New prison reform bill would suggest improvements, require none

DENVER - Two Colorado lawmakers are introducing a new prison reform bill in the state House of Representatives Thursday afternoon. The bill sets deadlines for the Department of Corrections to adopt policies in several categories, but does not explicitly set any other requirements.

Representatives Daniel Kagan (D-Denver) and Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) are co-sponsors of the bill proposing the DOC be required to develop those initiatives. The eight-page draft of the bill obtained by CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta would set deadlines for the development of the plans and makes a long list of suggested areas for improvement.

Kagan, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has been an outspoken critic of the Department of Corrections. He provided interviews for many of Marchetta's investigations into DOC controversies and missteps since an escaped parolee committed two murders and thrust the department into the political spotlight.

The bill being introduced Thursday does not say any of the suggested improvements would be explicitly required and leaves every initiative subject to future appropriations. It also includes no language about what would happen if the Department of Corrections does not comply.

It if becomes law, the bill requires the DOC to "design the reentry program to reduce the possibility of each offender returning to prison, to assist each offender in rehabilitation, and to provide each offender with life management skills that allow him or her to function successfully in society."

The first deadline stipulated in the bill is July 1, 2014. By that time, the bill requires the department to develop ways to help inmates prepare for release and develop support for them after release.

The bill would require steps to prepare offenders for release, such as assigning community parole officers to prison facilities to meet offenders, improvements for case management, transportation for offenders and the creation of pre-release specialists within the DOC.

After release, the bill suggests providing mental health consultants, job training, behavioral specialists, reentry specialists and a program of "medication-assisted therapies."

Also by July 1, 2014, the proposed law would require the DOC to "make necessary operational enhancements" to the operational ability of parole officers.

The proposal would require managers take steps to ensure the department is properly trained and equipped. Proposals include improvements to basic and ongoing training, acquisition of equipment for better monitoring parolees wearing tracking devices, creation of a plan for scheduled replacement of officer's equipment and information technology enhancements.

Additionally, the bill would require the DOC to establish a one-year grant program to fund community-based programs to help offenders readjust to the community by July 1, 2015.

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