James Holmes, the shooter convicted in the 2012 Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre, has been transferred to an undisclosed, out-of-state prison after he was attacked by another inmate, according to newly released documents.
The attack, which took place last October and resulted in no serious injury, raises questions about the effectiveness of security at the Colorado State Penitentiary where Mr. Holmes had just begun his life sentence for the murders of 12 people. Holmes was supposed to be kept separate from the general prison population while prison officials determined where to house him, but another inmate, Mark "Slim" Daniels, was able to squeeze through an open door where Holmes was leaving an office with a case manager.
High profile inmates are often remitted to protective custody, in order to ensure that prisoners do not take justice into their own hands. Jurors deliberated at length over whether Holmes should die for his crimes, and ultimately concluded that he should instead spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. It is the responsibility of prison officers to ensure that other inmates do not interfere with that sentence.
Yet, some observers wonder whether moving Holmes from the state’s highest security prison to an out-of-state facility, and keeping its location secret, is excessive.
“It’s called a ‘dump job,’ ” Bob Hood, a longtime corrections official who used to run the federal government’s highest-security prison, told ABC News. “Moving him on to another warden. He’s always going to be a target. The [Colorado] Department of Corrections could easily have placed him in a secure setting. It’s ironic to me that they transfer him out of state for such a simple assault.”
The assault took place as Holmes was leaving an office with a case manager. A corrections officer opened a door to the area, and the other inmate squeezed through before it closed.
The assailant was then able to hit Holmes in and around the head, several times, as well as striking a corrections officer, before he was pulled away.
Colorado Prisons Director Steve Hager said that no mistakes were made, nor procedures violated, according to ABC News, but Mr. Hood is less convinced.
“It’s not debatable: Errors were made,” said Hood. “Clearly someone dropped the ball. [The inmates] should never have made contact. At a minimum, it’s a failure of systems – a very serious breach of security.”
Mark "Slim" Daniels, the inmate who attacked Holmes, wrote to reporters at local Denver TV station CBS4 asking them to contact his father, who would speak for him. The father, Tim Daniels, told CBS4 that guards had looked the other way during the attack. Director Hager told local reporters that inspectors had found no evidence of such a claim.
As for Holmes’s new location, it seems unusual, even under the interstate-prisoner system, that it should remain secret.
Local District Attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted Holmes, was less than pleased at this turn of events, in spite of what happened at Colorado State Penitentiary.
“You can Google the federal inmate locator and look up any federal inmate you've ever heard of and find where they're located right at this moment,” Mr. Brauchler told ABC. “Isn't that a tacit admission that the state system is less safe than the federal system? As a Colorado taxpayer and a Coloradoan who had to bear the impact of his mass murder, this guy should be serving a sentence in Colorado. And if not, we should know why and where he is.”
This report contains material from The Associated Press.