Colorado parolees have committed new crimes, used drugs, and disappeared for months without getting bounced back to prison, a Denver Post investigation found. The consequences were deadly. In the past year, five ex-prisoners under parole officer supervision killed 10 Colorado citizens. Among the victims: five men and women who were slaughtered and burned at a restaurant in a late-night heist, a family law attorney who was sexually assaulted, an elderly man who was strangled, and the chief of corrections who was shot on his doorstep.
In the first article in a series, the Post reported on 29 murder cases since 2002 in which parolees violated conditions of release or were arrested, yet were allowed to remain free. In five cases, parolees who killed were recommended for intensive supervision with electronic monitoring but ended up on a lower level of oversight. The corrections system, weak on reform and rehab for prisoners, puts all the pressure on parole officers, who are supervising on average 69 parolees at once and are allowed to work second jobs. State officials acknowledge major breakdowns in the parole system and have vowed to fix them. Since corrections director Tom Clements’ murder, officials have fired the head of the parole division, created a new police unit to pick up absconded parolees and required parole officers to respond within two hours to ankle-bracelet alerts.