The Denver Post
A man accused three times of sex offenses, a drunken driver convicted of vehicular homicide and a third man nabbed 46 times for alleged crimes including assault are all among the first 10 Colorado inmates granted early prison releases.
And they were considered the best of the bunch.
The 10 whose sentences were cut by weeks or months by the Colorado Parole Board were among a smaller-than-expected number the board considered safe to let go. And the volume and diversity of the 10 inmates' prior offenses shows how difficult it will continue to be for the state to choose among thousands of convicted criminals for early release.
The early-release initiative, announced Aug. 18, is part of a plan to save $19 million toward
Corrections officials initially estimated that the parole board would deny 20 percent of the early-release cases, leaving about 6,400 who could be released up to six months early.
Ritter administration officials referred questions about the releases to Parole Board chairman David Michaud , who said the process of finding offenders deserving of early release has proven much more difficult than anticipated.
80 percent deemed too risky
He said the board is rejecting about 80 percent of eligible offenders for early release, including 149 sex offenders whose cases were brought before the board.
This means the state won't realize the anticipated savings.
"I've been a cop since 1963 and I've spoken to hundreds of victims. I'm not going to let someone out early if I don't think it's safe," said Michaud, who was Denver's police chief for six years. "I don't care how much money they save or don't save."
He said Ritter has told him there is no quota and he wouldn't object to the parole board not releasing any offenders if they aren't deemed safe.
If the Parole Board continues to reject the bulk of inmates for early release, the savings will be just a fraction of the $19 million projected.
The Parole Board bases release decisions on two risk-assessment scales. The board reviews victim input, institutional behavior, commitment to sobriety, participation in programming, family support, job opportunities and prior criminal records, Michaud said.
In response to an open-records request, the state released the names of the first 10 this week.
Jose Madrigal, 27, convicted of vehicular homicide in 1999, was released the first day that early releases were granted on Sept. 22. It was 26 days before his mandatory release date. Madrigal had trouble following rules in prison.
In 2007, he was convicted of rioting in prison and got another two years tacked on to his sentence.
Michaud said that Madrigal drove drunk, rolled a van and killed a passenger, but he didn't intentionally kill someone. The board will not give early releases to inmates guilty of first- or second-degree murder, he said.
Although Benny Joe Rael, 51, was serving a nonviolent theft conviction when he was released 16 days early — also on Sept. 22 — he had been arrested previously three times for sex offenses and was convicted in one child sex-assault case in 1982, Colorado Bureau of Investigation records say.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Denver Post