Prison

Izhar khan / Pexels

Colorado’s prison population is growing. Between 1980 and 2016, it increased by 661 percent. It’s projected to increase by another 38 percent by 2024 according to projections from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

screencap via pacermonitor.com

When you open a window in your home, do you consider yourself outside? Probably not. That was the argument that inmates at Colorado State Penitentiary made in a class-action lawsuit [.pdf] against the Colorado Department of Corrections. The case has been settled and the Department of Corrections will build three new recreation yards at the Cañon City prison by the end of 2016.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

At Denver Comic Con, fans will be vying to meet TV and film stars and grabbing titles by their favorite authors and artists. Among all that pop culture mayhem you’ll find a new comic book by a relatively unknown group of creators: inmates at the Boulder County Jail.

Colorado General Assembly

A bill is making its way through the statehouse that would allow judges to re-examine the cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole. A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it unconstitutional for minors to have no possibility of parole -- except in the most extraordinary circumstances.

The court said it was cruel and unusual punishment. Currently 48 youth in Colorado were given mandatory life sentences prior to that ruling, many for heinous crimes.

"Murder is never OK, taking someone's life is never OK, but should we ever allow a second chance, a second look?" asked Senator Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge), one of the main sponsors of a bipartisan bill that cleared the Senate 32-3.

Whole Foods Market has announced that by April of next year it will stop sourcing foods that are produced using prison labor.

The move comes on the heels of a demonstration in Houston where the company was chastised for employing inmates through prison-work programs.

Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston, organized the protest. He says Whole Foods was engaging in exploitation since inmates are typically paid very low wages.

In prison, Brian Nelson lived in solitary confinement. That meant 23 hours a day in a small cell. No human contact, except with guards — for 12 years straight.

Then, his prison sentence for murder was over. One moment he was locked down. The next, he was free.

NPR and The Marshall Project, an online journalism group that focuses on the criminal justice system, investigated the release of tens of thousands of prisoners from solitary confinement to find out how many prisoners, like Nelson, go straight from solitary to the streets.

James Taylor says it was almost impossible to find a job after he was released from prison in 1999. He had been serving 7 years for weapons possession and drug charges.

But then he met Darlene Lewis. Darlene runs an organization dedicated to helping former inmates find jobs, preparing them for interviews, placing them with local businesses and advocating for them in court. She's helped thousands of men and women.

"When you first met me, you was almost in tears," Darlene says.

For most of New York, Rikers Island is out of sight and out of mind. It's in the middle of the East River between Queens and the Bronx. There's only one unmarked bridge that leads on and off. But a recent report on violence by correction officers, or COs, was no surprise to those who've spent time there.

Grace Hood / KUNC

Brush leaders have blocked efforts from a local entrepreneur to turn an old prison into a spot for researching and growing marijuana. But that's not stopping Nick Erker from pursuing another path for approval for his plan.

"In the privacy of the voting booth, I think we're going to get to see how people really feel about this," said the Brush-based owner of Colorado Farm Products.

Joe Mahoney / Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Friday, June 6 that bans the practice of keeping seriously mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement.

The bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support, won the support of advocates and rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, who say the isolation of prisoners with mental illness violates the constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and endangers public safety.

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