Denver ends multi-million dollar contracts with private prison giants
On Aug. 5, Denver city councilors voted 8-4 to not renew contracts totaling $10.6 million with the two largest private prison corporations in the country.
The two companies, CoreCivic and GEO Group, collectively run six community corrections facilities, also known as halfway houses, in Denver, according to the Colorado Independent. These facilities house 500 former inmates that are transitioning back into society.
CoreCivic and GEO Group run private prisons and immigrant detention centers across the country, and both have been criticized for their treatment of detained immigrants, the Independent reports. This has given way to a larger discussion about what role private companies should play in the detention space.
Thus, the council faced the dilemma of whether to renew contracts with companies whose actions the council members oppose, or to nullify the contracts but put the fates of the 500 former inmates into question.
“There are human beings’ lives at stake if we choose to vote down this contract,” Councilman Chris Herndon said, per Westword. “By supporting this contract, we continue to serve them and figure out how to better do this.”
Following the vote however, the status of the 500 former inmates remains in the air.
“If these contracts do not pass, the only option is to return [the 500] to custody, into the Denver jail, until the court could review their cases. … They’d all be returned to custody in very short order,” said Greg Mauro, the director of the city’s Division of Community Corrections, per the Independent.
Moreover, a viable halfway house alternative also remains in question. CoreCivic and GEO Group are keeping the halfway houses open without a contract and aren’t obligated to close them immediately, The Intercept reports.
“These best in class treatment facilities in Denver have nothing to do with national immigration policies, yet politically-motivated activists and council members chose to intentionally share false information about our parent company’s more than 30-year record as a government service provider and overlooked the needs of Denver residents whose voice is so often ignored – those trying to successfully re-integrate into the community,” GEO Group Vice President of Strategic Marketing Monica Hook said in a statement sent to Westword.