July 23, 2013 Updated: July 23, 2013 at 10:00 am
On the eve of taking over as executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, Rick Raemisch pledged to move the department forward, while promising a full review of the programs and measures in place for inmates and parolees.
Raemisch, former head of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, was named to replace slain director Tom Clements by Gov. John Hickenlooper in June.
Hickenlooper said Raemisch's experience as a deputy sheriff, prosecutor, elected sheriff and head of Wisconsin's corrections department - where he was responsible for more than 22,000 inmates and more than 73,000 parolees - made him a perfect fit for the position.
"Rick is a nationally recognized expert in corrections and has a very diverse background in criminal justice," Hickenlooper said. "Rick is committed to implementing the strategic plan that Tom Clements established for the Department of Corrections, and we are pleased he is coming to Colorado."
During a news conference at the DOC's headquarters in Colorado Springs on Monday, Raemisch recalled a professional and personal relationship he'd held with Clements and said the former director's murder inspired him.
"Tom's death really lit a fire inside of me because he and I shared so many visions of what we'd like the system to become," Raemisch said.
Clements, 58, was shot and killed as he opened the door to his Monument-area home the night of March 19. His killer is believed to be Evan Ebel, a 28-year-old paroled prison gang member, who was killed two days later during a chase with police in Texas. Ebel was believed to be fleeing Colorado after killing Denver pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon on March 17 and Clements two days later. The circumstances of Clements' death put a spotlight on DOC policies and operations.
Raemisch is set to take over July 29, when interim chief Roger Werholtz will step down and go back to retirement. Just like Clements, Raemisch advocates for reducing the placement of inmates in segregation, especially if they are set to be released shortly after.
"Some inmates, unfortunately, have mental health issues that cannot be helped," Raemisch said. "But I believe that the whole system has to be reviewed and we can give offenders the tools to re-enter society with the tools and opportunities to stay out of prison."
Raemisch praised the programs he set into motion during his time in Wisconsin, some of which he said included educational and vocational training for non-violent offenders in exchange for prison time.
"Wisconsin saw a reduction in crime for the first time since the induction of its prison system in the late 1800s," Raemisch said. "These programs work and in public safety and corrections, it's important to keep thinking ahead. The wheel can be reinvented in the corrections department."