Colorado's new DOC director defends early release programs

5:19 PM, Jul 22, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - The new Department of Corrections Executive Director Rick Raemisch said his idea of success would be lowering the Colorado prison population while reducing the overall crime rate. He is a proponent of merit-based early release programs for non-violent offenders.

The Colorado Department of Corrections has been under intense scrutiny since the murder of DOC director Tom Clements in March. Clement's alleged murderer, Evan Ebel, was a parolee who was released too soon due to a court paperwork error. Colorado parole officers were also criticized for failing to search for Ebel or issue an arrest warrant until several days after he cut off his monitoring anklet.

Rick Raemisch has spent his whole career in law enforcement, including nearly 4 years running the Wisconsin's prison system. Raemisch says he wants to fulfill Clements' vision to "make Colorado safer." He mentions a dedication to improving the solitary confinement procedures, mental health services, and re-entry programs for inmates released back into the community.

Facing budget constraints in Wisconsin, Raemisch started an early release program for some prisoners. Raemisch contends that recidivism rates declined during that time. However, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature dismantled the program in 2011 after critics labeled it "catch and release" and "hug a thug."

"Those programs worked," Raemisch said. "Those programs were not early-release programs. They were earned release programs based on data. The way they worked was that we dictated what the inmates would have to do to have a portion of their sentence taken off their sentence."

Raemisch also said he also doesn't want to see inmates go directly from solitary confinement to being released out on the streets. Ebel had spent much of his time in prison in what's called administrative segregation.

When asked about efforts to ensure his personal safety, Raemisch said "awareness is a way of life for me." He declined to talk specifically about security measures, and said that correctional officers in the prisons face greater security threats than he does.

The new DOC director will spend a few days visiting the prisons and meeting with department leaders before assuming his full duties on July 29.

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