Denver to pursue short-term contracts with private prisons while permanent solutions sought
City officials will pursue short-term contracts while they look for alternatives to the community corrections services that the companies provided until their contracts were unexpectedly ended this month
By Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post
DENVER — City officials in Denver will pursue short-term contracts with two private prison corporations while they look for alternatives to the community corrections services that the companies provided until their contracts were unexpectedly ended by Denver City Council earlier this month.
The city will ask council to approve a six-month contract with GEO Group and a year-long contract with CoreCivic, according to a source close to the negotiations who was not authorized to speak on the record. The city will also convene a panel of community members to brainstorm long-term solutions, the source said.
If approved, the contracts would provide more certainty for the more than 500 people living at the companies’ six halfway houses. Since the Aug. 5 council vote, the residents faced the possibility of returning to jail or prison should the companies decide to close the facilities.
The new contracts would also address back pay for the two companies, which have been operating six halfway houses without pay since the vote. Without a new contract, there is little to prevent the companies from shuttering their facilities, officials have said.
Councilwoman Robin Kniech said Tuesday that she supported the short-term contracts because they would allow the city to end its relationship with the companies without disrupting the lives of those in the programs.
Kniech voted to end the $10 million contracts earlier this month, but has been in continuous conversation with city officials since then about solutions. She said other council members also support the short-term contract solution.
Councilman Paul Kashmann, who was not present for the council vote, also said he supported continuing services for those at the facilities. Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who led the effort to end the contracts, did not respond to a reporter’s call Tuesday evening but previously said she would support temporary contracts.
Mayor Michael Hancock on Tuesday afternoon visited a CoreCivic facility that provides 90-day addiction treatment and spoke briefly to some of the men who live there. The men told him that the employees at the location had helped them and that they were stressed by the uncertainty surrounding the future of the facilities.
“It’s messed up coming so far along and I wake up every day thinking I could go back to prison again,” said one resident, who said he had 12 days left in the program.
The city and the community panel will now have to find a location to provide community corrections services in a city where zoning rules make doing so difficult. Hancock said the city would consider buying the existing buildings.
“We’re looking at a lot of different options,” he said. “At this point everything has to be on the table.”
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