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State: Three halfway houses riddled with problems

8:31 PM, Apr 3, 2008   |    comments
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The company, Avalon Correctional Services, helps offenders return to society, instead of prison.

Earlier this year, Colorado's Department of Public Safety produced an audit of The Villa, Avalon's halfway house in Greeley. The audit found a number of problems from untrained employees to poor living conditions to inappropriate sexual relationships between staff and offenders.

The state has subsequently pulled its contract with the facility. The Weld County Community Corrections Board is also considering whether to follow suit.

The Department of Public Safety recently released two more audits of Avalon's two other halfway houses, The Phoenix Center and The Loft House. Both are located in Adams County.

The results are very similar to those found at the Villa. The audits pointed to inadequate training, poor documentation and a high turnover rate among employees.

"Our greatest concern about the Phoenix Center is the facility's pattern of suboptimal performance over time," wrote Carl Blesch, program director with the Office of Community Corrections.

He had similar words for The Loft House.

Avalon responded to these reports in an e-mail to 9NEWS. The following is part of the e-mail:

"We can assure you that the issues detailed in the report no longer exist and that a systematic, comprehensive quality assurance program is in place that will minimize future issues of this nature."

Avalon is a publicly-traded company based in Oklahoma. It operates more than a dozen facilities in four states. Problems have been cited in several of them.

In 2002, the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth accused the Union City Detention Center, an Avalon facility, of treating juveniles with developmental disabilities improperly.

Last year, Avalon lost an $8 million lawsuit for failing to provide proper medical care to a resident who died at an Oklahoma City halfway house. A judge vacated the decision against the company because a convicted felon had lied to get on the jury. Both parties settled out of court.

"It makes you question whether they should still be in business in Colorado," said Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen (D-Pueblo West), who sits on the Community Corrections Advisory Council.

McFadyen says the reports don't bode well for both the offenders and the taxpayers.

"It does no one any good in Colorado to have someone go back to prison," she said.

The Adams County Community Corrections Board has suspended its contract with Avalon, now paying the company month to month for its services. Meanwhile, the board's chair, Brandeis Sperandeo, says the board members are "actively pursuing other options."

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