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Colorado state corrections adjusting staffing, inmate populations, to battle conronavirus

Nine inmates have been tested, six negative, three pending results


The number of staffers in state prisons are being temporarily reduced and parolees who have been arrested for low-level infractions are being released as the Colorado Department of Corrections battles the coronavirus.

The CDOC announced on Monday that it has tested nine inmates for coronavirus, and six of the tests were negative and the other three tests are pending. Additional tests kits are available to the corrections department should inmates show symptoms of COVID-19.

The corrections department said in a news release that it has been taking proactive steps to stop the virus from spreading in facilities and parole offices.

“It is critical that we do everything possible to keep COVID-19 out of our corrections system in order to protect our staff, inmates and parolees,” Dean Williams, CDOC’s executive director, said in the release. “The introduction of COVID-19 into the corrections system could have devastating results, so we have taken decisive action to try and prevent the introduction of the virus, while still protecting public safety.”

Last week, the Colorado Public Defender’s Office announced that one of its staff has tested positive for COVID-19.

On Monday, the CDOC said its additional coronavirus measures will include:

  • Signing people up for video visitation options including upcoming free video visitations.
  • DOC headquarters in Colorado Springs has closed and staff will be working remotely.
  • Staff will be limited in prisons and parole offices, staff numbers will vary based on security levels and programs.
  • Parole officers will do more remote work while supervising parolees.

A small staff will work at headquarters to “support critical needs that cannot be done remotely.”

The CDOC is working to ensure that jails and correctional institutions are not overloading at this time. The corrections department is “temporarily suspending arrests of parolees for low level technical parole violations,” according to the release. “This will help alleviate the influx of people into county jails, and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections coming into jail and prisons.”

House arrests, electronic monitoring, increased parole officer interactions and treatment referrals will be used, instead of incarcerating low-level parole violators, the CDOC said.

Offenders who are deemed a risk to public safety will still face arrest. The CDOC is reviewing lists of people incarcerated for low-level parole violations to determine possible releases. Low-level violations could include not being able to find employment, failure to establish residency, missing in person meetings with parole officers and failing to fulfill restitution orders.

Prison staff numbers will be temporarily reduced while still “ensuring the safety and continuity of operations,” the release said. “These staffing levels will allow for better social distancing, without creating other safety risks.”

The release did not give specific numbers or estimates on staff reductions or on parole violation releases.

The CDOC said it will continue to evaluate its management of inmates in seeking further possible ways to make adjustments because of the coronavirus.

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