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Denver in need of more halfway house beds

At least 100 inmates are awaiting placement, but there is no space to accept them in community corrections.

DENVER — Halfway house beds have been reduced by half since July 2019. 

Two years ago, Denver had 748 halfway house beds. By the end of December, that number will drop down to 359.

Presenting to Denver City Council members at the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee, Director of Community Corrections Greg Mauro called the lack of capacity “urgent.”

“I do project that we are going to be in a crisis 12 months from now,” Mauro said during the Nov. 3 committee meeting.

The problem stems largely from City Council’s decision two years ago to terminate contracts with two major providers for halfway houses in the city. As a result, six facilities have closed since then. Unrelated to the contract terminations, a seventh facility closed due to the pandemic.

“We are hovering at about 100 individuals that have been accepted for placement by the community corrections board who are awaiting this reentry opportunity that we don’t have space to move them,” Mauro said.

The majority of those people are felons in the Department of Corrections.

“In addition to the 100 from the Department of Corrections, we are starting to see a growing list from our jails - folks on the court side that have been sentenced to community corrections who are awaiting placement as well,” Mauro said. “So that number is hovering right around 20. As that continues to increase, we just don’t have the ability to move people.”

Due to the lack of space, the inmates who have been accepted to the program will have to wait in jail longer. A judge may also grant parole sooner with the intermediate step, which could prove detrimental to the inmate’s rehabilitation process. In some cases, some inmates may be referred to programs in nearby counties instead.

Denver is in particular need of beds for men as well as therapeutic community treatment beds, typically used for substance abuse or behavioral health needs.

“That’s where I see the crisis mounting and coming into fruition about a year from now,” Mauro said.

While presenting to the committee, Maura said it’s not as simple as opening new facilities and creating bed space.

“From a bed standpoint, a bed is not a bed is not a bed, meaning that there are different services offered at different facilities,” Mauro said. “It’s not just total capacity. It’s not just total capacity in any one environment.”

The city recently announced a new partnership with the Empowerment Program, which is a nonprofit that offers services for women. The organization will run the Tooley Hall Halfway House, which was purchased by the city in 2019 after it closed in the same year.

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