Denver officials will investigate whether inmates were forced to repair their halfway house to present a rosy image

A letter to City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca claims inmates have been required to help with “scrambling” maintenance repairs.

Community Corrections Director Greg Mauro during a press conference outside the Police Administration Building on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Community Corrections Director Greg Mauro during a press conference outside the Police Administration Building on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

KEVIN-lighter

As media attention zooms in on Denver’s halfway house operations, one resident alleges management forced clients to help fix up the facility where he lives. The city will investigate the claim, the Department Public Safety confirmed.

The halfway house is owned by CoreCivic, one of two companies that lost city contracts worth more than $10 million after the Denver City Council voted to end them. The move was a reprisal for their connection to immigration jails in Aurora and elsewhere.

The client, whose name is being withheld because he fears retribution, emailed his complaint to City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who tweeted a redacted version of the letter this week.

“Right now I am appalled at their behavior,” the man wrote, alleging halfway house management was “using” residents “to make the place look good and presentable.”

Greg Mauro, head of Denver’s Division of Community Corrections that oversees the halfway houses, told Denverite his office is looking into the claims. He also denied the allegation that Denver’s halfway houses are in disrepair is not true.

The letter claims long-standing issues, like clogged toilets, broken workout equipment and prairie dogs living in the backyard.

“Since the announcement of the (contract) non-renewal,” he wrote, “they have been scrambling adding seating and umbrellas in the back, fixing fence around the yard that was never put up correctly and is falling down, put in a bicycle rack, dug weeds out of the yard, they have us pressure wash the bathrooms and the laundry room, and now they have us prepping our rooms for them to paint inside and outside the building.”

In an email, a CoreCivic spokesperson Amanda Gilchrist said the company has “a vested interest in routine scheduled maintenance and upkeep” and “all maintenance projects that have been completed recently were routine and scheduled.”

“The residents do have regular chores,” Gilchrist added, “that does NOT include any maintenance or capital improvement projects.”

The letter writer told Denverite that halfway house managers threatened to send people back to prison or municipal jail if they did not participate. He says he has lived at the facility, which Denverite has not named to protect his identity, for two months. The Council killed the contracts Aug. 5.

Mauro said it’s common that halfway house residents are required to do chores, but inmates are prohibited from working on facilities’ structural maintenance.

“They shouldn’t be, in this case, erecting a fence,” he said.

This is not the first time halfway house conditions have been questioned by inmates. Tooley Hall, a halfway house now operated by GEO, once promised a “healthy, drug-free, safe and secure environment.” But a 2015 investigation by Westword’s Alan Prendergast revealed black mold and rotting floorboards. The facility’s manager stepped down after the story ran.

Denver’s Department of Safety released a proposal this week to transition Denver’s halfway homes away from GEO and CoreCivic’s operation. Council will weigh in on Monday evening.

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