Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pile It On

It looks to me like the New Jail referendum 1A is going to pass by a narrow margin. This is just another example of the people of Denver voting to hurt themselves. The construction companies have donated enough money, the names have jumped in, and the TV ads have been chipping away at the 70% who where originally against the proposed $600,000,000 of new indebtedness. But I say, hey, pile it on. What do we care? What's another $1000 per person for our debt 'junkie' nation, currently carrying a total debt of $37 trillion, or $128,560 per man, woman and child. And what's more, isn't the End of Days coming? Don't worry, be happy!

What's Wrong With Our Country?

Thanks to "The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog" (Click on title for entire article). "Nearly 1,000 new individuals incarcerated each week in US... Despite crime being in decline for over a decade, these numbers show a persistent rise in prison population, and push the US’s rate of incarceration to a startling 726 per 100,000-maintaining the US status as the world’s leading incarcerator (*England-142, *China-118, *France-91, *Japan-58, *Nigeria-31---*Incarceration rates per 100,000 citizens). “Unless we promote alternatives to prison, the nation will continue to lead the world in imprisonment,” says Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute. “While the numbers of incarcerated people continue to rise, some legislators are realizing that by removing the barriers to housing and jobs that formerly incarcerated individuals face when re-entering their communities, we can improve public safety, cut corrections costs, and rebuild communities.” Kaplan said the growth was caused by factors including: increased arrest rates for low-level offenses, particularly in low-income neighborhoods where many residents cannot meet bail, the increased detention of non-citizen immigrants in county facilities, and a rising number of people with mental illness who were formerly residing in mental health facilities. She said jail growth could easily be addressed by implementing the reforms that move people through, and frequently out, of the system faster. "

Money Well Spent

Recently I heard a report on the radio that China had spent $250 million on a stem cell research facility. To date, they have tested stem cell injections on 600 spinal injury patients with positive results. One quadriplegic reported regaining the use of her hands after treatment. She stated that she thought it amazing that she had to travel to China to receive this treatment. I couldn’t help comparing that $250 million with Denver’s proposal to spend $360 million for a new jail. I wonder how many people will be “cured” in our new facility.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Denver Police Scanner

You can now hear the Denver Police Scanner for free online. Click on the title above. Update: This link no longer connects to a live scanner.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Let’s see, you are homeless and you have to pee. No luck at the filling station because RESTROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY. No luck at the park because the porta-potties are gone.

So you duck behind a dumpster, and five oh rolls up on you and now you have a ticket, which turns into a warrant for your arrest when you don’t show up at court. You could have put up $100 bond and forfeited it when you didn’t show up, but of course you don’t have $100. If you are arrested later, you will generally serve 1 day in jail for each $100 ticket. Loitering, littering, public drunkenness, sleeping in the park, solicitation of passengers … wait a minute, what’s that last one. Solicitation of passengers?

That was the charge against a homeless man I know. Here is the ordinance: Sec. 39-20. Solicitation of passengers prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit passage for any vehicle for hire or gratis upon any park premises without special permission in writing from the manager of parks and recreation. This ticket was issued by officer Patrick Mulhern on August 16, 2004, to a person who was not in a park and had no vehicle.

After this man was arrested on March 30, 2005 and taken to jail, a hearing was held before Judge J Marcucci, who said he did not understand the original charge, so he left it in place and added another violation Sec 39-7. Here is that ordinance: Sec. 39-7. Camping and erection of tents and buildings prohibited. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to camp or otherwise sleep overnight in or upon any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility, without first having obtained a permit to do so from the manager of parks and recreation. (b) It shall be unlawful for any person, other than authorized personnel, to build or place any tent, building, shack, booth, stand or other structure in or upon any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility, without first having obtained a permit to do so from the manager of parks and recreation.

This man was not sleeping, had no tent, and was not in a park – he was panhandling at 17th and York. Amazingly, Marcucci sentenced him to 5 days in jail. I have to ask myself what the purpose of this incarceration might be. To punish this guy for breaking these laws? No. This is harassment pure and simple. This is one reason we have “overcrowding” in our jail.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dream of "New Justice" Center

I would love for Denver to have a new Justice Center. In fact, I love all of the new stuff that Denver has gotten over the last 10 years. Even the Webb Building is very cool. Denver deserves the best it can afford. And that’s the problem; we can’t afford a new Justice Center until we can afford school supplies and textbooks for our kids. I know what I’m talking about here, because I am the director of a not-for-profit educational corporation which last year raised over $3,000 in cash and $10,000 in material donations for one elementary school in my neighborhood. These kids wouldn’t have had enough money for paper and pencils without these generous donations from our local businesses and agencies. So let’s get our priorities straight. A new jail would be great. But school supplies and textbooks have to come first. And then upgraded school facilities. And then increased salaries for our teachers. And so on. We can build a new jail for the kids and the adults that they grow into after we have given them the best education we can afford. I’m guessing that if we did that we might not need so many additional jail beds.

You Can't Believe Everything You Read (2)

Was located between York and Josephine at 17th Ave. At a public meeting of the City Park West Neighborhood Association, during a discussion of the homeless people panhandling at 17th and York, a City Park official made the statement that "those people will be removed". Shortly thereafter, these two signs appeared on the large traffic island which separates York and Josephine between 17th and 18th avenues. Because I have gotten to know a homeless man who often stands on one of those corners, I asked him what the effect had been. He reported that he had stepped off the 300 feet and was now in compliance with the sign. I started to wonder what the definition of "Park Property" was and if it included the median, in which case the 300 feet would include where he was standing. So I decided to look it up. I had heard that City Council had passed new ordinances governing the "safety issues" of panhandling on busy streets. I looked up the city ordinances online but could not find one that mentioned 300 feet and panhandling. I had also noticed that unlike many city signs, this one did not refer to an ordinance by number, and that these two signs appeared to be unique, as I could not find any others anywhere else around the periphery of City Park. So …. I emailed my City Council person, whose staff had been helpful in the past. They referred me to a District 2 police phone number. That number had been disconnected, and anyway the sign was actually in Police District 6. So I called them. The police officer who answered the phone had a hearty laugh when I asked the question. “The lawmakers expect us to know?”, he chortled. “They’re the ones who make up these things. How are we supposed to know.” He suggested that I call Parks and Recreation. Which I did. After a few calls I reached the office of Mr. Ron Sanders, in charge of Regulations at Parks and Rec. I explained the situation and asked if it could refer to: Sec. 39-11. Huckstering prohibited. It shall be unlawful to offer any goods, services or thing for sale within any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility, or on the streets and sidewalks within three hundred (300) feet of the boundary of the same, without first having obtained a license or privilege so to do in the manner and pursuant to terms and conditions fixed by the mayor's cabinet. which was the only one I could find that mentions 300 feet. Sanders agreed that panhandling was not huckstering. He said he would check into it. A week later I received a phone message from Christopher, Operations Manager of City Park, who said that the sign referred to: Sec. 54-548. Solicitation on street or highway medians. (a) The purpose of this section is to prevent dangers to persons and property, to prevent delays, and to avoid interference with the traffic flow. Roadways that have center medians often are designed to deal with specific traffic flow problems. The presence of pedestrians on center medians poses dangers to both pedestrians and traffic and interferes with the traffic planning process. (b) It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit employment, business, contributions, or sales of any kind, or collect monies for the same, from the occupant of any vehicle travelling (sic) upon any street, road or highway when such solicitation or collection involves the person performing the activity to be located upon any median area which separates traffic lanes for vehicular travel in opposite directions. (c) The penalty for the first conviction under this section shall not exceed twenty-five dollars ($25.00) and the maximum penalty for additional violations shall not exceed fifty dollars ($50.00). This didn’t seem to fit either. Later, Mr. Sanders called me again and explained that after consultation with City Attorney Patrick Wheeler, it was determined that the signs were in error and would be removed. When I checked two days later, the signs were gone. I wonder how many people were ticketed and/or fined based on these bogus signs. Clearly this had been an abuse of power targeted at certain individuals.

You Can't Believe Everything You Read

The other sign as seen looking North on York at 18th See discussion above

Monday, April 11, 2005

Reasons to Vote No on 1A - New Jail

1. We already voted against this in 2001. 2. We don't really need a new jail, we need to rehab the old one. 3. We don't need to put more people in jail, we need to divert them to programs which will help solve their problems. 4. We don't even know who is currently in our jail, or why. 5. We don't need a tax increase, which 1A clearly states: "...AND SHALL CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER PROPERTY TAXES BE INCREASED BY AN ESTIMATED $17,328,000 FOR THE FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR (2008)..." 6. Nor do we need to give the City a blank check "...INCREASED ... ANNUALLY WITHOUT LIMITATION...." 7. Using prime downtown property for a jail is not the "highest and best use" for which this real estate could used. 8. Moving non-court offices to the Webb Building would create more than enough space for the expansion of the courts in the current City and County Building. 9. The Webb Building is not fully occupied so there is plenty of room for these non-court offices, and moving them would take a lot of hall traffic out of the City and County Building, and put empty space which we already own to good use. 10. None of the "incidents" reported as safety issues involved threats by inmates in the halls. 11. The proponents of this boondoggle have not budgeted for operating this proposed center. How much would this cost? No one seems to know. 12. Using the population of Denver at 550,000, this proposal would cost $1300 for every man woman and child in Denver over the next 20 years. Denver currently cannot afford school supplies for its children. Let's get the priorities straight. 13. Building a jail that does not look like a jail defeats the purpose of a jail. 14. If Denver were to stop ticketing the homeless for meaningless infractions, there would be no overcrowding at the downtown jail. (More on this later.) To be continued ...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

New Justice Center? "It won't look like a jail".

Could the Denver Police Department be systematically rounding up citizens to increase the "overcrowding" at the Denver Jail? This report from a homeless friend who was inside the jail last week: He had been "flying his sign" on the street corner as usual when he was arrested for three outstanding warrants. These warrants were from last December, and although he has been out on the street almost every day since, the officer decided now was the time to take him in. While he was incarcerated, he was taken from his cell and put into a large holding cell with 30 to 40 other inmates. Two photographers came in and photographed them in this large cell. He reports that the police said they needed to demonstrate the “overcrowding” problems they were having, “because we need a new jail”. (More on this report later). Who is in the Denver Jail? “Adults arrested for serious offenses grew by a modest 3 percent. Persons arrested for less serious offenses drove the large growth in adult arrests. Less serious arrests cover such criminal activities as illicit drug possession or sale, fraud, simple assaults, and public order offenses. These arrests grew by 14 percent. Drug arrests (up 32 percent) largely drove the increase in volume among these less serious offenses. Much of this increase in drug arrests was attributable to arrests for drug possession (up 42 percent).”

Friday, April 8, 2005

Vote No On 1A

1A is the vote on building a new "Justice Center" downtown for a cost of nearly $600,000,000. This "stealth" vote on May 3, 2005, when turnout is low, is designed to slip by when we aren't looking. Let's see, didn't we vote this down in 2001 when they were more honest and called it a jail? Of course we did.