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Bill would limit early releases in state prisons

Inmates also could revoke earned time

DENVER – Colorado prisons would have the power to revoke inmates’ earned time for any reason, or if they have committed a violent crime while incarcerated, with a bill given initial approval Thursday in the House.

The bill is another response to the problems highlighted by the case of Evan Ebel, the sole suspect in the murder of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements last year.

Ebel received 115 days of earned time, even though he was cited 28 times for offenses that included fighting and assault during his nearly eight years in prison. Under current law, certain earned time gets vested and cannot be revoked. But the Republican-sponsored bill would let the DOC revoke earned time “as it determines for any reason,” and they would be required to do so for violent crimes.

“This bill is a simple question: Should rapists, murderers, those who commit violent assault be allowed out of prison early? Should they be allowed back on our streets early?” said Republican Rep. Frank McNulty, one of the sponsors of the legislation. The bill was given initial approval with an unrecorded voice vote, setting up a final vote later to refer it to the Senate.

The bill would also eliminate the policy of vesting earned time for all inmates.

Roger Hudson, a DOC spokesman, said officials have been working with lawmakers on the bill, but that the department is still reviewing that proposal and hasn’t settled on a position yet.

McNulty said the case of Ebel, who was out on parole at the time of Clements’ slaying, highlighted several issues for lawmakers to fix. In addition to the earned time, Ebel had been released four years early because of a clerical error.

Ebel was in prison when he was sentenced to an additional four years for assaulting a prison officer. But the court paperwork sent to DOC failed to note that the sentences were supposed to be served consecutively, and prison officials said they legally had to consider the sentences as concurrent.

McNulty sponsored a bill last year that became law that requires the DOC to seek clarification from courts when it’s not specified how an offender is to serve two or more sentences.

Days after Clements was gunned down at his home, Ebel was killed in a shootout with Texas authorities. Ebel is also suspected in the death of Nathan Leon, who was killed while delivering pizzas – a second job he took to help support his wife and three children.

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