DENVER (CBS4)– CBS4 has learned that some of the state’s most dangerous and high risk parolees have been moved from intensive supervised parole, which puts them on the tightest leash possible to “regular” parole, which means far fewer restrictions and much less monitoring, to save money.
Alison Morgan, a spokesperson for the Colorado Parole Department, acknowledged that between 2001 and 2004, when the parole department was facing millions in budget cuts, parolees who had been placed in the community on Intense Supervised Parole or ISP- which includes electronic monitoring, daily phone calls with parole officers, regular drug tests and frequent face to face visits with parole agents- were downgraded to much less restrictive ‘regular’ parole to save money, not because their behavior had improved or because they were less of a threat to the community.
“We did cut our intensive supervision program during those times,” said Morgan.
She said it only happened during that three and a half year period due to “extraordinary budget times. We are confident it has not happened since then.”
But four current employees of the state parole department and one former parole officer interviewed by 4 On Your Side Investigator Brian Maass said the practice has continued since 2004 , usually toward the end of the parole department’s fiscal year.
They said parole officers are routinely ordered to downgrade parolees from the more expensive ISP parole to a less rigorous form of parole that can mean only one or two contacts per month with a parole officer and no electronic monitoring.
“That is absolutely true,” one veteran parole officer told CBS4.
That officer, and all the others in this report, asked they not be identified for fear of losing their jobs.
The officer, who works in the southern part of the state, said the offenders are downgraded to a less rigorous form of parole not because they earned it or deserved it, but because the parole departments budget gets thin toward the end of the fiscal year and the agency has to look for ways to save money.
“You have too many ISP parolees, you have to take them off ASAP,” is what the officer said they were told. “I did it the same day,” the officer said.
On an annual basis, the explanation from supervisors was always the same: “We don’t have the money or the budget, you need to take them off. You don’t have a choice.”
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ISP parole and all its restrictive conditions is an expensive proposition according to state corrections officials.
Another current parole officer who works in the Denver metro area independently confirmed that account saying, “We don’t like it, it’s frustrating, but they say we can’t spend anymore. We had to take people off ISP due to funding.”
ISP parole is typically reserved for inmates who have been released from prison but are seen as high risk to flee or are considered extremely dangerous or acted poorly when in prison.
“For as long as I can remember we were always told we are out of money and we need to take offenders off of ISP and it had to be done immediately and we took a large number off ISP,” said another former parole officer, who was with the department for more than a dozen years.
“I would say it puts the public at risk more. There’s a reason they have to be on ISP,” said the former parole worker. “Many of my offenders didn’t deserve to be off ISP but we were told we had to get them off ISP, we were out of money every year. I would say it puts the public at risk more- there’s a reason they have to be on ISP.”
Morgan, the parole department spokesperson, said the five parole personnel interviewed by CBS4 were mistaken.
“It is not our practice, it is not our procedure,” she said, of the claims the department would regularly remove offenders from intense supervision just because of a budget squeeze.
Morgan said community safety is a top priority and decisions are “not dollar driven.”
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com