"Tom Clements remembered as family man, prison-reform leader," by Karen Augé of the Denver Post.
Tom Clements brought to his job as director of Colorado's department of corrections a passion possibly shaped by childhood experience, likely grounded in strong faith and obviously fueled by a belief — not shaken after 34 years of working with criminals — in the promise of redemption.
The morning after Clements was shot to death at his Monument home, colleagues, friends and even potential adversaries described him as a man committed to his wife, Lisa, and daughters, Sara and Rachel, and to prison reform and prisoner redemption. He also managed to be the rare individual who was both an effective leader and a likable guy.
"He was a dedicated, committed, funny, caring expert at corrections," Gov. John Hickenlooper said during a public statement Wednesday morning.
Clements was a prison system chief who, his father-in-law Carroll Smith said, opposed the death penalty.
"The whole field is just shocked. It's devastating. He was well respected especially as a leader and a voice of reason who showed that it's OK to be a head of corrections and care about people," said John Wetzel, head of Pennsylvania's corrections department.
The New York Times reports, "Colorado Reels After Killing of Top Official Over Prisons," by Jack Healy.
As Colorado’s governor signed a hard-won package of gun control measures on Wednesday, officials across the state were reeling from the seemingly inexplicable shooting death of the state’s prisons chief, who was gunned down at the front door of his home.
The killing of Tom Clements, a man described by friends and colleagues as a dedicated and thoughtful public servant, left state officials shaken and grasping for answers on Wednesday. State troopers increased security around the State Capitol, and some state workers said Mr. Clements’s death had put them on edge.
The state police said they had known of no specific threats against Mr. Clements before 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, when someone approached his house in the pine-fringed hills of the town of Monument, near Colorado Springs, and shot him as he answered the door. Into Wednesday night, investigators were still searching for any trace of his killer, but said they had no suspects or motive.
The news about Mr. Clements rippled through the Capitol, where lawmakers and crime victims had gathered to watch Mr. Hickenlooper sign the gun bills. Staff members asked one another, “Are you O.K.?” Tearful elected officials hugged and shared memories of Mr. Clements, 58, recalling his dedication in serving Colorado after a career with Missouri’s Department of Corrections.
Mr. Hickenlooper’s voice cracked as he spoke about Mr. Clements’s death. He called the shooting “an act of intimidation” that had cut down a thoughtful and deliberative man who had tried to reform Colorado’s prisons by reducing the number of inmates in solitary confinement.
“He did his job quietly and intently,” Mr. Hickenlooper said, joined by his cabinet and elected officials. “We are all grieving.” During his two years as head of Colorado’s prison system, Mr. Clements won praise from nearly everyone he met, from the governor to corrections officers, defense lawyers to former gang members.
Frank Bruni posts, "Redemption’s Advocate," at his New York Times blog.
Most Americans don’t think or talk much about the way prisons in this country are funded or run. We want a vague, blanket assurance that our politicians and their appointees are being tough on crime. We pay attention to verdicts and to sentences but not to what happens afterward, to the experience that a convicted criminal has over the years before he or she most likely reenters society. We forget—or we simply don’t bother to recognize—that the nature of this experience has an effect on whether the criminal breaks the law again. We want to feel safe, and yet we’re utterly uneducated about, and inattentive to, a part of our criminal justice system that in fact has enormous bearing on our safety.
Tom Clements, who was the head of Colorado’s prison system from the start of 2011 until his murder this week, made me realize that. A little over two months ago, on a reporting trip to Colorado, I happened to find myself seated a few feet from him at a dinner in Cañon City, about a two-hour drive from Denver. He happened to mention what he did for a living. And for the next 30 minutes, over bad steak and worse salmon, I sought, and got, a lively tutorial. It was fascinating enough and he was engaging enough that I tucked his card into my pocket and made him promise that we could talk again sometime. An approachable and affable man, he promised.
Clements was a member of the governor’s cabinet, which has frequent meetings and retreats. “We had a retreat about a year ago, and we were discussing the death penalty, which is obviously going to come up,” Hickenlooper said, referring to a looming case in the state. “And he spoke about it. He’s a bear of a guy, a big, formidable person, and when it came time for him to talk, he gave the most eloquent, restrained argument against the death penalty.”
“Everyone assumed he would be for it, because he works with the worst elements of society day in and day out,” the governor continued, using the present tense. “Everyone was dumbstruck.”
But Clements had done the math, and it was costing governments more to execute someone, what with all the legal buildup, than to incarcerate him or her. Clements had also noticed a randomness in who got killed and who didn’t: the executed weren’t the ones who’d committed the most heinous crimes. And then there were Clements’s religious beliefs.
“He believed,” Hickenlooper said, “that only God can decide to take a life.”
Earlier coverage from Colorado begins in the preceding post.