Colorado Prison Whistleblower Awarded $280,000

A former employee of the Colorado Department of Corrections was awarded $280,000 in a settlement after filing a whistleblower complaint accusing officials in state prisons of fudging figures about mentally ill and/or violent convicts.

The whistleblower is Maureen O’Keefe, the former director of the Colorado DOC’s Office of Planning and Analysis. In her complaint, she alleged the state attempted to silence and punish her when she reported the wrongdoing, twice placing her on administrative leave.

Exaggeration of statistics

The department was accused of exaggerating results of reforms put in place after the 2013 murder of Prison Director Tom Clements. An investigation after the murder occurred revealed a number of flaws within the system when Clements was attacked by a prisoner out on parole after being in solitary confinement for the better part of eight years. After the attack, new Director Rick Raemisch implemented a publicity campaign nationwide that emphasized the dangers of isolating prisoners.

O’Keefe accused Raemisch of exaggerating the results of this program. She says prison officials vastly understated the number of prisoners who suffered from serious mental illnesses while in solitary confinement, along with the number of inmates who were sent directly from solitary confinement to the streets. She also said the department understated exactly how much time inmates spend outside their cells.

Raemisch and the department admit to no wrongdoing as part of the settlement. O’Keefe, however, receives $262,468, plus accrued leave time of approximately $20,000. She resigned from her position in December 2015.

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