Parole woes

Violators could be set free

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A decision by Moffat County Jail officials to turn away parole violators means more criminals could end up on the streets and not in jail, a Colorado Department of Corrections official said Friday.

But parole violators who end up back on the streets will be those who commit a "technical parole violation," such as failing a drug test or failing to report to a parole officer, officials said.

"The department will fulfill its requirement to place an offender in an appropriate and secure location," said Walt Ahrens, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

In an unprecedented move, Moffat County Jail administrator Dean Herndon earlier this month announced that the jail would no longer accept parole violators. Moffat County's jail is the only one in the state to turn away parole violators, Ahrens said.

What it comes down to is the cost to the county to house parole violators.

If the Department of Corr--ections allows an inmate to parole in Moffat County and the inmate violates parole, the Department of Corrections must find somewhere to house the inmate, Herndon said.

Herndon said housing inmates until after their parole hearings costs the jail too much money, he said.

Moffat County Jail must pay to house parole violators until after their parole hearings, when the Department of Corrections takes responsibility for them, Herndon said.

Parole hearings can take as many as six months to complete, Herndon said. And it costs the jail about $75 a day to guard, feed, clothe and house the inmate.

"As a parolee, they belong to the Department of Corrections," he said.

Ahrens said parole officers will take parole violators to Moffat County Jail and try to have them admitted. But if the jail turns them away, parole officers will release violators and place them under closer supervision than is typical, Ahrens said.

The increased supervision could mean more frequent check-ins with a parole officer, ankle bracelet monitoring or temporary home lockdown, Ahrens said.

Information about how much it cost the jail to house parole violators in 2005 wasn't immediately available, Herndon said. But in November alone, housing parole violators cost the jail about $10,000.

Herndon said the jail would turn away all parole violators, even if the parolee committed their original crime in Moffat County.

If the parolee commits a capital crime, such as murder, the jail will accept them, Herndon said. But even then, Herndon said he wants the Department of Corrections to transfer the inmate as soon as possible.

Ahrens said the Department of Corrections hopes to meet with the Moffat County Sher--iff's Office, which administers the jail, to find a solution that works for both sides.

The Department of Cor--rections is working with parole boards in an effort to speed up parole hearings, he said. The longer it takes for parolees to have a hearing, the longer they sit in county jail.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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