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Defendant criticizes stay at Community Corrections

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 2nd, 2013

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — When Mario Ortega was confined at San Luis Valley Community Corrections, he asked for help on a daily basis.

He sought access to medication to help him cope with his disabilities, according to Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins. But Ortega said that no one ever responded to his requests, so one day in January, he walked away from the facility.

The next day, he realized that he’d made a mistake. At that point, he promptly turned himself in, Hopkins said.

His actions cost him in the long run. After two months in jail, he will serve one consecutive year in state prison for attempted escape, a Class 5 felony.

But Ortega suggested on Monday that his decision was worth it.

He said he finally received the help he’d been asking for since last August, when he arrived at Community Corrections.

“It took me to run away from the facility to get my needs (met),” he told 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift on Monday.

The judge countered that he didn’t choose the right way to get help. But she also took the time to acknowledge his allegations.

“Certainly, it concerns the court when I hear you say you asked for help and didn’t get help,” she said.

She ultimately remanded him to the custody of the sheriff’s office for transportation to the Colorado Department of Corrections, and encouraged him to seek additional treatment.

“I do hope you will work hard while you’re there to take advantage of any program that’s available to you,” she said.

According to its website, San Luis Valley Community Corrections aims to provide offenders with a quality alternative sentencing option to institutional confinement.

The facility says its residential and non-residential programs are designed to protect the community by providing innovative correctional and quality treatment services. It also encourages individuals to attain socially acceptable behaviors that lead to responsible community living.

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