Denver votes to buy a halfway house, and GEO Group is officially out of the game

Tooley Hall was the second of GEO’s two halfway houses in the city to close.

GEO's Tooley Hall halfway house, Aug. 13, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

GEO's Tooley Hall halfway house, Aug. 13, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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GEO Group no longer runs halfway houses in the city of Denver.

A week ago, the last residents of Tooley Hall were transferred out of the facility at 4280 Kearney St. in Northeast Park Hill. It was the second of GEO’s two operations to close.

On Monday, Denver City Council voted to purchase Tooley Hall from GEO, but it wasn’t a unanimous decision.

Councilwoman Debbie Ortega opposed the deal, saying the city put itself “in a box” when it voted to divest from GEO and CoreCivic without a plan.

“If we’re actually divesting, does it make sense that we’re putting money back into the pockets of these companies?” she said to Denverite before the vote.

Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who ignited the charge last spring to divest from these corporations, said the purchase “makes sense for us in the short term and the long term,” despite handing $1.3 million over to GEO.

She told Denverite the price is “way below the market rate.” The purchase also opens the possibility that a nonprofit could step in to run a corrections program there. Up until this point, any group that wanted to operate a halfway house also had to own the building. Denver’s ownership means an organization that could not previously afford to buy a building may now have the chance to step into the space.

Greg Mauro, director of Denver’s community corrections division, told Denverite his team is looking at using the building to house women transitioning out of prison. GEO’s Williams Street halfway house was the sole women-only facility in the city, and it closed earlier this year.

A written statement from GEO said the company expressed “hope they will be able to be successful in providing much-needed services to this vulnerable population in what has become a very challenging environment.”

According to the international company’s 2018 financial report to stockholders, GEO’s halfway house business accounted for a quarter of its $2.3 billion revenue. Its total revenue has grown each year since 2016.

A working group assembled to ease the transition away from GEO and CoreCivic has one last official meeting before it submits recommendations to the city. They will likely ask City Council to extend contracts for CoreCivic and open a bid process to groups that want to operate in Tooley Hall once the purchase has been complete.

Tooley Hall was the cite of a “unique” behavioral and cognitive therapy program that is now being relocated to Denver’s county jail complex in Stapleton.

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