The Boulder Weekly
For prison parolees, transitioning from life behind bars to life in society is not without its barriers. Stable employment can be difficult to find with a criminal record. Affordable housing complexes are free to reject an individual whose last address was in a Colorado state prison. And simply readjusting to a completely different lifestyle as a free individual has its own stresses. But, as an Aug. 4 report released by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) indicates, all of those factors can be compounded when the person released from prison is homeless, and it’s an issue that begs public response, especially during a state budget crisis.
The study, titled “Homelessness and parole: A survey of Denver’s shelters,” tackles this topic. Its findings are many: A little less than half of the parolees interviewed were homeless for the first time in their lives; their unemployment rate is significant (71 percent); and access to mental-health services or even required parole visitations (meetings, urinalysis tests) felt limited and oftentimes overwhelming to those surveyed. The study was conducted after Denver shelter employees consistently relayed a perceived increase in the amount of homeless parolees in their facilities.
“Most people want to start over,” says Carol Peeples, re-entry coordinator with CCJRC and the author of the report. “They want to make a concerted effort, and the only time you hear otherwise is when people are so frustrated that they can’t make it — the doors are not open and they are not able to access services, not able to get a job, not able to do what they need to do.”
And it’s a problem that may be further complicated by an impending shelter closure. The Metro Denver Salvation Army announced on July 29 that it will be closing its overnight shelter as of Aug. 10, 2009. The 1901 29th St. shelter (known as Crossroads) also happens to be the same location where the CCJRC report found most parolees living (83 percent of those interviewed resided at Crossroads).
Roger Miller of the Metro Denver Salvation Army Public Relations Office noted that the closure of the Crossroads shelter is part of an effort to better serve the homeless population of Denver by transferring their focus toward their more transitional programs.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
The Boulder Weekly