COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Reducing crime and keeping former inmates from returning to prison are the goals of a plan sought by the state Department of Corrections -- but the plan has already been in place for five years in a DOC department.
The DOC's probation division began the strategy in 2008. It de-emphasizes the use of electronic monitors and other forms of supervision in favor of establishing stronger relationships between probation officers and people on probation.
Richard Raemish, the DOC's new executive director, said he wanted such a plan when he succeeded the late Tom Clements. Authorities believe Clements and Denver-area man Nate Leon were murdered in March by former inmate Evan Ebel.
Ebel was mistakenly released from prison early, then cut off his ankle monitor before the killings. He died in a shootout with Texas law enforcement officers.
Raemish said the existence of such a plan may have prevented the deaths by giving Ebel a better chance to adjust to society after his release.
DOC officials say it's too soon to determine how well the plan is working in Colorado, but a decline of 1,000 probation violations a year were reported in the state of Washington, which is trying a similar strategy.
Aimee Solis, a relationship counselor in Colorado Springs, likes that the DOC is trying to change but said it won't be easy.
"A relationship between a probation officer and someone on probation is unlike any other," said Solis. "It takes time and there has to be trust on both sides. But what (the DOC) is doing makes a lot of sense."
DOC officials said if the probation plan is successful, they hope to expand it to the parole division.