Evan Ebel, suspected of killing Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements, went from years of solitary confinement into a parole system straining under high caseloads, complicated new policies, and an inadequate support system for violent parolees, reports the Denver Post. The system has undergone significant change, dealing with more paroled prisoners at the same time state officials are pushing for fewer parole revocations for technical infractions. State officials and legislators believe new services and an increased reliance on halfway-house beds will help those on parole adjust to life on the streets. Some close to the parole system say conditions had been ripe for a violent parolee to go off the rails.
“From the parole officers working the streets with the responsibility of keeping track of those on parole, I’m hearing they are letting them out of prison like crazy now, and the parole officers have caseloads that aren’t manageable,” said David Michaud, who retired as parole board chairman in 2010. The number of Colorado parolees in 2011 was 8,181. Due in part to officials’ efforts to drive down parole revocations and to grant parole sooner to prisoners in educational programs, officials project their numbers will swell to 10,986 by 2014, up 34 percent. The typical parole officer supervising lower-risk parolees is overseeing nearly 69 cases at a time now, higher than the 50 recommended by the American Probation and Parole Association.