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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 14, 20183min414

Denver Public Schools may have decided to trade weapons for plowshares — it announced last week it would turn down National Rifle Association grants for assorted school programs in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school massacre — but the Second Amendment-friendly, Denver-based Independence Institute is sticking to its guns.

As the Associated Press reported over the weekend:

The libertarian-leaning Independence Institute is one of the top recipients of charitable NRA grants, according to an Associated Press analysis of the NRA Foundation’s public tax records. The think tank received $241,000 from the foundation in 2016, the last year for which data is available. The institute reported receiving a total of $2 million in grants and donations that year.

The size of the Independence Institute’s grant is large enough to make Colorado the state with the fourth largest amount of NRA charitable donations, with $293,000 in grants. That places it only behind two much larger states — California and Texas — and North Carolina, home to Speedway Children’s Charities, which has received the largest NRA donation at $425,000.

The NRA wouldn’t comment for the AP, but the wire service’s findings hardly come as a shocker. As the AP’s Nicholas Riccardi notes in the report:

The Independence Institute has a long history in Colorado politics and is a prominent advocate of gun rights positions. Its research director, Dave Kopel, has written numerous law review articles defending gun rights and filed friend of court briefs supporting firearms owners and groups.

The think tank’s public affairs chief, Mike Krause, seemed downright proud, telling the AP: “It would make sense that America’s oldest civil rights organization, the NRA, would support our work … Indeed, we would like to think we are the most vocal and principled defender of the Second Amendment, and of the human right of self-defense, in Colorado. ”


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Associated PressAssociated PressAugust 1, 20173min302
In this Oct. 13, 2015 file photo, people line up outside of the Supreme Court in Washington as the justices began to discuss sentences for juvenile prison ‘lifers.’ In the Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 decision for Montgomery v. Louisiana, the court ruled that people serving mandatory life-without-parole terms for murders they committed as teenagers must have a chance to seek their freedom. 
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

In light of Supreme Court decisions banning life without parole for juvenile offenders, dozens of Colorado prisoners who committed crimes as minors could be eligible for release, but only one has been freed.

It’s been more than a year since the U.S. Supreme Court made retroactive its 2012 ban on such sentences.

Many states are grappling with the issue. Here’s a look at the situation in Colorado:

How many cases?

Colorado ended life-without-parole sentences for juveniles in 2006 but had 48 offenders sentenced between 1990 and 2006, when the term was an option.

The state Department of Corrections says four have been resentenced, and one has been paroled. None has been resentenced to life without parole.

“We are aware of four or five others that are potentially coming up for resentencing soon,” Mark Fairbairn, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Corrections, said in a statement.

The prisoners still have life sentences — just with the possibility of parole. They generally aren’t eligible for that until they’ve served 40 years.

Seeking parole

State lawmakers in 2016 ordered corrections officials to create a program for offenders sentenced to life terms as juveniles, with or without parole. Those inmates could join the program after serving 20 years or 25 years if convicted of first-degree murder. Upon completion, offenders could be eligible to apply to the parole board; release is up to the governor.

Fairbairn further explains that in the cases affected by these Supreme Court rulings, the Department of Corrections contacts the inmate’s prison for a review of earned time, dating back to the original date of sentencing; the inmate is then scheduled for a parole hearing.

Long sentences

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in late May that extra-long sentences for juvenile offenders don’t violate the federal decision that inmates must have a meaningful opportunity to seek release.

Colorado has nearly three dozen inmates who committed crimes as juveniles are serving virtual life sentences of 50 years or more, The Denver Post has reported. Some of these sentences mean an inmate is likely to die in prison.