DENVER -- A day after Denver announced the 13-member advisory committee that will make decisions on how to move forward replacing six halfway houses in jeopardy of closing, the city's new council is raising new concerns about what they are calling an "unjust" transition for existing residents.
The same city councilmembers who pushed to cut ties with two halfway house operators, GEO Group and CoreCivic, over immigration politics without a clear plan forward, are now calling out the city and GEO group for its own lack of planning.
"All we're asking is for the plan... before we take action, all we're asking is for communication about what's happening," said Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca.
CdeBaca said female residents once in fear of going back to prison, at GEO Group's Williams St. facility, were abruptly told they could soon be moving to halfway houses in other counties.
"We were being told that residents who have parole in two weeks were being transferred and that doesn't make sense at all," she said.
CdeBaca and Councilman Chris Hinds said they both received frantic emails from residents over the weekend, which lead to an impromptu visit.
"The stuff that they were saying was troubling to put it mildly," said Hinds. "The reason why we granted a six-month extension for GEO and 12-month extension for Core Civic is so we could be measured with our approach."
Meanwhile, GEO Group came out swinging against both council members.
“The outrageous antics of Denver Councilmembers CdeBaca and Hinds to use our treatment facility for their political theater has crossed the line," a GEO Group spokesman said in a statement. "For the second time in four days, Councilwoman CdeBaca barged into the Williams Street women’s treatment facility (where women are treated for emotional trauma) to justify canceling the contracts over a month ago without any previous due diligence or notification."
Greg Mauro, Director of Denver's Community Corrections, said GEO Group cannot afford to operate the Williams St. location at full capacity since it is no longer taking in new residents and its money is generated by the number of people it serves.
Mauro said, the city along with the entire state prison system, are looking to move residents to other halfway house locations across the state, but no one is being transferred yet now.
The city said transfers would happen before December when GEO's extended contract with the city expires, and the advisory committee is set to present solutions for transitioning away from both companies.
The Community Corrections Advisory Committee’s formation comes after the Denver City Council last month agreed to approve the $8.7 million in short-term halfway house contracts for GEO Group and CoreCivic through December and June, respectively.
The council voted to cancel the contracts in early June, with a majority opposing the two companies ties to immigration detention facilities operating in other parts of the state and country.
But the decision led to weeks of hand-wringing and emergency work to figure out what to do with the 517 people currently housed at the two companies’ six facilities, lest they be sent back to jail or prison.
Eventually, the council approved short-term contracts for both companies but also agreed to form the advisory committee so it can figure out what will come next after CoreCivic’s contracts expire at the end of next June. Zoning rules make it nearly impossible for the city to quickly come up with new community corrections facilities.