Judges fix 124 sentences found to have problems during Department of Corrections audit

DENVER - Judges decided to fix the sentences of 124 Colorado convicts after their cases were found to have potential sentencing problems during a Department of Corrections audit.

The courts have already reviewed 694 cases, but need to work through hundreds more before the final phase of the audit is completed.

The audit focused specifically on the universe of 8,607 offenders with convictions mandating a consecutive sentence. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Allison Morgan previously explained to 7NEWS that the initial review phase was completed by a temporary staff of "subject matter experts" made up of retired employees.

The files on 3,243 offenders were moved forward to a secondary review by current employees.

To date, the audit has reviewed all of the cases of offenders currently on parole or who have absconded from parole. They've also completed the review of those who are scheduled for discharge within four months.

Of those offenders who will be in prison for more than four more months, 678 files have been reviewed and 972 remain. The phase two review of those files is expected to be completed within 30 days.

As of June 4, 1,211 files were sent from the second phase review to the courts.

So far, judges have affirmed 565 of the court orders included in those files and made changes to 129 others. Those changes impact 124 inmates.

The audit was initiated after the revelation that Evan Ebel was mistakenly released early and is suspected of killing two people after absconding from his parole. The Department of Corrections expects their work on the audit to last until the end of June, with the judiciary requiring additional time to review the files sent on to that stage.

Ebel's sentence was reduced by four years because of a clerical error in court that failed to designate in a judge's order that those additional years be served after the completion of his existing sentence.

 

-- Parole Division also being audited --

While one court ordered audit is fixing sentencing problems to keep inmates behind bars longer, the CALL7 Investigators have learned the group responsible for tracking the inmates on parole is also being audited.

The audit of the Colorado Department of Corrections' Parole Division is being led by consultants from National Institute of Corrections, an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Parole Division audit is focusing on operational concerns within that unit, issues CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta took to Parole Director Tim Hand in May.

Hand is currently on paid leave until the audit is completed.

A series of CALL7 Investigations uncovered critical lapses in response time by parole officer to absconder alerts, insufficient or outdated safety equipment for officers and a lack of accountability and policy enforcement in the ranks.

The Department of Corrections has said the consultants are being given ample time and access to evaluate parole operations and develop recommendations. There is no timeline for the completion of their work.