DENVER – Hundreds of Colorado criminals were given erroneous prison sentences, and judges and corrections officials across the state are scrambling to keep them from getting out early — or, in some cases, to return them to the prisons they just left, authorities said Tuesday.
Prison officials have alerted courts to 281 inmates whose sentences were incorrect in some way, according to Allison Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections. Judges have already adjusted the sentences in 56 of those cases and are reviewing others. An unknown number of the cases involve people who have already been paroled from prison, or are in halfway houses or other community correctional facilities.
The information comes in the course of an audit ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper after it was revealed the man suspected of killing the state's corrections chief left prison four years early because the courts gave the prison system incorrect information about his proper sentence.
Only a fraction of the review has been completed. More than 2,000 more cases flagged by auditors as potentially problematic need to be reviewed by corrections officials to determine whether there are in fact more mistakes. If the 56 percent error rate holds up, it would mean more than 1,000 inmates were improperly sentenced.
The audit is looking at 8,415 offenders convicted of at least one of 13 crimes. It is only examining people still under the control of prisons, either via incarceration or parole. It will not be completed until July.
The initial results were first reported by The Denver Post.
"The audit is doing what it was supposed to do and we are working with the courts to correct any errors found," Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown said.