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Why the secrecy over the Aurora theater shooter’s location?

There is no compelling reason to transfer inmates to another state correctional setting for minor altercations

A recent search of online inmate databases in all 50 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons website failed to locate James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter. Victims and the general public simply want to know where Holmes is incarcerated. Prison officials secretly transferred Holmes to an out-of-state prison and refuse to disclose his location.

Holmes was convicted of killing 12 and injuring 70 others in the Century Aurora 16 cinema in Colorado. He was sentenced to a dozen consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus a maximum 3,318 years for his conviction on attempted murder and explosive charges.

Holmes was attacked by convicted car thief Mark “Slim” Daniels at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. Offender Daniels began hitting Holmes — in and around his head — with his fist. Daniels hit Holmes a few times before staff could separate the inmates. In the process, Daniels hit a female staffer who received minor injuries. Daniels was punished with 60 days in segregation, 45-days loss of privileges and up to 12 months in restrictive housing. Holmes was immediately relocated.

The Vanishing Inmate
Officials said the transfer was done in the interest of safety, both for Holmes and for correctional officers. From what is known, the “attack” was a simple altercation common to most prisons. This is not a reason to transfer. Prison officials decided to pass the problem inmate on to another state prison system instead of managing the “high-profile” offender.

Consider this fact: Colorado is home to the highest-security prison in the country. The federal “Supermax” penitentiary incarcerates terrorist, gang leaders, and other notorious inmates. The location of their “high-profile” offenders is available to the general public; especially to the victims and the local community. James Holmes is a state inmate being handled with far greater secrecy than commonly used with the national security-related issues found at Colorado’s federal penitentiary — the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

State prison officials had “a minor incident” and used it to justify the secret transfer of Holmes to an undisclosed prison. Their problem was solved. The focus remains on Holmes’ location instead of the agency’s failure to follow security procedures and basic management of an offender.

The unusual move continues to receive sharp criticism from victims and the general public. Corrections Department officials first said his location was “public record” and then claim the interstate transfer of prisoners “requires confidentiality.” The real issues involving accountability have been replaced with a “Where’s Waldo?” mentality (a creative move for prison officials).

It is important to know that a state committee recently failed to agree on whether Colorado’s corrections agency violated victims’ rights by refusing to reveal where the Aurora theater shooter is serving his life sentence. The six members deadlocked in a vote on a motion to determine victims’ rights were violated, and the motion therefore failed.

State Prison Executive Director Rick Raemisch remains silent on this matter. His boss — Governor John Hickenlooper — will also not weigh in on the issues of victim rights even if departmental policy clearly states the following:

“Upon written request of a victim, the department of corrections… shall notify the victim of the following information regarding any person who was… convicted of a crime against the victim:
(a) The institution in which such person is incarcerated or otherwise being held:
(e) Any…transfer…from… a correctional facility…” C.R.S. 24-4.1-303(14)(a)(e)

Lack of Transparency
Several victims testified during Holmes’ sentencing that they didn’t want him imprisoned in California, closer to his parents who live near San Diego. Hopefully, Holmes is not enjoying local visits with his parents while victim’s families continue to mourn.

The lack of transparency understandably creates a public distrust in our correctional system. There is no compelling reason to transfer inmates to other state correctional setting for minor altercations.

Eventually, Holmes will be identified by staff at the receiving institution, either by fellow inmates, contract workers, visitors, or vendors. Someone will pass the information on to the press and the mystery will be solved. While the public will be excited to know the location of “Waldo,” they will never know what really occurred within the hidden world of corrections. The victims were not treated with fairness, dignity, and respect by our “correctional” system.

Bob Hood has over 45 years of correctional experience at the local, state and federal levels. He retired from the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, as warden of America’s most secure prison — the United States “Supermax” in Florence, Colorado.

In his role as warden, he communicated daily with inmates such as Terry Nichols, the Oklahoma City bomber; Richard Reid, the Al-Qaeda “shoe bomber”; Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, along with several WTC bombing participants, Embassy bombing participants, and FBI Spy Robert Hanssen. He has significant experience in managing disruptive inmates and developing emergency plans for correctional facilities.

Security Magazine identified Mr. Hood as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People in the Security Industry,” and CBS aired a “60 Minutes” special on his ability to effectively manage the most secured prison in America.

Click here to see the “60 Minutes” special interview of Warden Bob Hood.