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Preparing prison inmates for society

By Scott Harrison
Published On: May 02 2013 08:24:01 PM CDT
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

The Colorado Department of Corrections responded Thursday to a Target 13 investigation about whether inmates receive adequate preparation for returning to public life.

DOC spokeswoman Allison Morgan said an independent investigation will determine if concerns expressed by former inmate Evan Ebel before his release were properly addressed.

Ebel, shot to death in March during a shootout with Texas law enforcement officers, is believed to have killed DOC prisons chief Tom Clements and Denver-area pizza deliveryman Nathan Leon.  In several grievance forms before his release, Ebel asked if the DOC was doing enough to ensure he posed no threat to the public.

Morgan said Ebel completed a mandatory pre-release program required of all inmates.  The program focuses on a variety of subjects, including money management and living under supervision.  It doesn't specifically mention how to adjust to public life.

However, Morgan said Ebel enrolled in an optional program called "Thinking for a Change" that helps former inmates relate better to others, increase self-awareness and make better decisions.  Such post-release programs, said Morgan, are offered by every DOC prison or facility.

But two former inmates said that information isn't always made known to inmates before and after release.

"A lot of times, it has to do with their record in the system and whether or not the DOC feels they even deserve to have access to a program like that," said Jerry Wyatt, who served 13 years for assault.  "The DOC can be snobbish like that."

"No one ever told me about a program," said Felipe Salazar, who served seven years as an habitual offender.  "If you take it, you're rewarded.  If you don't, it's not a big deal.  I didn't take it because I didn't need it.  But people who have been in longer than I was, they need it."

Wyatt said he had an experience with the DOC similar to Ebel's when the agency refused to grant his request to transfer to a lower-security facility.

"I had to physically complain and file paperwork for three months before I finally got a treatment program to help me get released," he said.  "That's something the DOC definitely could address, because there are people who need help and don't get it."

Ebel was in administrative segregation, commonly known as solitary confinement, before his release.  Among Clements' goals for improving the agency was to stop releasing such inmates directly into society. 

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