Department of Corrections asks lawmakers for more than $500k for 24-hour protection for prison chief

DENVER - The Department of Corrections is seeking more than $500,000 for two dedicated security officers for the prison chief and his wife.

Ever since the March 2013 murder of then-prison chief Tom Clements at his home, the executive director of the Department of Corrections has been provided around the clock security.

In a request to the Joint Budget Committee, the Department of Corrections asked for an additional $107,206 to provide security for director Rick Raemisch through June, and then $421,675 to provide security from July 2014 through June 2015.

The committee approved $78,775 for the next four months, but has not yet discussed what it will approve for '14-'15.

"I think we have to understand that if there is a credible threat to the executive director, then we need to respond with the right resources," said Joint Budget Committee member State Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs.

Security for Raemisch and his wife has been provided by specially trained correctional officers. Those officers are members of SORT, the Special Operations Response Team. SORT officers are trained to respond to emergencies in state or private prisons and provide help to other law enforcement agencies. According to the funding request, when SORT officers are assigned to the executive director security detail, it creates a gap in staffing at state prisons.

"Continued use of this existing staff will potentially cause staffing shortages in critical specialty roles within the correctional facilities," the funding request said.

7NEWS contacted the Department of Corrections to ask about the need for security and the cost of the request.

In an email reply, the Department of Corrections spokesman wrote, "The Colorado Department of Corrections will not discuss any specific security information that might jeopardize the safety of our facilities or staff."

The funding request provided some more detail.

"The investigation of the homicide is ongoing; there is no known estimate of when it may conclude. As a result, the Department is seeking funding to continue to provide critical security detail to the Executive Director," said the funding request.

"I don't think we need every detail to understand that there is a threat to the executive director or at least a potential threat," said Lambert.

"It's inconvenient, to say the least, to have security in your home and around your children and we only use security when we believe there are active threats or a risk of active threats," said Roxane White, the Chief of Staff for Governor John Hickenlooper. "Across the country, we've seen Department of Corrections' executive directors and family require 24-hour security and safety."

According to the funding request, the costs include about $53,000 for cell phones, vehicle mileage reimbursement and travel expenses for traveling with the executive director.

"They're requesting $420,000 for two 12-hour security guards, is that excessive?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"I don't think so, yet. There is a lot of flexibility in that. They don't need to spend that entire amount," said Lambert. "Extra funding for security for the executive director is a very, very small fraction of the Department of Corrections budget, but we go line-item by line-item."

The Joint Budget Committee will consider the $421,675 request before May.

Print this article Back to Top