Program that helps inmates reenter society in jeopardy

DENVER -- An agency that’s geared to helping inmates get back on their feet is at risk of having to shut its doors.

The Community Reentry Project has helped thousands of people try to live normal lives after being locked up.

Hazel Dew is one of those people.

The former elementary school teacher said, “I’ve been to prison twice. I’ve in jail several times. Bonded out. Failure to appears, go back. The end result of addiction or any criminal activity is jail.”

After leaving her teaching job, Dew became addicted to crack cocaine.

She says she’d been arrested at least 50 times and was going nowhere until she asked the Community Reentry Project for help.

Dew said, “First of all, I wasn’t too computer literate and their secretary would always come from behind the desk and assist me when I was getting stuck.”

Among other things, project counselors help inmates prepare for job interviews, and change their thinking and behaviors.

But now, it’s not clear if Denver Human Services will approve funding for the project next month.

We reached out to Denver Human Services, but have not heard back from the department.

The project's executive director Lisa Calderon says her agency’s $550,000 annual budget may be divided among several agencies.

"And what we are saying is people really need a place they can all their own, where they can feel comfortable. Where they are welcomed at the front door and have a staff that reflects the people that we serve."

From 2013 to 2016 The Reentry Project served nearly 4,500 people getting out jail.

More than half of those who completed the program did not go back to jail.

“The trick is to get people engaged in services before they get out of jail so they can be stabilized once they get into the community,” Calderon said.

Dew is now volunteering and helping other women in trouble at a different agency.

Inspiration she said, came from the Reentry Project because, “they changed the level of thinking like we’re here to assist you. We want to help you and they supported me every step of the way.”

Which is why she believes she’s still free today.