DENVER — Nearly three months after the Colorado Department of Corrections paused Take TWO, a re-entry job training program for low-risk inmates, some business owners who relied on the program for employees are asking the DOC to resume the program.
Take TWO allowed low-risk inmates to temporarily leave prison and work for private employers. But in July, when a Take TWO participant escaped from a prison in Durango, the DOC paused the program.
“I mean, organizationally, for us, it was a pretty decent chunk of our workforce, that overnight was no longer allowed to come to the work. So it affected us economically, it impacted our ability to produce what our customers were asking us to produce. And then it also affected us and our community pretty significantly, emotionally as well,” said Andy Magel, executive director of Mile High Workshop.
Mile High Workshop is a manufacturing warehouse that provides job training for people who were recently released from prison, those recovering from addictions and people who are experiencing homelessness.
“I think for a lot of folks, the chance to re-engage in the community before paroling is huge. Like when you walk out of those doors, and you look around and you don't know what's coming, that's a really scary and vulnerable time for somebody. But to come out and know that you have a community, that you have a job, to have people who are supporting you makes a huge difference in that reentry process for somebody,” Magel said.
When the program was paused, some businesses owners had to shutdown their operations, according to Magel.
“It was really disappointing. It felt like a bit of an overreaction to me. You know, a lot of people had gone through the program that had been successful,” he said. “As far as I understand, that things are more or less kind of permanently on pause, you know. We're hopeful that at some point in the future, something different could come back online... Everybody who was in the Take TWO program is going to be released, so we, as a community, we can choose if we just want to let them walk out the door, or if we want to prepare them and build a ramp for them.”
“We were absolutely impacted by that pause. It was devastating. It was devastating to us, more so because [the escape] came from a different facility,” said Leandra Bumpus, Mile High Workshop employee. “I had started making income inside the facility… I paid for my own education. I was able to partake in things that my children needed and was able to provide for them on the outside because I am a mother.”
Bumpus was released from the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility three weeks ago and said her transition back into society was made easier by the Take TWO Program.
“I'm a part of the organization inside, it's called the Women of Influence program. It's a group of mentors who are equipping and encouraging and empowering each other,” Bumpus said. “This wasn't just incarcerated people just coming to get a job. This was a community coming together to be able to help transformative and restorative justice initiatives, victims impact initiatives, it was a whole plethora of things that just were just gone in the blink of an eye.”
In a statement to Denver7, the Colorado Department of Corrections said:
"We have had numerous inmates that have successfully participated in and benefited from the Take TWO program prior to their release, and DOC remains committed to helping inmates re-enter society with the skills necessary to succeed. We are currently evaluating the best options for effective reentry programs moving forward given current staffing levels at the agency, and at this time the Take TWO program is on a pause while we review and update logistics and criteria and address some of our immediate staffing shortages. We will look forward to working with the business community in the future on options to help reduce recidivism."