Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper pushes parole funding increase
By Christopher N. OsherThe Denver Post
Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to increase spending on parole operations by 25 percent in the next fiscal year — a move that could lead to more parole officers, an overhaul of re-entry services and more treatment for parolees.
The governor's proposed state budget would increase parole spending by $10 million to bring the total amount spent up to $49.4 million.
In budget documents, officials with the Colorado Department of Corrections said they still are forming a plan to spend the proposed funding.
"Division resources, structure, and operations, in some instances, are not properly positioned to manage the significant risk inherent with the parole population," department officials state in the documents.
They add: "Current facility/re-entry preparation is inadequate to ameliorate offenders sufficiently to meet the demands of parole."
Steve Hager, interim director of the parole division, declined requests for comment. Corrections spokesman Roger Hudson said Hager is waiting until plans for spending the money are finalized. Officials hope the final plan will be ready for submission to the legislature by Jan. 15, Hudson said.
"We're very interested to see what they come up with," said State Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat who is chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, which recommends funding priorities for the legislature. Lawmakers must approve any funding increase before it becomes final.
The proposed $10 million increase follows a series of articles in The Denver Post that found Colorado parolees have committed new crimes, used drugs and disappeared for months without getting sent back to prison. The newspaper uncovered 29 murder cases since 2002 in which parolees violated conditions of their release or committed a crime and were allowed to remain free.
Potential changes proposed in the documents include hiring new parole officers, overhauling officer training, developing case plans that follow offenders from prison entry to discharge from parole, reforming pre-release and re-entry programming, helping homeless parolees, bolstering treatment programs and buying new electronic-monitoring equipment.
One proposal that will get serious consideration, according to the documents, would be to make state money available for "additional treatment and support services" for parolees. Often, parolees are responsible for treatment costs of $40 per session even when they can't come up with the money, the documents state.
Such services can include sessions for substance abuse, mental health and sex-offender treatment.
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