Parole jump not as high as believed, report states

Mislabeled parolees and a 2005 change in policy were the factors responsible for an apparent spike in the number of felons being released early from Colorado prisons, according to a report presented Monday to the Legislative Audit Committee.

The audit revealed early prison releases have increased 40 percent — from 2,000 in 2006 to 2,800 in 2008 — over the past two years, a vastly smaller increase than one previously reported by the Colorado Department of Corrections.

The Colorado Department of Corrections reported last month that the number of discretionary parole releases, prisoners let out before their sentences were up, nearly doubled over the past two years.

Though not double, the spike in releases largely was the result of mislabeling of thousands of parolees whose release dates fell on a weekend, holiday or Friday.

“In December 2005, the board implemented a policy change allowing offenders whose mandatory parole dates fell on a Friday, weekend day or holiday to be released a few days early to alleviate departmental transportation problems,” according to the audit.

“When this change occurred, the department recorded these early mandatory releases as discretionary releases.”

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, nonetheless pressed David Michaud, chairman of the Colorado Parole Board, and his peers to account for the increase in parolees.

Michaud said a series of new programs have made felons more “parole-able.”

That said, Jeanne Smith, director of the Division of Criminal Justice at the Department of Public Safety, told the legislative panel it is impossible to cite one factor to account for the increase.

To get at the root of the parole trends, state auditors recommended that the state create a better statistical measure of the number of prisoners granted parole and what happens to them.


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