Location: RM 271
Department of Corrections Presentation
COMMITTEE ON JOINT JUDICIARY
01:34 PM -- Department of Corrections Presentation
The committee returned to order. Mr. Rick Raemisch, Executive Director, Ms. Kellie Wasko, Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Christina Rosendahl, Legislative Liaison, Ms. Melissa Roberts, Director of Adult Parole, Mr. Rick Thompkins, Director of Human Resources, Ms. Jennifer Bennett, Director of Finance and Administration, and Ms. Deb Goheen, Budget Director, all representing the Department of Corrections (DOC), appeared before the committee pursuant to the SMART Government Act and Joint Rule 25. Committee members received copies of DOC's regulatory agenda (Attachment G), performance plan (Attachment H), a newspaper article about solitary confinement (Attachment I), and a packet of Powerpoint slides (Attachment J).
Mr. Raemisch began the Powerpoint presentation and provided an overview of DOC activities and pertinent issues. He responded to questions regarding an international academy conducted by DOC. The committee and DOC representatives discussed racial disparity in the prison system. Mr. Raemisch explained that the DOC has made strides in hiring a more diverse staff. He also explained that he co-chairs a racial disparity committee on the national level, and this committee is working on developing a standard to address racial disparity in correctional systems. Further discussion ensued about racial disparity, including on the national level and in private prisons.
Mr. Raemisch continued with his presentation and highlighted the prevalence of co-occuring disorders in the inmate population. He also discussed commitments, releases, and the increase in criminal court filings. Committee members asked questions about increased criminal court filings and the impact on county jails. Senator Coram noted that he chaired an interim committee that addressed DOC inmates in county jails and related legislation will be introduced this upcoming session. Mr. Raemisch confirmed that is has been a priority of DOC to move state offenders who are awaiting transfer to state prison out of county jails. He answered questions about the average number of DOC inmates in county jails and the fluctuations in this population. It was reported that only in two counties, Denver and Jefferson, are DOC inmates transferred within 72 hours. Mr. Raemisch continued with his presentation and answered questions about prison population predictions and mandatory and discretionary parole.
The committee asked further questions about parole and concerns were raised about the standards and calculations used for determining parole. A Colorado Supreme Court case regarding overdue parole hearings was also discussed.
Discussion continued regarding parole eligibility, and the sharing of data between DOC and the State Board of Parole. Ms. Wasko provided input regarding the latter issue. Mr. Raemisch and Ms. Wasko responded to questions regarding the number of inmates subject to a parole hearing under a recent Colorado Supreme Court finding.
Ms. Wasko responded to questions regarding a backlog of sex offenders who cannot access the treatment programs required to become parole eligible. Discussion ensued regarding the use of polygraph in connection with sex offender treatment.
Mr. Raemisch returned to the presentation, discussing factors leading to increased rates of incarceration, the number of DOC beds available, and potential ways to relieve capacity problems. Mr. Raemisch responded to questions regarding the DOC budget for state prisons in the coming fiscal year.
Mr. Raemisch discussed population projections and explained that the prison population will continue to increase unless there is sentencing reform. He next discussed interstate corrections compacts, which allow DOC to house inmates from other states and vice versa. The most common reason for moving inmates to another state penitentiary is for safety, and it is also used as a tool for behavioral issues, particularly related to gangs. Mr. Raemisch responded to questions regarding private prisons, the interstate corrections compact, and notification procedures to victims' families when an inmate is moved out-of-state.
Mr. Raemisch returned to briefing and answered questions about reentry programs and the difficulties many offenders encounter with obtaining a valid ID.
The committee and DOC representatives discussed family reunification efforts, and services for the hearing impaired. Mr. Raemisch next addressed efforts to reduce recidivism and technical parole revocations. Mr. Raemisch discussed the department's FY 2018-19 budget request. The committee asked questions and raised concerns about offender medical treatment and recidivism.
The committee discussion revisited technical parole revocations.
The following persons provided public testimony regarding the DOC:
03:32 PM -- Mr. Jerry Frey, representing Advocates for Change, explained why the DOC is not abiding by the Americans with Disabilities Act and used his son, who is currently incarcerated, as an example. Mr. Frey responded to questions regarding discussions with DOC staff to accommodate his son's disabilities.
03:35 PM -- Ms. Susan Walker, representing the Coalition for Sexual Offense Restoration, discussed the relationship between the Colorado State Board of Parole and the DOC. She discussed impediments that offenders encounter in gaining release and trying to reintegrate into society.
03:40 PM -- Mr. Tim Lopez, representing the Denver Democratic Public Policy Committee, expressed certain concerns with the DOC, including limits on data access and bed capacity. Mr. Lopez responded to questions regarding the type of data that is not being released to the public.