Whistleblower claims Colorado Department of Corrections breaking state law

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DENVER -- Colorado state lawmakers are demanding answers about allegations concerning misreported numbers by Colorado Department of Corrections leaders.

A DOC whistleblower’s emails in late December and early January sparked the controversy and lawmakers who serve on the state’s Joint Budget Committee began questioning DOC leaders.

FOX31 Denver Investigative Reporter Tak Landrock obtained those emails through open records request.

The whistleblower cites misleading numbers DOC leaders are giving to state and federal lawmakers about its success rate in reducing mentally ill inmates in administrative segregation. The whistleblower calls the reduction numbers “overstated.”

“This is a public safety issue,” said Denise Maes with the ACLU of Colorado. FOX31 Denver shared the documents with the ACLU which had serious concerns about the allegations.

“At the end of the day 97 percent (of prisoners) will be returned to the streets. In order to keep our community safe, it is critical, the prisoners, while in the DOC are rehabilitated and just about everyone agrees, including director (Rick) Raemisch that housing prisoners (in administrative segregation), especially those with mental illness, is contrary to rehabilitation and in fact can worsen rehabilitative efforts.”

TAK LANDROCKThe ACLU has been working with state lawmakers, prison leaders and other civic organizations to eliminate administrative segregation in Colorado prisons. It successfully pushed new legislation last year that forced the DOC to take all mentally ill inmates out of solitary confinement, but the whistleblower writes there are actually a little more than 200 still locked up for up to 23 hours each day.

“I don’t know if it is all credible, but the DOC needs to respond,” said Republican Senator Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs.

He is the chair for the state’s Joint Budget Committee and he is demanding answers from DOC leaders about the allegations. He has given them until Thursday to answer a long list of questions concerning the 16 pages of information from the whistleblower.

“This is an ongoing issue and we really haven’t discussed the budget yet for the Department of Corrections and this will just be one more input into that discussion.” Lambert said.

The whistleblower wrote DOC leaders were able to keep a large number of inmates in solitary confinement by simply saying they were no longer mentally ill. The whistleblower claims those suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD, dementia or mood disorders are no longer classified as having serious mental issues.

FOX31 Denver asked a Department of Corrections spokeswoman for an on–camera interview, but our requests were denied.

After a meeting with state lawmakers, FOX31 Denver's Tak Landrock asked DOC director Rick Raemisch questions about the allegations. Raemisch only said he does stand behind the numbers the DOC has been giving out.

DOC spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson later sent a statement to FOX31 Denver. “The fact that there is disagreement regarding the precise methodology used does not suggest that the actual data being gathered and disseminated is in any way inaccurate.”

The reduction of eliminating inmates in administrative segregation is a hot topic in Colorado, after the murder of Tom Clements, who at the time was the Director of Prisons for Colorado.

Sheriff’s investigators believe Clements was assassinated at his home in Monument on March 19, 2013 by recently released inmate Evan Ebel.

Ebel served most of his time in administrative segregation and was accidentally released early after an error by the courts.

Ironically, Clements was trying to eliminate the administrative segregation system in Colorado during the time of his killing, but it was Colorado lawmakers who made it mandatory.

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