Prisoners who commit violent crimes behind bars can have their "earned time" credits removed, under a bill that is making its way through the Legislature.
"This bill is a simple question," said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, a bill …
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"This bill is a simple question," said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, a bill sponsor. "Should rapists and murderers who commit violence in prison be allowed out early?"
The bill, which received initial approval in the House on Feb. 20, was precipitated by the fallout from last year's murder of state prison chief Tom Clements.
Under current law, prisoners who rack up earned time — either through good behavior or through participation of treatment programs — cannot have their sentence reduction credits revoked, regardless of whether they commit new crimes in prison.
But supporters of the bill say that's something that needs to be fixed.
"This is a public safety issue," said Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, a bill co-sponsor. "If they commit a violent act, all of their earned time will be revoked. I think that's a very necessary guardrail."
Following an administrative hearing, if an inmate is found to have been responsible for a violent crime while behind bars, DOC would be required to strip away any earned time credit, the bill states.
The DOC could revoke earned time credit whether or not the person was adjudicated.
The bill passed a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing unanimously and is expected to continue to receive bipartisan support moving forward.
"When you commit a separate offense while being incarcerated, you shouldn't be rewarded with free time off your sentence," said Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.
The bill is one of several measures taken up by lawmakers in the wake of Clements' murder in March of last year. Clements was gunned down at his home in Monument, allegedly by Evan Ebel, a former prison inmate who had been released four years early because of a clerical error.
Ebel was killed following a high-speed chase with authorities in Texas, two days after Clements' murder.
Clements' death has resulted in several recent pieces of legislation aimed at tightening release procedures, such as imposing mandatory jail time for offenders who tamper with ankle monitors and the straightening out prison sentences where they may be confusion over consecutive or concurrent terms.
Ebel, who had earned time credit, assaulted a guard in prison, meaning the McNulty/Waller bill could have increased his time served.
"We learned so much from that incident and the dangerous laws that need to be corrected," McNulty said. "So, one by one, were going through and fixing those things."
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