DENVER — The head of Colorado's correctional system told lawmakers Friday his department needs to improve the monitoring of parolees, and that officials are considering using cellphones instead of electronic bracelets to do so.
Delays in responding to alerts of bracelet tampering are "completely unacceptable under any circumstances whatsoever," Department of Corrections Executive Director Rick Raemisch told a legislative committee.
Lawmakers are scrutinizing department policies after the death of Raemisch's predecessor, Tom Clements, who authorities suspect was killed by former inmate Evan Ebel. Authorities say Ebel took his bracelet off days before the slaying in March, but parole officers didn't immediately find out.
Ebel is also accused in the death of Nathan Leon, a computer technician who was killed while delivering pizzas — a second job he took to help support his wife and three children. Ebel was later killed in a shootout with Texas law enforcement. Since then, lawmakers have questioned the effectiveness of electronic bracelet monitoring.
"It's certainly not doing what the public thinks it's doing," Raemisch said.
He said one option officials are exploring is issuing cellphones with GPS to parolees to know their location at all times. Officials could call parolees anytime and have them take pictures of themselves and send them back during conversations to verify their identities, he said.
Raemisch spoke during the second day of testimony aimed at helping lawmakers learn what department officials are doing to correct problems with the state's intensive parole supervision program, which Ebel was in.
The problems preceded Clements' death. In June, The Denver Post reported that there were other cases where parolees tampered with their ankle monitors to avoid supervision. One is now accused of raping two women and another is suspected of murder, the newspaper reported.
"There have been problems. Serious problems with sometimes catastrophic consequences in the operations of intensive supervision parole," said Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan, the committee's chair.
Other points Raemisch highlighted:
— Raemisch said he wants parole officers to be involved with parolees sooner. Currently, parolees are required to report to officers within 30 days of their release.
— He said DOC needs to do more to prepare inmates for re-entry into society. He said officials are considering at least having video conferences between parole officers and inmates so they know what's expected of them when they're released.
— He said inmates in solitary confinement should have a chance to reintegrate into the general population before being released from prison. Failing to do so "is a recipe for disaster" Raemisch said. Ebel had spent much of his prison sentence in solitary confinement before he was released.