Denver City Council unanimously votes to approve $8.7M for short-term halfway house contracts

Posted at 2:43 PM, Aug 26, 2019

DENVER – Denver City Council unanimously voted on a resolution that will provide community corrections companies with about $8.7 million in order to keep two Denver halfway houses open through the end of the year and four more operating through next June.

The vote on Monday evening ensures short-term contracts for halfway houses run by CoreCivic and Geo Group’s Community Education Centers, Inc. will continue after their original contracts were canceled earlier this month.

Last week, the Denver Department of Public Safety asked the council to draw up and approve the new short-term contracts and said the city planned to form an advisory committee to try and find other options to replace the community corrections programs after next year.

Executive Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs last week urged the council to pass the short-term contracts but admitted it would be difficult to keep the same number of people in the programs by this time next year.

GEO Group’s two facilities contain 157 beds and CoreCivic’s four facilities contain 360 beds. There are currently about 500 people in the community corrections program and another 280 approved for the program.

According to the resolutions on the council’s agenda for Monday, which were filed last Thursday – a day after the Department of Public Safety called for the contracts, they will be in line with what the DOS had asked for.

The council was being asked to approve a $2 million contract for GEO Group to run its community corrections facilities through the end of 2019 and a $6.68 million contract with CoreCivic to continue running its facilities through June 30, 2020.

It was also being asked to approve an additional $60,368 for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years for community corrections services provided by another company, Correctional Management, Inc.

"This contract extension will help provide certainty to our residents and their families and we welcome the city’s support. We hope these same elected officials give our residents and employees a voice in the future," said a spokesperson from GEO in a statement sent to Denver7 Monday night.

The city said last week that if the council approved the resolutions for the short-term contracts, the community corrections committee would be formed by Aug. 30 and begin meeting in September through the end of the year.

It said the committee would be comprised of 13 members, led by Community Corrections Director Greg Mauro and a community co-chair and filled out by people with involvement with and knowledge of the city’s criminal justice system and community corrections programs.

The committee’s purpose would be to try and find other options to try and replace the programs after next June. Both companies own the facilities they operate their programs out of, and city leaders have said zoning rules make it near impossible to easily and quickly come up with new community corrections facilities.

"This is going to be a difficult task moving forward, but we're committed to it because there are so many human beings involved," Riggs said last week.
After the council voted to end the contracts with the two companies at the beginning of August , citing concerns that the two companies were also operating immigration detention facilities in other parts of the state and country, CoreCivic and GEO Group continued to operate the halfway houses without a contract – keeping 492 people from going back to jail or prison for the time being.

Part of the short-term contracts includes backpay for the companies for the services they have provided since the beginning of July. Mauro said last week that if the council approves the short-term contracts, that would accomplish three things: stabilizing services, committing to a re-evaluation of community corrections in Denver, and the hopeful full restoration of community corrections servicing to Denver -- though he said there was "no guarantee" that would happen.

Councilwoman At-Large Robin Kniech, who initially voted to end the contracts earlier this month, told Denver7 in an interview last week that she thought it would be necessary to approve the short-term contracts.

She said that she believes the new council is “getting more aligned and collaborating” and that they should work with the mayor’s administration and Department of Public Safety on this particular issue.

The council was also set to make a decision on new scooter rules and came to an agreement earlier Monday on a carbon tax ballot issue proposal and new office dedicated to climate change.