New DOC chief admits past problems, focuses on solutions

Rick Raemisch, governor discuss findings of review by federal agency

POSTED: 01:02 PM MDT Aug 30, 2013    UPDATED: 07:49 PM MDT Aug 30, 2013 
NIC
DENVER -

The man replacing the Colorado prisons' chief who was killed by a parolee in March said on Friday that he'll work hard to keep citizens safe by bringing parolees and inmates under better control.

Rick Raemisch, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, joined Gov. John Hickenlooper in discussing the findings of a four-month review by the National Institute of Corrections.

Raemisch admitted that before he arrived, the DOC -- for perceived cost-cutting reasons -- downgraded potentially dangerous parolees like Ebel who were on intensive supervised parole (ISP).

"It was wrong," he said.  "I can't discuss it in depth because I wasn't here.  Information was given to me third-hand that frankly, I'm still looking into.  But money wasn't an issue."

When asked why the DOC previously said parolees weren't being downgraded, Raemisch said, "People were given the wrong information."

Raemisch and Hickenlooper said the NIC report basically provides direction for the future and doesn't assess a grade to the DOC.  Recommendations include providing parole officers with more training and equipment, especially regarding the use of electronic monitoring.

"Electronic monitoring doesn't solve all problems," Raemisch said.  "Nothing's perfect and people make mistakes.  But we will hold people more accountable for their mistakes."

When asked whether any one person in the DOC was directly blamed or reprimanded in Ebel's case, Raemisch said only that "the situation has been rectified."

"Most offenders are going to return to the communities they came from," said Hickenlooper.  "That's why it's important we use these recommendations in a way that helps make sure, wherever possible, that an offender re-enters society in such a way that we keep our communities safe."

Hickenlooper ordered the review in April, after the shooting death of his friend and former DOC Executive Director Tom Clements.  Clements is believed to have been shot to death at his Monument-area home by parolee Evan Ebel after Ebel cut off his ankle monitor and disappeared for several days.  

Ebel also is believed to have killed Nathan Leon, a Denver-area pizza deliveryman, two days before Clements' death.  Ebel died the following week after a shootout with officers in Texas. 

Ebel also was mistakenly paroled four years early because of a court clerical error that affected a number of other inmates.  The error was the subject of an independent review.

Raemisch and Hickenlooper said it's impossible to determine if the lives of Clements and Leon would have been saved if the DOC had the NIC recommendations in place.  They also said they will try to reduce overcrowding in county jails that has inmates waiting to be placed in DOC facilities, and work more closely with the state parole board.

To see the report's findings, visit: http://www.doc.state.co.us/news/colorado-department-corrections-releases-national-institute-corrections-findings-electronic