Various clerical errors may have led to the early and improper release of hundreds of Colorado prisoners. Judges across the state are reviewing case files sent to them by corrections officials to determine which of those prematurely released inmates need to return to prison.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ordered the investigation, which is still on-going, after the murder of Colorado's prison chief, Tom Clements. Officials believe Clements was killed by a Colorado parolee who was released early because of a clerical error.
The audit has found “serious questions” about 349 prisoners who have been released, and judges have amended sentences in 56 of those cases. But that's just what invesigators have found so far; the investigation is expected to continue into July, and there are over 8,000 current or former inmates with sentences that require review.
Officials believe the errors occurred for a variety of reasons. Some may have involved judicial clerks giving incorrect sentences to the corrections department; other cases may have involved corrections officials incorrectly interpreting sentences.
If the current error rate continues, "serious" sentencing flaws could be detected in the cases of more than 1,000 individuals.
"I think it would be logical to be concerned," said Roger Werholtz, the interim executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. "There is always the potential for someone to go out and harm citizens of the community, and that's what we do our best to minimize."
He added that the public should take some reassurance in the fact that recidivism statistics indicate most of the offenders released early are unlikely to harm others, but he cautioned, "I cannot promise certainty."
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