Colorado Department of Corrections officials are contacting state judges alerting them that an audit of the state's prison system has revealed errors in the sentencing of more than 8,000 inmates, including hundreds who were released from prison early. According to the Denver Post, judges are currently reviewing the case files in an attempt to determine what individuals need to be returned to jail, and who among the individuals facing imminent release needs to have their sentence extended.
Colorado's Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) ordered the audit last month when it was revealed that Evan Ebel, the white supremacist who allegedly shot and killed Colorado Department of Corrections director Tom Clements in March, was released from prison four years early because of a clerical error.
Ebel, a member of the 211 Crew, a "white power" prison gang, was released January 28 of this year because a court document ordered that his four-year sentence for striking a prison guard should be "concurrent" rather than "consecutive" to his original eight year sentence. On March 17, Ebel shot and killed pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon. Two days later, he murdered Clements and was himself killed in a shootout with Texas police on March 21.
The Post reported that so far, the audit has turned up "serious questions" about 349 individuals who are currently at large or slated for imminent release. Judges have modified and amended sentences in 56 cases.
The audit is still in its early stages. Some 8,415 people's sentences need to be reviewed in all with an estimated 2,500 requiring intensive study and revision.
"I think it would be logical to be concerned" about risks to the public, said Roger Werholtz, the interim executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, to the Post.
"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 said.
Statistically, recidivism rates would indicate that already-freed inmates would be unlikely to harm members of the public, Werholtz said, "I cannot promise certainty."
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