On June 13, Colorado’s Chief Parole Offer, Tim Hand, was fired after the murder of the state’s corrections chief Tom Clements. The chief suspect in the murder is parolee Spencer Ebel, a white supremacist gang member who was released from prison early due to a clerical error. Prison officials reported that at first, Ebel was a model parolee, reporting every day and remaining in the area. He even called in once voluntarily because he hadn’t been given his weekly urine test. A month and a half later, however, he cut his ankle bracelet, which allows officials to monitor and keep track of all parolees. Despite the fact that he removed his bracelet, Tim Hand failed to put out a warrant for his arrest. It was only after Ebel murdered Clements, as well as a pizza deliveryman, that authorities were notified that he had violated parole. Ebel was pulled over in Texas on March 21 and died in the ensuing high-speed chase and shootout.
Tim Hand (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
Following Clement’s murder, Hand was placed on administrative leave. Last week, the state announced Hand had been fired. Authorities say Hand was partly to blame for the murders Ebel committed while on parole, since parole officers are inundated with more cases than they can possibly handle. According to industry standards, each officer should have 20 parolees under their supervision; currently, however, most have about 35. After investigative journalists discovered the swamping of the parole system, Colorado law enforcement officials announced in April that they were tightening up on parole security. According to the Denver Post, 136 parolees violate parole each month. In response to these statistics, the state announced that 80 parole officers had been assigned to work overtime. Sixteen officers had been assigned to respond to monitoring bracelet alerts.
There is no question that it is important to keep track of all parolees and to protect Colorado citizens from dangerous individuals. However, stricter security for parolees could cause innocent people to fall under suspicion. Ankle bracelets malfunction, people legitimately forget their appointments with their parole officers, and other misunderstandings occur. After the incident involving Spencer Ebel, there is certainly more fear regarding parolees, and this fear runs highest among those in authority. After all, the State Corrections Department has lost one of their own. This is why it is important for all parolees to be extra vigilant regarding the conditions of their parole. They should also have a qualified and experienced defense attorney on call in case they come under scrutiny from a justice system that is feeling shaken and exposed.
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.