The Colorado Freedom Fund is hiring Rebecca Wallace as senior policy counsel, the same role she recently left at the Colorado chapter of the ACLU.
Wallace in an interview indicated she took on the challenge for a pair of reasons: It allowed her to focus on her passion for pretrial detention reform and to work with an organization tied more directly into those affected by Colorado's current pretrial policies.
"That is the work that I came to the Colorado Freedom Fund to do and to do exclusively," she said. "I've never been able to focus in on one subject matter, and even though pretrial is still broad in a sense. That's what I'm excited about."
I am beyond thrilled to join @FreedomFundCO and their daily work to Bring Our Neighbors Home. It’s been a beautiful 11 years at the ACLU. Time for a new chapter working even closer with community, and especially people directly impacted by the pretrial system. https://t.co/2ggsuJYuQV— Rebecca Wallace (@RWallaceEsq) September 30, 2021
As the ACLU’s senior staff attorney and senior policy counsel, Wallace worked extensively on pretrial reform efforts, leading her to fight side-by-side with CFF on a number of criminal justice issues. Those included House Bill 19-1225, which ended monetary bail for some low-level offenses, and Senate Bill 19-191, which standardized times for posting bail and release after bond is posted.
"Those pretrial gains ... were a direct result of years of work that Rebecca had put in, long before I even met her," Elisabeth Epps, CFF’s executive director, said in an email that also noted a number of Wallace's other policy wins.
"Rebecca’s experience is unparalleled when it comes to liberatory pretrial policy in Colorado. While she comes to us to lead policy work with an emphasis on community-driven legislative efforts, she has also represented plaintiffs in critical lawsuits to right wrongs of pretrial detention, lawsuits that resulted in pretrial reforms that would not have been gained but for her and her colleagues’ advocacy."
Wallace's policy wins continued last legislative session with the passage of House Bill 1280, which requires courts to hold a bond setting hearing within 48 hours of an arrestee arriving to jail.
While that bill, which Epps described as a "monumental piece of pretrial legislation," was signed into law in July, another key policy in reforming the pre-trial detention process stumbled before reaching the finish line.
Senate Bills 62 and 273 from Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, represented an initial and subsequently scaled-back effort to clamp down on the use of arrests and cash bail. SB 62, the first of the two measures, died in committee in the Senate before SB 273 was doomed to the same fate in the waning days of session by opposition in committee from a pair of House Democrats.
After three months of fighting with law enforcement over a bill that would limit their abili…
Lee told Colorado Politics in June he intends to put the policy back in front of lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session and Wallace said she felt a more "modest" version of the bill could clear the General Assembly in the future.
"This is like an education process that is going to, in the long run, lead to positive reform," she said. "Will it be this year? Will it be next? I guess we'll find out."
Both Wallace and Denise Maes, the ACLU’s former public policy director who also worked intimately on policies in SB 62 and 273, resigned from the ACLU earlier this month. According to a report from CPR and The Colorado Sun, Maes cited a shift in direction at the ACLU, which “was not going to align with where I was hoping things would go.”
That report also noted Epps, who was a key player in rallying support around senate bills 62 and 273, also chose to move on from her role as policy contractor with the ACLU but “is leaving the ACLU on good terms and is proud of her work there.”