AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Victims are sharing concerns with FOX31 about a law that gives more convicted felons a chance to apply for early prison release based on the age they committed crimes.
Offenders used to be able to apply to the Juveniles Convicted as Adults Program (JCAP) if they were under 18 when the crimes happened, but House Bill 1209 which was passed last year, now extends the age to under 21.
District attorney explains the JCAP
FOX31 reached out to the 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner, asking for a greater explanation of the program. He said the program allows any juvenile sentenced as an adult for any felony to be eligible. Class 2 felony offenders are eligible after 20 years, F-1 felony murder inmates are eligible after 25 years and those convicted of F-1 murder “after deliberation” are eligible after 25 years but must serve 30 years of their sentence before being released.
The executive director of the Department of Corrections decides who is admitted based upon:
- No mental health treatment for serious mental illness
- Has GED or HS Diploma
- Completed programs in DOC
- Accepted responsibility for their crime
- Nature of offense
- Age and maturity at time of the offense
- Behavior in DOC
- Impact on the victim
- Risk and needs of the offender
- The victim’s family has a right to be informed of the application to the program
- If denied admittance may re-apply in three years
- Program is basically a life-skills program for those who never lived independently – includes increased work responsibility – more independence in daily living.
- If completed, the offender is eligible to apply for early parole and is presumed to be safe in the community unless rebutted with competent evidence.
Days before Christmas 2021, Pogosyan was resentenced to five consecutive life sentences with the possibility of parole in the deaths of five people. The loved ones of his victims thought, with credit and time served, the earliest Pogosyan could get out was 17 years, but weeks ago, they got a letter informing them about his JCAP application.
“It’s ongoing, it is like always looking over your shoulder for when next letter is going to pop up in my mailbox,” victim Genni Pearman said.
Pearman and a number of victims in the “1998 Labor Day Massacre” submitted impact statements that will be considered with Pogosyan’s JCAP application.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you become experienced to it, and that’s my goal here, speaking up just to let our citizens know,” Pearman said. “If your offender was between 18 and 20 and 11-and-a-half-months, you too will be facing the same situations that our family’s been going through.”
Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez sponsored HB1209.
“Science tells us that brain development actually is not completed until 25 or 26, but it is even more stifled depending on trauma that you may have endured as a child or as an adolescent and so that is why we moved it to 21,” Gonzales-Gutierrez said.
She said half of those applying to the program don’t get approved and the severity of the crime committed has a big impact on the applications.
“Just because you apply, you don’t automatically get in and just because you’re eligible, you don’t automatically get it,” Gonzales-Gutierrez said.