On Sept. 3, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced that someone in the custody of a private community corrections agency it partners with had died. It was the second time in four days that …
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On Sept. 3, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced that someone in the custody of a private community corrections agency it partners with had died. It was the second time in four days that the Sheriff’s Office had to make such an announcement.
The first death came on Aug. 31, when Damion White, 26, was found unresponsive at ICCS’ Lakewood residential facility for men in the early morning. He was later pronounced dead.
The second death came on Sept. 2, when Sean William Hayes, 30, was found dead in the store where he was working as part of a work release arrangement. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Hayes died of an apparent drug overdose.
Hayes was on his second day in work release custody after being transferred to ICCS on Sept. 1 to begin a 90-day work release sentence. White had been transferred to ICCS on July 14.
As of press time, the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office had not released autopsy reports for either death and likely would not for several more weeks.
White’s death was also not the first of someone housed at ICCS this year. In May, 33-year-old female work release inmate Brittni Marie Miller was found unresponsive at ICC’s female facility in Lakewood.
New arrangement for work release
The deaths of two men in ICCS custody so close together is shining a new spotlight on the agency, which the Sheriff’s Office began contracting with to house and manage male inmates participating in its work release program just earlier this year.
For decades, ICCS, which is an independent nonprofit agency, has housed and served a population that largely included offenders that have diverted from traditional incarceration and those that are returning to the community after a prison sentence.
Those in the custody of ICCS were often able to work while receiving services such as educational and vocational assistance and sometimes being monitored for issues like drug use.
In February, the Sheriff’s Office began contracting with ICCS to house and supervise inmates serving a work release sentence, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Karlyn Tilley said in an email to Colorado Community Media. The agency had already been housing and monitoring female work release inmates.
According to the Sheriff’s Office website, the county’s work release program allows inmates “who meet specific criteria to serve time while maintaining employment or attending school in the community.” Those participating in work release must also pay a daily fee to the county that is determined based on their income and ability to pay.
Tilley said the Sheriff’s Office began contracting with ICCS to house the male work release inmates as a response to COVID-19 and the desire to separate inmates housed in the jail facility.
At various points during the pandemic, the Sheriff’s Office took several steps to reduce the risk of transmission in the jail, including implementing enhanced booking standards, releasing inmates who had served much of their sentence and reopening a closed floor of the jail.
JCSO “concerned” but contract continues
In her emailed statement, Tilley said the Sheriff’s Office “is concerned by any in-custody death, including those that occurred in the work release program.”
She then explained that while JCSO is contracting with ICCS to house and monitor inmates sentenced to work release, it does not have oversight into any internal investigations ICCS may or may not be doing as a result of these recent deaths.
However, the County’s Critical Incident Response team, is also investigating both deaths, she said. The CIRT response team is made up of representatives from various law enforcement agencies and also investigates discharges of firearms by law enforcement that result in death or injury.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring the (work release) program back into our own facility, but for now we do not have plans to alter the contractual relationship,” Tilley said.
She also explained that the Sheriff’s Office has begun providing ICCS with behavioral, medical and mental health histories of inmates upon their transfer to ICCS, although that change was made prior to the recent deaths.
According to Tilley, it is the courts that sentence inmates to work release. Currently, ICCS is contracted with the county to provide a total of 100 beds for work release inmates. On Sept. 10, there were 73 men and 16 men completing work release at ICCS. All work release inmates are now housed at ICCS, she said.
No comment from ICCS
ICCS, meanwhile, declined to comment about the recent deaths and how it is responding to them for this story. In response to emails and phone calls, ICCS CEO Kelly Sengenberger said the agency has “no comment” and directed Colorado Community Media to address questions to the Sheriff’s Office.
Michael Teague, the spokesman for the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office that serves Jefferson and Gilpin counties, explained in an email that the DA’s Office’s role in determining who is sent to ICCS for work release is limited to either objecting or not when a defendant requests work release and either a judge or the department of corrections is considering granting it. He did not offer any additional comment on the two deaths.
Similarly, Jefferson County Public Information Officer Julie Story said the county commissioners were declining to be interviewed on the deaths because the commissioners are not involved in the Sheriff’s Office’s relationship with ICCS.
“It’s really just a contractual relationship that the Sheriff’s Office has with ICCS,” she said.
Colorado Community Media also reached out to First Judicial District Chief Judge Jeffrey Pilkington via email about the deaths but had not received a response at press time.
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