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Colorado parolees under-supervised, but not because of state underfunding

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Colorado inmates may be under-supervised, but it’s not because of the budget cuts routinely blamed by state parole officers.

The problem is that parolees are often placed in lower level supervision than is warranted, even though the state corrections department has the resources to look after potentially dangerous parolees with more intensity, according to the Denver Post.

The Post cites an internal investigation into the parole system for which it obtained a copy of the executive summary.

It shows more than 1,200 instances of parole officers assigning parolees lower levels of supervision than they deserve because, they say, there’s not enough money to afford more costly oversight.

But the outgoing corrections chief who ordered the review told the paper that’s not true.

“To say that someone couldn’t go on or needed to be taken off a type of supervision or particular monitoring tool doesn’t make any sense to me because the budget numbers don’t support that conclusion,” Roger Werholtz said.

In fact, the Post reports that the amount spent per parolee increased from 2004-2012 by 60 percent.

Werholtz was acting as interim corrections chief after his predecessor, Tom Clements, was shot and killed in March by a parolee who’d cut off a monitoring bracelet six days before a warrant was issued for his arrest.

By then, Evan Ebel had already gone on a killing spree, shooting a pizza delivery man and then gunning down Clements at Clements’s home. Ebel was killed soon thereafter in a shootout with police in Texas.

The parole division has been under intense scrutiny since the killings and the budget implications of how parolees are supervised was investigated by the department’s inspector general. Werholtz also requested that an audit being conducted by the National Institute of Correction be expanded to look at budgetary issues after the Post raised questions about it in an earlier article.

“It appears the practice is widespread with no evidence of this practice occurring in only isolated areas of parole, under a specific supervisor, or within a specific parole office or region,” the executive summary of the inspector general’s report said. “The information indicates this practice to be a systemwide business practice which was widely accepted, practiced for many years and continues to date.”

Werholtz told the newspaper he didn’t understand the findings because the budget is more than adequate to intensely supervise parolees who need it.

Tim Hand, the state’s director of parole who oversees the system, was put on a paid leave of absence two months ago, with no public explanation as to why.

In an earlier article, the Post reported that 35 parolees have been accused or convicted of murder while on supervised release since 2002.

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