conditions. By contrast of 779 prisoners on I.S.P. (Intensive Supervised Parole) only six were returned to custody during the same period. Meanwhile the decade Gonzales has already spent in custody has now cost the state over $300,000 and there is no end in sight. If Gilbert were to spend the next eight years behind the walls of Colorado’s State prisons, plus and additional three years of mandatory parole, the cost of his incarceration will have run to over $500,000. By then he will be 35 years old and his chances of being able live outside the walls of a prison may be slim to none.
By Tom Gomez
Until 2004, Colorado State prisoners were paid $2 a day for our labor, roughly $40 a month. Since that time the Colorado State Legislature, in an attempt to reduce the cost of incarceration while it enacted more laws to lock up more people, for more time, reduced the amount paid to prisoners to $0.62 a day, roughly $13 a month. While the change has made prison conditions harsher, it has done nothing to reduce the spiraling cost of incarceration in Colorado. Despite the change the Department of Corrections budget has grown every year since. Colorado now spends more on prisons than it does on higher education, and there is no end in sight. Last year the DOC population grew by another 2% despite a falling crime rate. At a cost of $30,000 a year for each prisoner it houses DOC is not likely to be able to significantly reduce, or even offset, the high cost of incarceration by such methods as raising the cost of phone time or cutting back on food. Instead state university students and their parents will pay the bill, by absorbing another 9% increase in tuition next year. It will be paid by cuts in services to seniors, by public education, and by the improvised children of the men and women doing time here.
State legislatures across the country have built prisons while cutting funding for education and public health for 30 years now. In the name of cutting the cost of ‘big government’ and getting ‘tough on crime’ they have made prisons harsher, more crowded and dangerous, but not cheaper. Led by ‘tough prosecutors’ who view not only crime, but poverty itself as a moral failing they have given us a nation of tent cities that stretch from sea to shining sea bursting with the nation’s three-million homeless people, and interstates from coast to coast dotted with razor ribbon and guard towers. In many American cities more than half of all public school students will not graduate high school.
by Tom Gomez
The holiday season is an unhappy season for many prisoners who are far from home and family. For me, and no doubt many others here who have neither, it is a time for reflection, a time to take stock of ourselves and resolve to make changes in our lives. That is even more true for at least some of those here who have children of their own, children who are waiting on the outside for their parent to get out.
To be sure, that's not everyone here, some prisoners glorify lives of crime and violence, addiction and alcoholism, at least to me. I doubt they do the same on the phone with their 7-year old, or an aging parent they might not see again when they get out. No one dreams of being a convict when they grow up.
So if people don't like prison, why do so many convicts come back over and over again? In Colorado, 70% of paroled convicts return to prison, 27% with new criminal charges. Roughly 50% of those to be released from prison return on a new criminal case. Finishing parole, or 'killing your number' makes it no less likely that you'll be back. So why is it that while 1 in 136 people in our society is in prison, despite the US having the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the world, people here in prison just can't seem to get out and stay out?
Many legislators feel that the problem is that convicts are genetically inferior to the wider population. Backed up by an army of psychologists and social workers, they find the offender to be biologically different from themselves and talk about treating the offender's 'anti-social personality disorder', about the 'disease model of addiction'. They seldom, if ever, talk about poverty.
by Tom Gomez
Jack was charged with cultivation of marijuana in 2000, and sentenced to 2 years of community corrections. That was 9 years ago, and it will be the year 2012 before he is released from prison (if he serves his full sentence), and 2017 before his parole ends. His story is not uncommon. It illustrates the failure of sentencing laws meant to keep Jack and others like him, mostly non-violent offenders whose crimes were drug and alcohol related, out of prison and promote rehabilitation over incarceration. Instead, as Jack illustrates, they have often done the opposite of what the legislature intended, and have left thousands of prisoners like Jack in the criminal justice system – sometimes for decades – for petty offenses. With the Colorado State Legislature expected to address the issue of sentencing reform later this year, many prisoners hope that stories like Jack's prompt the state legislators to rethink the 'escape' statutes.
No one here in the prison really expects the legislature to decriminalize escape. But the large and growing number of cases like Jack's point out what's wrong with the existing law. Sentenced in 2000 to serve in one of the state's 34 community correctional facilities (aka halfway houses), Jack escaped by simply walking away from the facility. Several months later, he was recaptured and given 4 years for the escape, plus his remainder on the original charge for a total of five years. He served 3 of those 5 years before being paroled into homelessness in 2004. Colorado is one of only a handful of states with mandatory parole, and while Jack's original charges carried one year of mandatory parole, his new charge of escape carried 3 years of mandatory parole.
A rule change by the Colorado State Department of Corrections could mean offenders with already long sentences, mostly for drug offenses, will be incarcerated longer. Under the new rule, which went into effect on October 1st, 2009, prisoners required to participate in DOC's intensive 9 – 12 month therapeutic community program for drugs and alcohol will not be eligible to do so until they are within 8 years of their mandatory release date.
Under Colorado statute, prisoners are eligible for early release (discretionary parole) after serving 50% of their sentence, and receive 10 days a month earned time if they are charged with a non-violent offense. Violent offenders receive only 6 days a month 'earned time', and are required to serve 75% of their sentences before being paroled. For a non-violent offender serving a 30-year stretch, that means that he or she is parole eligible after 12 years, if they have complied with all conditions of confinement.
In practice, however, such discretionary paroles are seldom granted. Even the Governor's plan to rease prisoners 6 months before their mandatory release date has run into fierce, and very public, opposition from the parole board itself, which remands prisoners to their mandatory release dates more than 90% of the time. On a 30-year sentence that means spending 23 years behind bars.
We smashed up a Wells Fargo bank last night in Fort Collins, Colorado. We don't really need to explain our reasons--you probably already know them. But we'll share a few things.
We are enemies of capitalism.
We are sick and tired of people being locked in cages.
Wells Fargo is the single largest investor in the Geo Group, which owns many I.C.E. detention facilities--private prisons--around the U.S. The Geo Group and Wells Fargo profit from imprisoning people in Colorado.
We want smashed prisons and the destruction of capitalism, not just windows--the question is how do we create moments in which insurrection is possible?
We are everywhere.
Strength to us all!
by: Tom Gomez
On any given day, more than a third of Colorado's over 22,000 prisoners have already finished serving their sentences. They are parole violators, returned to custody for violating their conditions of release. Very few Colorado prisoners will get out before they complete their sentences. An offendor is eligible for such early release or discretionary parole, after serving 50% of their sentence on a non-violent crime. In practice, however, more than 90% of prisoners in Colorado will serve their full sentence.
Despite that fact they are still subject to the provisions of the state's harsh mandatory parole statute under which 70% will return to prison. Now with Colorado reeling from the effects of the recession, and the legislature planning to address the issue of sentencing reform for the first time since the mid 90s, many prisoners are hoping that legislators re-think the state’s mandatory parole law which subjects them to as many as 5 years of close supervision, and up to 30 additional conditions of release.
Typically, these can include: not operating a vehicle even if you have a license, not associating with anyone who has a criminal record including family members, and having a full-time job. They can include a plethora of mental health/impulse control/anger management/drug and alcohol programs and counseling. All of which the paroled prisoners – most below the poverty line, with few skills, and already obligated to pay child support, restitution, court costs and fines – can expect to pay up to an additional $75 a week for.