Governor names new Colorado prison director, Rick Raemisch from Wisconsin

Raemisch takes over for Tom Clements

DENVER - The former head of the Wisconsin's Department of Corrections has been named to replace slain Colorado Corrections Director Tom Clements.

Gov. John Hickenlooper says Rick Raemisch has experience as a deputy sheriff, prosecutor, elected sheriff and head of the Wisconsin's Department of Corrections, where he was responsible for more than 22,000 inmates, more than 73,000 probation or parolees and approximately 1,000 juveniles in institutions or on supervision.

"Rick is a nationally recognized expert in corrections and has a very diverse background in criminal justice," Hickenlooper said. "He has a great understanding of crime and the criminal mind from his work as a sheriff and prosecutor. He also understands that most people who are incarcerated will return to our communities and need job skills and treatment. Rick is committed to implementing the strategic plan that Tom Clements established for the Department of Corrections, and we are pleased he is coming to Colorado."

Clements was shot and killed while answering the door to his Monument home in March. The lone suspect in Clements' death, 28-year-old Evan Ebel, had been released from prison in January, four years earlier than authorities intended, because of a paperwork error.

Ebel was killed in a shootout in Texas days after Clements was killed.

According to ex-Parole Director Tim Hand, who was fired on Thursday, Ebel was working from a hit list that named Clements, Hand and two other corrections employees, and was working in conjunction with a white supremacist prison gange..

"This is big time. This is a bunch of 211 Crew members who were doing this. It wasn’t Ebel working alone,"  Hand, who was the division director over parole, community corrections and the Youthful Offender System, told the Denver Post.

Clements was killed on March 19, five days after Ebel cut his ankle bracelet. Investigators also believe Ebel killed Nathan Leon on March 17 while Leon was working as a part-time pizza delivery driver.  Ebel is believed to have used Leon's pizza delivery uniform to approach Clements at his home without arousing suspicion.

Hand -- who worked under Clements --  had been placed on paid leave by the DOC after the CALL7 Investigators found gaps in the parole division's response when Ebel cut his ankle bracelet and went on a multi-state rampage. According to DOC documents, Ebel cut off his ankle monitor and his parole officer didn’t check in on him for six days. By then, Leon and Clements -- the chief of parole and all prisons --  were dead.

Clements had advocated for reducing the use of solitary confinement, or segregation in prisons, especially since those prisoners would eventually be let out in the general public. Raemisch seems to agree with that assessment.

"The problems facing corrections tend to be universal across the nation," Raemisch said. "Some of the major ones are dealing with the mentally ill, sex offenders, racial disparity, effective treatment and education programs and the overuse of segregation. I am honored Gov. Hickenlooper asked me to come to Colorado to lead the state’s Department of Corrections."

"I consider myself a strong law and order individual, but I also believe that people can change," Raemisch said. "More than 90 percent of all inmates return to where they came from. They will go back in one of two ways: They will either go back angry and likely re-offend; or they will go back prepared to re-enter the community and be law-abiding citizens."

During his time as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Raemisch and his team lowered the prison population for three years in a row for the first time since the first Wisconsin prison was built in 1850. He also built strong re-entry initiatives and saw positive results.

Since 2011, Raemisch has worked as Dean of the School of Human and Protective Services at Madison College in Madison. He oversees programs in Emergency Medical Services, Criminal Justice, Fire, Human Services and Early Childcare Education.

Raemisch will start work in July and have a chance to transition into the new role alongside interim executive director Roger Werholtz.