DENVER - The Denver Jail is designed to keep inmates from getting out, but two community groups are trying to get in to address issues inside.
"We're really concerned about jail overcrowding and the rising assaults associated with the tension that comes from an overcrowded jail," Lisa Calderon, Colorado Latino Forum co-chairman, said.
Pastor Terrence Hughes is president of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance. He wants to know why there is a lack of African-Americans and only two Latinos on the management team of Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman.
"We are concerned about the inequity of leadership, Black and Brown leadership in this jail," Hughes said.
Hughes and Calderon are also upset about the demotion of former Sheriff Gary Wilson, who still works in the department. Wilson, an African-American, was demoted from chief to captain after an alleged mishandling of an inmate.
"And, I believe that the scope in which they are punishing him under right now is out of the scope of the discipline matrix," Hughes said.
Considering the number of Latinos and African-Americans who are incarcerated in the jail, the two groups want to meet with Firman.
"The response from the Sheriff has been to deny our requests for a meeting which is unprecedented for a sheriff in Denver to deny community leaders a meeting," Calderon said.
Hughes says these groups have worked with Denver Sheriff Department for years.
"How do you not meet with two historic organizations of this city," Hughes said.
The Sheriff Department Spokesman Simon Crittle released a statement, "The Denver Sheriff Department is committed to engagement with all of Denver's diverse communities and residents at every level."
Crittle says the department has recently established a Sheriff Advisory Board comprised of community members from diverse parts of the city. Crittle says the Sheriff has met with these groups in the past.
"However, in this case, we declined a meeting request because (Colorado Latino Forum) insisted that an ongoing personnel matter be on the agenda," Crittle said in a statement. "The work addressing jail population will continue through existing workgroups and we look forward to productive community engagement and public involvement moving forward."
Calderon says the community wants and deserves answers.
"I think that the Sheriff doesn't understand the makeup of our community," Calderon said. "The needs of Latinos are not being prioritized in this jail."
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