Target 13 Investigates: Inmate walkaways
Ten percent of state's community corrections population 'escapes' annually
A Target 13 investigation Tuesday asked authorities why the public isn't notified immediately when an inmate at a halfway house, or community corrections facility, walks away.
State authorities confirmed Monday that Christopher Clemons, who was shot during a weekend confrontation with Manitou Springs police, was an inmate at Community Alternatives of El Paso County on Las Vegas Street. Clemons walked away March 27 but authorities didn't confirm that until this week.
According to the state Division of Criminal Justice, the funding and oversight agency for community corrections facilities, walkaways are fairly common. Around 10 percent of inmates walk away annually. 732 were reported last year, and 260 are reported so far this year.
However, DCJ spokeswoman Jeanne Smith said the situation isn't as bad as it may seem. She said most of those walkaways are inmates who either returned to their facility past curfew, or returned without telling a staff member. In those cases, she said, those inmates must officially be noted as in the "escape" category.
Normally, Smith said, walkaways return because they want a successful transition from prison to society, and walking away without returning results in an escape charge that could send them back to prison.
Walkaways rarely become violent, Smith said, unless they are addicted to alcohol and drugs. Inmates are allowed unsupervised trips to work, and to seek treatment for substance abuse. Smith said addiction could force an inmate into making bad choices.
"They're low-risk inmates," said Smith. "There's usually no reason for them to escape, and no reason for them to threaten the public.
Locally, a staff member for ComCor, Inc., a firm that operates facilities in El Paso and Pueblo Counties, said that firm generally has a much lower walkway rate -- around one per month on average.
Chris Greeder, a spokesman for New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, which owns Community Alternatives, said the company followed all procedures with Clemons and is assisting authorities with the ongoing investigation.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan said the DOC provides inmates to community corrections facilities but has no further involvement with them.
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