DENVER (CBS4) – A convicted sex offender who was paroled from prison with the express agreement he attend counseling and regular sex offender treatment programs didn’t comply with those conditions, but there were apparently no consequences for parolee Steve Pierce, who is now accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl.
“I don’t believe this was our best effort from what I have seen,” said Steve Hager, interim director of Colorado’s Division of Adult Parole.
A CBS4 investigation found that when Pierce was released from a Colorado prison on parole May 4, 2012, the parole board set a number of conditions, including regular sex offender therapy and counseling.
“You are directed to report to Progressive Therapy Systems … for assessment, evaluation and treatment for SXO (sex offender therapy). You are directed to follow the treatment provider’s instructions and cooperate fully with them in your treatment,” his parole order reads. On another page, “You must actively participate in offense specific mental health treatment. Unsuccessful termination from this treatment will be considered a violation of this directive.”
But according to nearly 200 pages of Pierce’s parole records, obtained by CBS4, after apparently attending just a couple of sessions, Pierce refused to return to classes and was “hostile,” according to the parole department. That could have triggered serious consequences, such as Pierce’s parole being revoked and him being returned to prison. But the records reviewed by CBS4 indicate the parole department did not react to Pierce’s refusals to comply with his parole terms.
“We could have done better,” said Hager, who told CBS4 he has now ordered a complete review of Pierce’s case to determine what happened, and who should be held responsible.
“It’s a very big deal,” said Hager. “Making sure offenders comply is one of the most important things we do. It’s very important. When the parole board places conditions on offenders, it’s incumbent on us that we enforce those conditions. We’re looking into this very seriously.”
Alison Morgan, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, said the lack of program compliance for Pierce “is a glaring omission. It wasn’t good supervision. It is not the supervision we would expect from our parole officers.”
The missteps in the Pierce case become especially disconcerting since Pierce is now charged with sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl in May 2013 while he was still on parole supervision. After that incident Pierce dropped out of sight and had been the subject of a manhunt. Police say Pierce was arrested Wednesday in Washington State.
The gaffe in the Pierce case is the latest mistake for Colorado’s parole department. The department came under fire after high-risk parolee Evan Ebel cut his ankle monitor but parole officers failed to react for days. In that time period Ebel is suspected of killing a young father, Nathan Leon, and of murdering Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements.
A CBS4 investigation revealed high-risk parolees were routinely being downgraded to less rigorous forms of parole due to annual budget crunches, something the parole department initially denied. But a follow up investigation unearthed parole department records that verified financial considerations were guiding parole supervision decisions.
At about the same time, Parole Director Tim Hand was placed on indefinite leave. His successor, Steve Hager, says the review of the Pierce case should take about a week.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com