Local facility will not accept sex offenders

CAPS board has strict entrance policy for applicants

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As Michael Ballard, 56, searches for a halfway house as part a sentence handed down for his role in prostituting his seven children, he can be cross off Craig as a possible destination.

The 14th Judicial District Community Corrections Board, which covers Moffat, Routt and Grand counties, would not accept Ballard because of his offenses, according to board members.

Ballard pleaded guilty in 1992 to sexual assault on one of his sons and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury to all seven of his children. He was released in January after serving nine years of his 12-year sentence. Ballard has been placed on probation for eight years, and ordered to stay in a halfway house away from his children, eliminating Boulder, Arapahoe, Park, Larimer, Weld, Jefferson and Adams counties as possible destinations. He is searching for a program that could handle his case, and put a roof over his head.

After hearing Ballard was considering Craig as a possible home, concerned residents flooded the Moffat County Sheriff's Department with calls.

"We do not accept sex offenders into our community, bottom line," said Community Corrections board member John Ponikvar. "And, someone from our community who we can't give adequate treatment to, or if there are serious victim issues, they will also be rejected for the CAPS (Correctional Alternative Placement Services) program in Craig."

Craig resident Grant Taylor, who plead guilty to sexual assault on a Craig child, had his application rejected by the board, barring him from moving back into this community after his release from prison. Taylor is presently serving a 27-month sentence in a federal penitentiary for receiving child pornography.

Many applications for transfer into the Craig CAPS facility never even make it to the 14th Judicial District Community Corrections Board, also known as the CAPS Board, for consideration, Ponikvar said. If an applicant meets one or more of eight conditions, their application is rejected by the CAPS facility outright, and is not presented for the board's consideration.

The conditions for refusal are: Four or more convictions of a person being 25 years or older; a conviction or revocation [of probation] for escape from a correctional facility or program; a conviction for a crime which resulted in serious injury or death of a victim; a conviction for any sexual charge involving an adult or child; a conviction for a crime involving the use of a weapon or threatened use of a weapon; a conviction for arson; a conviction for, or had parole revoked for, the commission of a new crime while on parole, inmate status or escape status; or has a sentence of more than 15 years and has served less than seven and a half years of that sentence.

If an application makes it to the board for consideration, it faces a "pretty conservative board, which is very sensitive to accepting people into this community that wouldn't otherwise be here, especially when it comes to sex offenders," said David Waite, board member and Deputy District Attorney for the 14th Judicial District. "It would be a huge surprise to me if someone of [Ballard's] situation were approved."

Most small communities do not have the proper personnel, resources or facilities to handle "hard core" sex offenders, Waite said. Even if a board approved a sex offender to participate in the program, the offender could be sent down to the community corrections facility in Colorado Springs, which specializes in handling sexual offenders and their treatment.

The CAPS board is organized by state statute, and is made up of representatives from the District Attorneys' office, Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Department, Moffat County Probation Department, the public defender's office, and has three community member at large positions. The board has monthly meetings, with a majority of the its time spent reviewing the cases that are up for consideration.

"When a application has a given criteria, we go into lengthy discussions on why the person should make it," said board member Lt. Dean Herndon of the Moffat County Sheriff's Department. "With me, if it's a sexual offender, I always vote 'no.' Same with a violent offender. For white collar crime check fraud, things like that, well, everyone makes mistakes. With CAPS, they get a chance to turn their lives around.

"I can guarantee, if [Ballard's] applications came across the table, I would vote no."

The CAPS program itself is a valuable one, and a benefit to the community, Ponikvar said.

"CAPS has been a good neighbor; it helps provide the community with people who can fill in jobs in restaurants, construction jobs that otherwise probably wouldn't be filled," he said. "We [on the board] work toward a balance between what benefits this program can offer to the community to both people serving in it and their families, and employers and any negative side effects that are possible from a facility of this type. The board's role is to look out for the community and minimize any negative impacts."

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