DougCo sheriff responds to criticism, explains jail reintegration plan

Heather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / July 13, 2022

(Douglas County, Colo.) The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s proposed reintegration deputy will provide targeted help to inmates rejoining society, according to Sheriff Tony Spurlock.

Despite criticism of the county’s efforts from Aurora’s mayor, Spurlock says the program’s goal isn’t to drop inmates in neighboring cities or counties.

“You can’t paint this with a wide brush,” Spurlock said. “We don’t dump them off at the city limits and turn around — we do our job and get them to perhaps a support house, a non-profit, or maybe an old apartment with a family member who doesn’t have ways and means.

“We don’t kick them out, we take them to a destination and ensure they’ve got everything there,” he said.

Spurlock said adding a new deputy could help connect people leaving jail with homes, friends, family or other services to help ensure each person has a chance to establish a job, medical care and other necessary processes outside jail. These are all things the office has done for years, Spurlock said, but without a singular person to take the lead.

He said many inmates in the Douglas County Detention Facility live outside the county, but committed crime in Douglas County. When they are released from the Castle Rock jail, many lack feasible transportation or resources to begin reintegration, Spurlock explained.

The goal is to keep people from returning to custody.

“What we have here in Castle Rock is no public transportation, so if we didn’t provide services, that person would come out of our front door and have no way to get anywhere — they can’t Uber, they can’t cab, there’s no RTD — there’s no way to get anywhere and if they don’t have resources, they’re stranded.”

He noted that for some areas, for example in Pueblo, the office provides a Greyhound bus ticket to the city. But providing transportation to other areas like Aurora, is more complicated. RTD buses and light rails stop in Parker and Lone Tree.

Reintegration deputy offers transportation

In an effort to keep formerly incarcerated people off the streets of Castle Rock, deputies begin the reintegration process prior to an individual leaving jail.

Deputies ensure the former inmates have a Colorado ID, can apply for services (Medicare, Medicaid, EBT cards, etc.), prescription scripts for ongoing medications and any other immediate needs, such as job searching.

Once the sheriff’s office identifies a potential landing site for people leaving the jail — perhaps an old apartment or non-profit shelter — deputies will drive the newly released individual to nearby locations, such as Aurora, Lone Tree, Denver or Colorado Springs, or help them find transportation. If the sheriff’s office gets approval for the new position, the reintegration deputy will take over that process.

He noted that each person’s situation is unique, and requires nuance.

“We leave them with their meds, we connect a nearby pharmacy to them to our program…they again have access to sustainability,” Spurlock explained.

“So we would take them to Adams County if there is a resource for individuals that we’re trying to get to not fall back into the same old trap.”

HEART Team offers homeless aid

The sheriff’s office also offers a similar program to help the homeless. The Homeless Engagement, Assistance and Resource Team uses many of the same resources.

While the teams may have some overlapping service providers, the teams deal with different populations.

Spurlock said the homeless community in DougCo is complex. He encouraged law enforcement to work together to prevent criminalizing homelessness.

“(Jurisdiction) lines don’t mean anything to them,” Spurlock said. “So (law enforcement) have to work together, find ways to provide services in Douglas County and partner with everywhere else, need to find ways to provide services that are for a unique group of our citizens with unique lifestyles, and some of it is really pushed on them from circumstances out of their control.”

He also warned about conflating homeless individuals with panhandlers.

“They may say they’re homeless, and they can be, but there are others that are panhandling because that’s their job,” Spurlock said.

“They get up, they stand there and make their money, and that's what they do. Transient individuals will panhandle, but I’ve seen the same family panhandling for three years and just move around the metro area.”

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

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