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Mar 21, 2013 6:09 PM by Andy Koen

Corrections director remembered for his reforms

COLORADO SPRINGS - His colleagues called him a visionary leader. Slain Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements introduced a number of reforms during his two years in charge of the state prison system.

Clements presided over an era of declining inmate populations and championed ideas to keep the population low by helping inmates from re-offending.

After visiting with DOC employees in Colorado Springs Wednesday, Governor John Hickenlooper described Clements as, "someone who really believed that Colorado could become the national and ultimately international model for how corrections is done."

DOC spokesperson Alison Morgan described Clements as a leader who know how to motivate and inspire those around him.

"He was able to paint a picture and the DOC could not only see that vision, but want to be a part of it," Morgan said.

That picture started with how inmates were treated. Clements reduced the solitary confinement population from 1,500 to 1,000. He also lowered the number of parolees who were released directly onto the streets from solitary from 47 percent to 23 percent.

"Tom believed that there was the opportunity to provide change so that offenders could change their behavior," Morgan explained.

Clements championed improvements in mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment for prisoners both during and after their incarceration. He shared that vision with reporter Ann Imse of the Colorado Public News network last month.

"Our goal would be to have a seamless transition on everyone who has a serious mental health problem when they walk out of prison to have a support system, a treatment plan in place as they walk out the door," Clements said.

He was preparing to ask lawmakers for money to improve mental health care for departing prisoners.

Governor Hickenlooper said Wednesday that he encouraged corrections employees to continue the work that Clements began.

"I asked them to make sure we don't drop the ball on his legacy, Hickenlooper said. "That we make sure that what he believed in so strongly, that we follow through on it."

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