Officials in Denver are working frantically to try to find a way to avoid sending more than 500 halfway house residents back to prisons after the city council, citing the “morals” of the companies running the facilities, abruptly canceled their contracts.
In a decision that shocked the halfway house community, especially those assigned to half a dozen halfway house facilities in the area, the council cited the “moral grounds” of companies GEO Group and CoreCivic, the nation’s two largest private prison companies, in slashing their funding.
The issue isn’t that the companies run halfway houses in Denver, but they also run centers that are used to hold illegal aliens who break through America’s borders to enter the country.
The result is that the companies are continuing their operations on borrowed time, and could close down – sending residents back to various prisons – on a moment’s notice.
Greg Mauro, Denver’s community corrections director, said those companies’ contracts actually expired July 1.
The Colorado Independent explained there is the possibility that some sort of agreement can be worked out by the Democrats in power in city government that would keep the six facilities open into 2020.
“As for what could come after that, they still don’t know,” the report said.
It was councilwoman Candi CdeBaca who led the charge to disrupt the lives of the offenders in the halfway houses by severing all ties with those companies.
The most recent proposal includes a six-month “wind-down” contract with CEO, and a 12-month deal with CoreCivic.
Troy Riggs, of the city’s public safety department, said he’s optimistic “something” will be done.
In the short term.
But the Independent noted, “There’s no plan in place to ensure Denver doesn’t find itself in the same quandary after a potential short-term extension expires.”
State Rep. Leslie, Herod, a Democrat representing Denver, openly wondered if there was “anything” that would prevent the companies from shutting down immediately, and was told “no.”
Department of Corrections officials confirmed that if that happens, residents will be released through parole, if that’s possible under their sentences.
Or sent back to prison.
Westword reported that councilwoman Jamie Torres was among those voting to kill the contracts – and likely send people back to prison.
“It is an absolute shame that the owners of the companies are who they are,” she complained.
Councilman Chris Herndon had raised the point before the vote.
“There are human beings’ lives at stake if we choose to vote down this contract,” he said. “By supporting this contract, we continue to serve them and figure out how to better do this.”
GEO, in a statement to Westword from Monica Hook, a vice president for marketing, charged, “The Denver City Council put an unrelated, politically driven issue over the needs of hundreds of Denver residents looking to rehabilitate and return to the community. Denver’s elected leaders took a leap backwards and voted to wipe away 30 years of successful reentry programming in the city including proven, evidence-based treatment for at-risk individuals. Our reentry programs are designed to engage and stabilize individuals while promoting successful reintegration in a safe and supportive environment. We agree with Councilman Chris Herndon who said, ‘There are human beings’ lives at stake if we choose to vote down this contract.’ Yet council walked away from their residents with no plan B or safety net for these vulnerable individuals and their families. These residents will now be sent back to jail or prison with no programming – how does that solve the problem?”
CdeBaca said she lobbied for the cancelations because, “We shouldn’t be investing in organizations that are perpetuating harm.”
The GEO statement cited the “politically motivated activists and council members” who “chose to intentionally share false information about our parent company’s more than 30-year record as a government service provider and overlooked the needs of Denver residents whose voice is so often ignored – those trying to successfully re-integrate into the community.”
According to the Independent, Hassan Latif of Aurora’s Second Chance Center described the residents as being “on panic status.”
“Nothing is off the table,” said Annie Skinner, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.
Denver officials say that had prepared no Plan B for the contracts being killed.
CdeBaca actually said, the report confirmed, that the companies should keep their facilities “open for free.”
“First, she intentionally lies about our company and maligns the dedicated employees who have been providing high-quality services to a vulnerable population for decades. Then, she asks us to work for free to distract from the fact that her total disregard for the truth is going to result in sending hundreds of people back to prison instead of receiving the treatment and support they need and deserve. As a responsible partner, we will continue to work with Denver to ensure the best possible solution for all involved, especially the residents in our care.”