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CBS4 Parolee Investigation Prompts Legislative Hearings

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Released parolees (credit: CBS)

Released parolees (credit: CBS)

Investigator Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – A series of CBS4 ”Justice Failed” investigations into gaps in Colorado’s intensive supervision program for parolees has prompted the Colorado House Judiciary Committee to schedule oversight hearings into the program.

“You uncovered a hornet’s nest,” said Rep. Mark Waller, who co-wrote a letter to House leadership seeking the hearings, which have now been scheduled for September. “One of the big reasons for the letter was all the stuff you uncovered,” said Waller. “You uncovered something so significant and have been spot on.”

The CBS4 investigations revealed how the state’s most dangerous and high-risk parolees were either being released early from intensive supervised parole or never being placed on it in the first place due to budget constraints and program caps. The Department of Corrections initially denied that occurred, but later CBS4 investigations revealed internal Department of Corrections documents that corroborated the CBS4 reports.

In several cases the parolees in question had gone on to commit serious crimes, including murder.

Waller, the House minority leader, and Rep. Bob Gardner of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and Daniel Kagan, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, requesting the investigative hearings.

“We find it both disturbing and unacceptable that, over the past five years, dangerous criminals have been removed from the program or never placed in it due to ‘program caps’. In addition, reads the letter, ‘information continues to emerge as a result of investigative reporting by CBS4 News demonstrating that the ISP has not been adequately administered to supervise dangerous criminals.’ “

Waller says Ferrandino and Kagan immediately agreed to the hearings.

The letter goes on to cite CBS4 reporting on the case of parolee Warren Watson. The broadcast investigation found that the parole board deemed Watson “low risk” and released him from prison three years early placing him on parole, despite a record of 10 felonies — some of them violent — and a record of multiple previous escapes from parole.

Watson was placed in transitional housing in Denver where supervisors say he failed to comply with conditions of his parole, but nothing was ever done and his parole was never revoked.

Watson confessed to investigators that he then escaped again from parole and raped and murdered Lakewood lawyer Claudia Miller.

“Had Watson been properly supervised,” reads the representative’s letter, “this horrible event may have been avoided.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said the DOC looks forward to meeting with judicial lawmakers and discussing parole issues.

LINK: Read The Letter

- Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com

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