May 8, 2013 8:52 PM by Andy Koen
PUEBLO - When parole officers relocated some 60 offenders from the Community Corrections Services Inc. (CCSI) facility in Pueblo last Friday, owner Al Gurule told News 5 at the time that he had simply decided not to renew his contract.
Then on Monday, we discovered a report by state auditors with the Division of Criminal Justice that made serious accusations about security at his facility. Gurule insists the report is flawed.
"There's some truth, but a lot of the information that you got from the Division of Criminal Justice was embellished," Gurule said.
For example, the claim that a guard was caught sleeping on the job. Gurule says his staff that actually caught the guard and fired him.
"We brought that to their (the auditors) attention and they used that against us," Gurule said. "It's a plus! It's good stewardship on our part."
The Division of Criminal Justice uses audits to, among others things, gauge the risk of escape at halfway houses.
When we asked Gurule whether his facility was secure he said, "It was secure, probably not 100 percent. They were here, it was secure. Did we have some guys walking off? Yes. Did we have guys sneaking off? Yes. Did I have some drug usage? Yes. What's happened to them? They're going to jail and that's how I dealt with the problem and we developed a no tolerance policy."
However, eight months after the audit, and after Gurule's reforms, 32-year old Jamie Salazar walked away from the facility. Prosecutors say he beat and raped his girlfriend several times that day. Gurule's response?
"It's not an Al Gurule issue, it's a societal problem."
The state entrusts private community corrections providers like Gurule to adequately and securely house criminal offenders. As News 5 reported Tuesday, all three facilities in Pueblo have a history of not meeting mandatory safety guidelines.
The Division of Criminal Justice publishes a yearly report ranking the risk level of escapes at the facilities they monitor. The most recent report, published in September, lists Minnequa Community Corrections (MCC) and Crossroads Turning Points as the only Risk Level 2 facilities in the state.
Gurule's CCSI is listed as a Level 4 facility in that report, the lowest possible risk category.
However, MCC director Mike Holland explained that the risk assessments tend to lag behind the most recent audits. His facility was last audited in 2010.
Gurule acknowledged that his risk assessment could have increased under the most recent audit. State law prohibits Level 1 high risk facilities from receiving funds. Since Gurule's contract was set to expire June 30, we asked if he had a financial interest to simply no longer continue operation.
"I guess to some degree it was more of a nuisance dealing with the auditors," Gurule replied.
The closure of CCSI leaves the Pueblo community with a shortage of beds at community corrections facilities. The capacity at CCSI was 118 beds. Minnequa can hold 87, but Director Holland indicated that he has plans to possibly expand his facility.
We reached out to Division of Criminal Justice Director Jeanne Smith for a response to Gurule's assertion that auditors "embellished" their report. Smith declined to comment.
Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, a former prosecutor, acknowledged the struggles of community correction facilities in the community. He points out that a previous halfway house oversight board disolved 15 years ago. Hart says Pueblo County is currently the only county in the state that does not have a local body to oversee the facilities.