DENVER — The City of Denver is launching its first city-owned and operated residential re-entry program in partnership with The Empowerment Program.
Project: Elevate helps women involved in the criminal justice system transition back into their communities.
“It's incredibly challenging for folks who are re-entering in general, but I think specifically for women who experience increased barriers,” said Stephanie Robertson, Project: Elevate director of operations. “We really take a holistic approach. We identify their criminogenic needs, or the needs that would increase their risk of having future contact with the criminal justice system.”
The program provides housing, trauma-informed care, mentorship and other services.
“These are not locked facilities. They are purposely designed not to look like an institution… and so it really is this bridge between incarceration and a more normalized, or home-like, environment,” said Greg Mauro, director of community corrections for the City and County of Denver.
Mauro said the new program is specifically for women for several reasons.
“For years now, we've been missing a Denver County program for women, as part of that transition away from a privatized community correction model,” Mauro said. “We lost almost 70 beds of available services for women. “
There are currently 41 participants in Project: Elevate; however, the facility can serve up to 55 women. Each participant has a support team that develops an individual care plan designed to create a clear path to successful reintegration.
According to the city, the program provides evidence-based treatment services that are responsive to women’s needs, including language preference, learning abilities, gender identity, cultural identity and age/developmental needs.
“One of the messages we send is that we don't want anyone to ever feel alone or like they lack support in community. We really want ladies to feel like Project: Elevate is always a safe space for them,” Robertson said.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 650,000 people are released from prison in this country every year, but research shows two-thirds are likely to be re-arrested. Mauro and Robertson said in Denver, Project: Elevate has the potential to lower that number significantly.