Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Colorado parole process failing to protect public safety

A push to reduce recidivism rates among Colorado parolees is leaving dangerous ex-cons on the streets, according to the Denver Post, The list includes a man accused of murder, another who shot a Denver police officer and another man accused of pimping a teen runaway, as reported in The Crime Report.
Instead of sending difficult offenders back to prison for breaking rules, parole officers increasingly are told to find alternatives such as counseling, short-term jail stints or other sanctions. A 2015 law aimed at reducing the prison population changed how and when parolees are arrested and sent before the state parole board.
In October, the Department of Corrections added another layer that put the decision about whether to seek parole revocation in the hands of just two people. Within three months, the changes slashed in half recidivism rates for technical violations. The reduction has come at a cost. Parole officers describe a high hurdle created by their bosses that has left them feeling frustrated and powerless to protect the public.
In some cases, "There's only one way to stop the madness, and that's put them in jail," one parole officer said. "We effectively let a guy get killed." He and five other parole officers spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by corrections department officials. The officers pointed to changes that put state parole director Melissa Roberts and deputy director Alison Morgan at the center of the Department of Corrections' drive to reduce recidivism rates.
Roberts and Morgan decide when a parolee faces a revocation hearing before the state board and when they will be allowed to remain free. Previously, parole officers could make those decisions on their own. The parole officers said they felt compelled to bring attention to the changes after parolee Calvin Johnson, a 44-year-old homeless man, was charged with murder in a New Year's Day stabbing death of another homeless man.
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