Colorado Department of Corrections inmate Andrew Stiern uses a GTL Inspire Tablet to play a card game in his cell at the Four Mile Correctional Center as his K-9 in training dog “Murphy” sleeps underneath his bunk May 3, 2017 in Canon City.
The Colorado Department of Corrections received praised Thursday in a national report highlighting states that have been successful in reducing recidivism rates.
However, the state corrections department’s plan to reduce recidivism numbers in Colorado has seen its share of controversy.
The report, released by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the National Reentry Resource Center, highlighted seven states that have shown reduced recidivism rates, which means fewer people are returning to prison after being released. The report’s authors said the featured states were meant to serve as examples of success in reducing recidivism.
Colorado was featured because of a 24-percent decline in the rate of probation revocations between 2006 and 2015, the report said.
That decline was due in large part because fewer people on probation were being sent back to prison for technical violations such as missed appointments with probation officers or failed drug tests. That rate dropped by 26 percent during the same period, the report said.
But it is a 2015 state law and the Department of Corrections’s policy changes for technical violations that have been controversial.
The 2015 law changed how and when parolees are arrested and sent before the State Parole Board. In addition, the corrections department created a policy that requires all probation officers get approval from two high-ranking officials before recommending revocation.
Those steps reduced the number of people being sent back to prison, but critics said the changes came with a cost — leaving dangerous ex-cons on the streets to commit more crimes.
The most high-profile example happened in January 2016 when parolee Calvin Johnson was charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Teodoro Leon III. Johnson, who is serving a life sentence for the killing, had been used as an example of a success story just weeks before the killing even though his probation records show that he increasingly had been showing troublesome behavior.