The theme of the International Corrections and Prisons Association conference is "Thinking Outside the Cell: Reducing the Use of Imprisonment," and it would have been right up Tom Clements' alley.
Clements, who was director of the Colorado Department of Corrections until he was shot to death in March, championed ways to decrease recidivism and give inmates every opportunity for successful re-entry to society.
He also helped bring the group's 15th annual conference to Colorado Springs.
"He would've been so proud to see everyone here. Tom would've been our host," said ICPA President Peter van der Sande said. "We lost an extremely inspirational person in corrections."
DOC Director Rick Raemisch introduced Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was in El Paso County Monday to attend the opening day of the summit and tour flood-damaged areas and recovery efforts. Hickenlooper praised Clements' legacy of reducing the number of inmates in solitary confinement by almost 50 percent in two years.
"Tom believed that everything that happened in the prison cell was supposed to prepare the inmate to return to society successfully," Hickenlooper said. "He wanted Colorado to be considered a terrible place to commit a crime, but a great place for a second chance."
More than 500 delegates representing 72 countries filled the conference halls of the Antlers Hilton in downtown for the weeklong summit. Chief among a the workshop subjects and discussion sessions, the issue of mental health in corrections was at the top of nearly every attendants' list of interests. A delegate from Canada led a workshop on alternative corrections approaches and programs for mentally disordered inmates, while a representative from Nigeria spoke about correctional services in Africa.
"Every nation and jurisdiction delivers justice differently, but the ICPA gives all of us the opportunity to network, build partnerships and learn from each other," said Canada Correctional Service Commissioner Don Head. "Mental health is at the top of our priorities, as the prisons system has become the default depository for mentally ill offenders on a global scale."
Head recounted speaking with Clements just a month before former prisoner Evan Ebel gunned him down at his Monument home. Headsaid the corrections director was excited about Colorado Springs hosting the international summit and going fly fishing with his Canadian counterpart.
More than 100 delegates will lead sessions through Friday.touching on astoundingly diverse subjects, such as "In the Mind of a Gang Leader," and "The Use of Segregation."
A tribute to Clements will take place Wednesday, with Raemisch, the governor's chief of staff Roxanne White and van der Sande making special presentations.