The TJC Sites: Denver, Colorado

Denver has a population of about 600,000 and is situated 15 miles east of the Rocky Mountain foothills. The Denver County Jail is a 1,634-bed facility that opened in 1956. An expansion project, conpleted in 2012, allows the facility to include space for programming and jail industries. Denver opened a 1,500-bed downtown detention center in 2010.

Denver's Crime Prevention and Control Commission (CPCC) was established in 2005, composed of criminal justice system stakeholders, service providers, and community members. Among the CPCC's initiatives was a jail-to-community reentry process. Since its selection as a TJC site in fall 2008, Denver has expanded upon these preexisting jail-to-community transition efforts, focusing on assessing inmate needs, making programming more effective, and evaluating the initiative's success. Progress made in each of these areas included the following:

  • Assessment. In its first year as a TJC site, the Denver County Jail implemented a screening instrument to determine each inmate's risk of recidivism. It subsequently implemented the Level of Service Inventory as its in-depth assessment tool to identify the needs of those at high risk of recidivism and better match these needs with the appropriate services.
  • Programming. Denver implemented a system-level strategic plan to deliver a proven cognitive-based treatment model in a jail setting; reviewed existing program curricula in the jail and the Community Reentry Project (a community-based reentry center); and implemented more evidence-based programs and ensured consistency in programming between the jail and the Community Reentry Project.
  • Data and evaluation. A data structure for evaluating the initiative's effectiveness in reducing recidivism rates has been established.

Denver's TJC work has shown how challenging reforming justice systems can be, but also what it is possible if partners are open to change, committed to joint ownership of the issue, and willing to be flexible. Expanding evidence-based programming and building accurate and coordinated data collection across agencies were key to Denver's TJC success. At the end of the TJC assistance period, Denver planned to build on its TJC work to increase fidelity to the model, refine its collection methods and analyses of performance measure data, and increase the collaboration and capacity of its community-based service providers through a series of trainings on evidence-based practices in reentry.

Denver County's director of corrections and undersheriff Gary Wilson expressed his enthusiasm about the project's results. "The TJC model has provided the Denver Sheriff Department with a framework for future jail[-to-community] transition programs in our jails and we are committed to continue partnering with community-based service providers. Support of evidence-based programs has increased throughout the department, from command staff to frontline deputies, and preparing inmates to reenter the community has become a key component of our mission."

For more information, refer to the TJC Phase I final evaluation report or the Denver Crime Prevention and Control Commission website, or contact Shelley Siman at shelley.siman@denvergov.org.