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May 7, 2013 7:56 PM by Andy Koen

State ranks Pueblo halfway houses least safe in Colorado

PUEBLO - All of the community corrections programs in Pueblo have a history of inadequately following state regulations, consequently increasing the risk to public safety.

As recently as September, the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) with the Colorado Department of Public Safety ranked Minnequa Community Corrections and Crossroads Turning Points as the top two facilities in the state which pose the greatest risk to the public.

In fact, the facilities are listed higher than the recently shuttered Community Corrections Services Inc. (CCSI) where state auditors in August discovered numerous security violations.

The DCJ rankings evaluate facilities by the risk of escape and recidivism of the offenders, job performance of the staff, record keeping and staff stability.

The directors of the facilities in question don't think things are as bad as the DCJ annual report would indicate.

"We're not the same program reflected in that audit," explained Mike Holland, director of Minnequa Community Corrections (MCC.)

As a Risk Level 2 facility, MCC is audited once every three years. The most recent audit was conducted in 2010. Holland was hired in 2011 to turn things around.

Holland ran community corrections programs in El Paso and Arapahoe counties before serving on Governor Bill Owens' advisory panel that drafted the new state standards in 2008.

"Even though it's a 2012 report, it will take another full audit for our scores to improve majorly," Holland said.

Crossroads owner Leroy Lucero said he is working diligently to address concerns uncovered by state auditors. He points out that the facility has improved its ranking from a Level 1 facility in 2011 to a Level 2 facility in 2012.

Lucero also said not all of the facilities on the DCJ list have been audited under the new standards and feels like his facility is being unfairly singled out.

Concerns are high in Pueblo over the security at Community Corrections Facilities in light of the recent escape of Jamie Salazar, 32, from CCSI back on April 1. Salazar was missing for more than 3 weeks and is accused of raping and beating his girlfriend multiple times during the escape.

CCSI was owned by former Pueblo City Councilman Al Gurule who told us he chose not to renew his contract with the state when it expires next month. However, the August audit of CCSI discovered multiple examples of lax security at the facility including falsified head counts, guards asleep on the job and delays in reporting escapes.

In fact, CCSI neglected to inform the DCJ or other agencies of three serious incidents last year. The first was a fight between two offenders on facility grounds, and the second involved a Pueblo Police investigation into three offenders who may have been involved in a burglary while signed out of the facility.

The third incident involved two offenders who had stuffed their beds at night and left the facility to commit burglaries. They subsequently escaped from the facility while the auditors were in town.

Many of the 59 CCSI offenders were relocated to Minnequa last week following the closure. Director Holland says he is extremely confident of the security measures at his facility.

News 5 has requested copies of the most recent DCJ audits at Minnequa and Crossroads and will make the public when we receive them.

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