State legislators taking a close look at Department of Corrections during two days of hearings

DENVER - State legislators are taking a close look at the Colorado Department of Corrections' handling of parolees. A two-day series of hearings began Thursday at the State Capitol.

So far, representatives of the agency have answered questions about parole-related issues. For example, Representative Joe Salazar, a democrat representing Thornton, asked questions about the limits of parole officers' discretion in their jobs.

Another topic discussed Thursday was the availability of ballistic vests for parole officers. Since CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta exposed the DOC was equipping officers with expired vests, the agency has announced a $183,713 purchase of 269 custom-fitted vests.

After lunch, state probation officials presented their newly redesigned model for Intensive Supervision Probation - which is reserved for the offenders assessed to be the most dangerous. The new approach uses some familiar tools but prioritizes the relationships between officers and the offenders.

"There is nothing that is going to affect that behavior except the relationship between the supervising agent and that offender," said Eric Phlip, Director of the Division of Probation Services.

"We use electronic monitoring, the conventional ankle bracelets, and we use passive GPS generally. But we use those for compliance, not for public safety reasons," Phlip also explained.

The heightened scrutiny of the DOC and the parole division in particular began in March, after parolee Evan Ebel absconded from the Intensive Supervision Parole program. He cut off his ankle monitor and committed two murders in Colorado while he was missing. Ebel was killed in a police chase and shootout in Texas.

Representative Daniel Kagan leads the Joint Judiciary Committee. He says the legislators want specific accountability and improvements.

"We're gonna find out facts, figures, policies," Kagan said. "We're gonna investigate it all. No stone must be left unturned when public safety is at risk."

Marchetta is attending the hearing to report for 7NEWS.

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