For parolees who ended up locked in a county jail somewhere in Colorado this spring, the average time from prison gates to behind cell bars again was only eight months. On the last day of March, 973 parolees sat in jails across the state for crimes ranging from drug use to murder, said a Denver Post analysis. For this group, prison time, guidance from a parole officer and, in some cases, rehab for anger management, and drug addiction apparently didn’t take.
The rate at which parolees return to prison — either for committing a new crime or failing at parole — is higher in Colorado than in most states. Colorado had the third-highest return-to-prison rate in the nation at 52.5 percent in 2010, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics that included data from most states. The national average was 32.8 percent. The state prison system, under intense scrutiny since the murder of director Tom Clements allegedly by a parolee, is searching for reforms that would improve rehabilitation programs for prisoners before they are released and would enhance training for parole officers. The state cannot control or predict with certainty how any former prisoner is going to behave on the streets, said interim corrections director Roger Werholtz.