The audience gave a standing ovation for Lisa Clements when she accepted a posthumous award for her husband, Tom Clements, the Colorado Department of Corrections executive director who was shot to death in March when he answered the front door of his Monument-area home.
With a wide smile and tears in her eyes, she expressed gratitude and said he would have thought the gesture was "over the top."
The award was given Wednesday during the third day of the International Corrections and Prisons Association conference at the Antlers Hilton hotel. Members agree Tom Clements was responsible for bringing the summit to Colorado Springs for the first time.
"Tom would be so very honored, he was so excited about this conference," Lisa Clements said. "There's nothing he accomplished without the support of his team."
ICPA President Peter van der Sande presented the Posthumous ICPA President Award to Lisa Clements and said he had met the former director briefly twice, but it had been enough to see his dedication, moving up the ranks from his beginnings in St. Louis, Mo., as a corrections officer more than 30 years ago.
"Tom led the change in the culture of administrative segregation. In just two years as Colorado's corrections director he implemented a strategy that lowered the number of inmates in solitary confinement by 47 percent," van der Sande said.
In August 2011, when Tom Clements initiated the review of administrative segregation, the DOC incarcerated 1,515 offenders in 23-hour lockdown. As of Aug. 31, there were 650 inmates in solitary confinement, according to the corrections department.
"Starting at a very early age, when we were dating, Tom started thinking about how people change and how to give them the tools and opportunities to do so, while removing obstacles for that change," Lisa Clements said.
Roxanne White, chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, had worked closely with Tom Clements during his time in Colorado. She recalled speaking with him a week before he was assassinated at his home on March 19; he had just come back from England and was brimming with excitement over this week's conference.
"Tom truly believed in a global effort for the progression of corrections," White said. "He was filled with ideas and he wanted to share them with everyone."
Seth Lee, a former inmate, addressed the audience and shared his first-hand experiences of being convicted of second-degree murder in 1998, going through Colorado's corrections system, and finding change and redemption through treatment, vocational training and mentoring.
Lee stood at the podium, turned to Lisa Clements, and said, "I am so sorry for what happened to your husband and what your family has been through."
DOC Director Rick Raemisch praised Tom Clements' legacy of being the first corrections director in Colorado to implement an outcome-based strategic plan and evidence-based tools to assist parole officers in making supervision decisions in response to parole violations.
He vowed to follow in Tom Clements' footsteps and grow from them.
"I will never, and I don't intend to ever, replace Tom Clements, but I will see that his vision for the department of corrections is completed," Raemisch said.