COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado has a new head of prisons, more than four months after the murder of former Department of Corrections Chief Tom Clements at the hands of a parolee.
"When the executive director was murdered, it lit a fire under me," Rick Raemisch said Monday. "I thought, 'I can do more than I was doing in my current position.'"
Raemisch had been living in Wisconsin working as dean of Madison College's School of Human & Protective Services, and formerly lead the Wisconsin DOC.
He said his priority is to make Colorado safer, though he refused to get into specifics about changes he wants to make.
Failures at the DOC have continued to be exposed after parolee Evan Ebel murdered Clements and Nate Leon of Denver. Ebel's parole officer didn't get a warrant for Ebel until six days after he cut off his ankle monitor. It was later learned Ebel was released from prison four years too soon because of a court mistake. After an audit was ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper, at least 124 other sentencing mistakes were found.
"I think the whole system has to be reviewed," said Raemisch.
He also talked about inmates like Ebel going from solitary confinement to freedom.
"Releasing people from segregation out onto the streets once they've been paroled is a recipe for disaster," he said. "That's something that has to be fixed."
As Wisconsin's prisons secretary, Raemisch started a program that permitted non-violent inmates to reduce their sentences with good behavior, a program slammed by Republicans.
"I've heard it called hug-a-thug," said Raemisch.
He said he stands by it.
"Those programs worked. Those programs were not early release programs, they were earned release programs based on data," he said.
DOC spokeswoman Alison Morgan said interim chief Roger Werholtz will keep heading the DOC for the rest of this week while Raemisch familiarizes himself with operations.
"We always strive to provide the best public safety. It's difficult to hear criticism, but you learn from it and you want to come out on the end a better organization. That's what we're focused on, and we know Rick will help us reach that next level," said Morgan.
Neither Raemisch nor Morgan would talk about security measures in place for him.