Colorado Cuts Response Time to Bracelet Alerts

Colorado Cuts Response Time to Bracelet Alerts

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

In response to the murder of Colorado Corrections Chief Tom Clements, the state’s parole director is scampering to incorporate a new policy that will require parole officers’ response to bracelet tampering alerts within two hours.

According to bracelet alerts, parolee Evan Ebel removed his mentoring bracelet at 1:54 pm on March 14. At 3:21 pm, Ebel’s parole officer notified BI Inc. of possible bracelet interference. BI Inc. contacted Ebel at 4:00 am the following morning alerting him to report in for a bracelet repair. 

Three days later, Ebel still had not responded to the contractor’s alert. Nathon Leon, possibly posing as a pizza delivery man, was killed at Ebel’s door. The bracelet alert was too late, although, the correctional department unsuccessfully tried to contact Ebel’s family on March 15, by the time they arrived at the Ebel family home on March 19, he had already escaped to Texas. Authorities believe Ebel killed Chief Clements before fleeing to Texas.    

Ebel was killed in Texas in a shoot-out with police on March 21st, the day after his arrest warrant was finally released.

The Colorado parole director is proposing a change in policy that will require parole officers to check on parolees at their residences within two hours of a bracelet alert.

Tim Hand, the state’s adult parole director believes the new policy is too demanding because his parole officers are already burdened with caseloads and don’t have time to respond rapidly. He believes the only solution is to work parole officers overtime.

The dilemma with overworking parole officers is they will be unable to effectively monitor every case because of a lack of time and energy.

Allison Morgan, corrections spokesperson believes the proposal is a temporary solution, but in the meantime, the department plans to discuss alternative solutions with other state authorities and to “look at best practices across the country” for more effective methods of overseeing parolees. According to The Denver Post, Las Vegas and Michigan already have a rapid response to bracelet meddling alerts in place.

Morgan announced that after lengthy discussions with his associates, Hand had developed a temporary plan he has distributed to parole officers with new guidelines for responding to monitor alerts. Public details are being withheld to deter parolees from using the information to evade supervision.

The Colorado Corrections Department has its hands full with 14,000 parolees. The significant number of parolees includes 1,500 parolees that are deemed a threat to society.  These parolees have been mandated to wear ankle bracelets. Parole officers are responsible for the strict supervision of these dangerous criminals, which requires them to have daily contact with the monitoring system. This is a lot to expect from officers, who already manage a high caseload.

According to Morgan, there are “212 officers statewide carrying mixed caseloads, supervising people on regular parole and community corrections, along with intensive supervision parole.” Considering these circumstances, it seems impossible for parole officers to comply with the new two-hour rule and show up on every parolee’s doorstep when there is a bracelet tampering report.

Morgan reports BI Inc., the bracelet monitoring contractor is not expected to comply with the new two-hour rule because they responded to Ebel’s alert 87 minutes after his alarm sounded.

Sen. Pat Stedman, Colorado chairman of the joint budget committee has concerns about how the new rule will financially affect parole officer workloads. He is unable to fathom how it is possible for a parole officer to be at a parolee’s home within two hours especially when the parole officer may be located more than two hours away from the parolee’s front doorstep.

Steadman has been discussing the possibility of a budget amendment with Gov. Hickenlooper’s office that would meet the financial needs of increased parole supervision.

Rep. Clair Levy, a member of the Colorado Justice Commission believes the parolee under supervision problem stems from staff cuts caused by the recession that forced parole monitoring to depend on electronic ankle bracelets as a means of supervision.

Levy believes a more efficient method of parole monitoring should be researched and over-reliance on electronic monitoring should be changed.

It is unfortunate that this problem was not addressed until a correctional authority was killed by an under-monitored parolee.