DENVER - Colorado's prison system began telling more victims where their perpetrators are - after a months-long 9Wants to Know investigation on secret, out-of-state prisoners.
Still, the state legislature wants to keep the Department of Corrections from rolling back this new level of transparency.
In January, Senate Bill 14, which would mandate DOC tell victims the location of out of state inmates, unanimously passed the full Senate. On Tuesday, it unanimously cleared the House Judiciary Committee.
“Under the Interstate Corrections Compact, our state has been transferring prisoners outside the state without transparency and without notifying victims as to the locations of those offenders,” said Rep. Cole Wist, (R-Centennial), one of the sponsors of the legislation. “This bill is intended to correct and right a wrong that was done to these victims.”
Senate Bill 14 starts by guaranteeing the victim right to know, with a few exceptions.
“Ensuring that victims have rights, victims are able to know where the perpetrator of their crime is very important,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, (D-Denver), the bill’s co-sponsor. “There are circumstances where safety of the inmate, the privacy of their location is important.”
Herod said the safety of DOC employees was important as well, and that was considered in the language of the bill.
Travis Trani, Director of Prisons for the Colorado Department of Corrections, testified DOC supported the bill in its current form.
Trani told the Committee that about 100 Colorado inmates were serving time out of state, and about 100 out of state inmates were serving time in Colorado because the Interstate Corrections Compact works as a trade.
“In certain situations, in the past, we were unable to notify victims about the location of certain high-profile offenders without placing that offender at risk or the employees at risk,” Trani said.
“As of today’s date, out of the offenders we have out of state, 47 that have victims enrolled and we have been able to notify all the victims of those offenders,” he added.
Some victims have told 9NEWS they have waited for this information for at least a decade.
Tom Sullivan didn’t have to wait that long to learn where the killer of his son Alex was serving time. Alex died in the Aurora movie theater. Sullivan addressed the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
“Those over 300 moviegoers had their dreams shattered on July 20 and I can only imagine the nightmares that they must have,” Sullivan said. “Help these victims sleep at night, let them and others know we will always be looking out for them and keep them informed about where these inmates are located.”
Sullivan and several theater victims have been publicly fighting DOC to release the killer’s whereabouts. DOC didn’t.
Last fall, the shooter was transferred to federal custody and the federal prison system published his location in its online searchable database.
DOC told 9Wants to Know that the release of the shooter’s location prompted a review of cases involving other previously hidden prisoners.
The passage through the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday means the bill has a couple more stops before reaching the Governor’s desk.
“Today’s bill allows us to provide appropriate information to victims and families while ensuring safety for all - including correctional officers. We look forward to seeing SB 014, in its current form, reach the Governor’s desk,” said Governor’s spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery in an email Tuesday afternoon.