Denver ends contract with private corrections companies
Residents expected to be relocated
Over 500 people currently occupy halfway houses in Denver run by two private companies. But those people may find themselves without the crucial services provided by the facilities following the termination of Denver’s contracts with the companies. On Aug. 21, Denver City Council voted to end their contracts with CoreCivic and GEO, two national private corrections companies that operate six separate halfway house facilities in Denver. While the Denver Department of Safety is working with City Council to determine a solution, occupants of the facilities fear their return to prison if the facilities are shut down.
A halfway house, also called a re-entry center, is a “residence for individuals after release from institutionalization (as for mental illness, drug addiction, or criminal activity) that is designed to facilitate their readjustment to private life,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Such places are often the next spot for people recently released from prison or rehabilitation programs, and they provide services like employment assistance, education programs, and substance abuse counseling.
The effort to terminate these contracts was led by newly-elected Denver City Councilmember Candi CdeBaca, who represents the 9th congressional district where Auraria Campus is located. CdeBaca posted several letters she received from halfway house inhabitants via Twitter on August 21. One letter, written by a CoreCivic resident, states, “This company isn’t capable or interested in our success.” Another notes the conditions of their CoreCivic residence, citing overflowing toilets and a shortage of food.
The controversy over the company’s conditions doesn’t stop at their halfway houses. The GEO Group also owns and operates several Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, including one in Aurora. In mid-July, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Aurora Detention Center, demanding that the facility be shut down due to inhumane conditions.
That wasn’t the first time GEO has come under fire for conditions at their Aurora ICE facility. Earlier this year, Kamyar Samimi died in the ICE facility due to medical negligence after being detained in the facility for 16 days. GEO has also been accused of implementing solitary confinement multiple times.
The future for both GEO and CoreCivic facilities remains unknown. While Denver City Council voted to terminate the $10.6 million contracts, all six halfway houses remain open while a consensus is reached as to what the next step is.
CdeBaca suggested the two private corrections companies keep their doors open for free, to which the GEO Group responded, “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.”
CoreCivic’s contract has been extended for one more year, while GEO’s will expire at the end of 2019. These temporary contracts allow time for the city of Denver to relocate current halfway house residents into other facilities. An advisory board has been assembled to determine the future of halfway houses in Denver and their connections with private prison companies.