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The Better Man As Threat

who would want to kill Tom Clements?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.

On Tuesday, March 19th, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, Tom Clements, was shot and killed when he opened the door of his house in Monument. His wife and daughters were present. As of this writing, nobody knows who did it or why.

Governor Hickenlooper was devastated and was immediate and fulsome in his praise of Clements, saying he'd never worked with a better man. Clements was against the death penalty and for second chances and had done a great job, for all accounts. He was, it seems, highly competent and well-liked, rare descriptions of executives in a Department of Corrections.

In the last year, Clements had presided over the reduction of his prison population by 1500 people or so, and he'd closed or reduced prisons around the state. That saved money and didn't endanger the public. You'd think that would make everyone rather pleased.

But I'm ashamed to say my first reaction was that those pleased might not include the owners of the private facilities acting as prisons. Republicans love the idea of reducing the voting public by imprisoning criminals not in white collars because Republicans are taught minorities produce the most criminals, although statistics have never supported that. Republicans are the ones trying to get voter fraud under control, although less than 100 cases nationally have actually been verified in recent years, and they want those guilty in private prisons because of the hallowed free market.

They want the public to turn to the rich for handouts in everything, rather than the state providing it. This would have minimal merit if the very rich had actually earned it or were more deserving than statistically they are. They want you to imagine the upper 1% as Gates or Buffett, although the vast majority of the super rich are the Paris Hilton, Steve Forbes, and Kim Kardashian types, who inherited so much they can start or continue businesses and pretend to run them for ego and status. We all know realtors who live well and who sell five properties a decade, or people who invested in 20 companies on a lark and when one inexplicably hits it big, the newly rich stockholder can pretend to a business acumen not apparent at stock purchase. They were lucky, good for them, but let's not interview them on business trends in the media, okay?

So, those owning private prisons, perhaps now under threat of closure, might not like an actually efficient and good warden of the Corrections Department. Because when such facilities are built, especially during times of economic distress, they can take on a local importance to the economy out of all proportion. Sure, they pay less for guards and support teams, but that may be all a small rural area or town has.

This clicked with me because Boulder County is again moaning about space in its jail, which is claimed insufficient. When I was in there for four months twenty years back, the Sheriff's Department was also complaining about the lack of space. And it's both true and not. If you go out with intent to fill her up, you can arrest transients and the Homeless easily enough for just cause and it's a way to pack the cells. But when I was there I had a private cell, same size as the ones on the level below which had two. I see by photos now they've thrown a futon on the floor to put three in there.

So, I'm curious how the State sees a chronic decline and Boulder sees a chronic rise in their populations of incarcerated people. I understand ways it could logically happen, but I'm suspicious.

Incarcerations went up when it was decided we weren't going to screw around with drunk drivers or domestic violence incidents and we gave violators a record and cell time. That the jail and prison population stats went up didn't mean we were in the midst of a new crime wave by thugs, but that things previously tolerated were not anymore. That still goes on, but concurrent with drug arrests and incarcerations going down, primarily because pot is no longer seen as a threat and because it's becoming a legal recreational purchase in Colorado. So, hard to get a feel for crime rates and criminal incarcerations without spending some time with the stats.

And I certainly have no clue who shot and killed a good guy and a good public servant Tuesday night. Follow the money, I suppose.