DENVER (AP) — DENVER (AP) — Colorado doesn’t have clear guidelines for how corrections officers should respond when electronic alarms indicate a parolee is breaking the rules, according to a review prompted by the slaying of the state prisons chief— apparently by a parolee who cut off his monitoring bracelet.
The review, released Friday, recommended the state spell out priorities and time limits for responding to alerts, make backup plans and arrange cooperation with other law-enforcement officers.
State officials asked for the review by the National Institute of Corrections after prisons director Tom Clements was shot and killed at his home on March 19. Investigators say their only suspect is Evan Ebel, a Colorado inmate who had been released on parole in January.
Ebel is also a suspect in the death of Nathan Leon, a computer technician killed while delivering pizzas, a second job he took to support his family.
Electronic monitoring bracelets are widely used to make sure parolees are home or at work when they’re required to be. They transmit an alarm when parolees break the rules or when they’re tampered with.
Ebel cut off his monitoring bracelet and stopped making his required daily check-in with authorities five days before Clements was killed, officials said. A warrant for his arrest on parole violations wasn’t issued until the day after Clements died.
Ebel died after a March 21 shootout with authorities in Texas.
The National Institute of Corrections made two sets of recommendations, one for handling electronic monitoring and one for managing inmates.
The need for guidelines for responding to electronic monitor alerts “cannot be overstated,” the review said, but it concluded that Colorado has few.
Other recommendations included more training, better guidelines and goals for deciding when to use electronic monitors, more specific direction on how strict a parolee’s supervision should be, tailoring incarceration plans for individual inmates and making fewer transfers of inmates from one prison to another.
Rick Raemisch, the new prisons director, said the review’s recommendations are being implemented.
He also said corrections officials who mishandled the response when Ebel disappeared have been disciplined, but he declined to give specifics, citing personnel rules.
Raemisch said it was difficult to say whether Clements’ death might have been averted had the recommended steps already been in place.
“It might have, if they had found him that first day,” he said.
Shortly after Clements’ and Leon’s death, prison officials were directed to respond more quickly to tamper alarms from bracelets, but they cautioned that some alarms are false or misleading.
Gov. John Hickenlooper attended the news conference at which the report was released, signaling the importance he places on the issue. Hickenlooper chose Clements for the prisons job, and Ebel’s father, Jack, is a longtime friend of the governor’s.
Hickenlooper said the recommendations were good advice for making the state safer.
Ebel’s disappearance led to other changes when authorities discovered he had been inadvertently released four years early. A new law requires prisons to get clarification from the courts if sentencing specifics aren’t clear.
By Dan Elliott, AP Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)