DOC to implement new measures to find parole absconders including roundups

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DENVER -- The Colorado Department of Corrections will implement new measures designed to capture former prisoners who break their parole, the agency announced Wednesday.

The new measures include monthly roundups of fugitives who break parole and a new rule requiring a two-hour response time for investigating all ankle bracelet tampering alerts.

The Capitol's Joint Budget Committee Wednesday afternoon unanimously approved another $500,000 in state funding for the DOC to improve its electronic monitoring of parolees.

The vote came during a conference committee meeting as lawmakers grappled with a number of House amendments to the 2014 state budget.

The announcement comes after the DOC's chief officer Tom Clements was gunned down in his Monument home on March 19 allegedly by a man who broke parole by removing his ankle monitor.

Evan Ebel is accused of killing DOC director Tom Clements and pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon.
Evan Ebel is accused of killing DOC director Tom Clements and pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon.

The suspect, Evan Ebel, was shot and killed in a shootout with Texas authorities the two days later.

Authorities believe Ebel removed his ankle monitor six days before Clements was killed. A warrant was not sought for Ebel until March 20.

Ebel is also believed to be responsible for killing pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon.

The DOC said on average 136 parolees abscond each month. In the last two years, 3,252 parolees absconded.

"The Division tracks down and arrests fugitive parolees whenever possible, and has been successful in keeping the overall percentage of absconders relatively constant at approximately 7.2 percent of the total parole population over the past three years," said spokeswoman Alison Morgan in a news release.

Morgan said the DOC can pay for the offender roundups and the ankle bracelet monitoring with current funds, but it will need new spending authority for next year's budget.

"With consistent dedicated resources in this area, we can reduce the overall percentage of parole absconders. This is a sound public safety initiative for Colorado," said Division of Adult Parole Tim Hand. "We appreciate the support of the Joint Budget Committee and the State Legislature."

"They're setting a two-hour expectation that when there's tampering with an ankle bracelet, the parole officer will be on the parolee's doorstep within two hours. Some parolee's doorsteps may be more than two hours away from their parole officers," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, the JBC Chairman. "And I'm just worried about how thin we're spreading our resources.

"Hopefully [the additional funding] will help them handle this increased workload. But it's a concern. They have a big job to do and it's important for public safety and we need to make sure we're providing the proper resources for them to handle the expectations that this bill sets out."

The new measures come as the agency tries to fix a reputation damaged after the Clements murder. In addition to the failure to find Ebel after his ankle monitor issued a tampering alert, the DOC admitted he was released from prison early. The judge in his trial failed to indicate at a sentencing hearing that Ebel should serve additional time in prison for a 2006 assault on a corrections officer.

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