Private prison operator Community Education Centers' woes have a familiar ring

Categories: Media, News, Prisons

This isn't exactly the best week ever for Community Education Centers, a private company that operates halfway houses, prisons and "re-entry centers" in seventeen states. On Sunday, the New York Times began running a three-part series on the company's alarming record of escapes, assaults, gang activity and drugs at its New Jersey facilities, the result of a ten-month investigation into CEC and its political ties to Governor Chris Christie. If it all sounds a little déjà vu, it may be because CEC has had some troubles at the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center it runs in Colorado Springs.

Four years ago, Westword interviewed a number of officials, residents and graduates of the CMRC, an innovative but controversial effort to provide state inmates with a smoother transition to life back on the street. The staff dress like motivational coaches rather than prison guards; the "residents" (not inmates) live in spartan dorms rather than cells and engage in a lot of peer-driven confrontations about behaviors and attitudes.

Critics of the program said the talk of life changes was so much window dressing for a poorly supervised operation plagued by assaults, high turnover among staff, gangs and drug use. Our article, "Con School," found some success stories and plenty of disgruntled customers, as well as DOC inspection reports that suggested some of the classes observed were staged for the inspectors' benefit.

CEC senior vice president William Palatucci acknowledged that the Cheyenne Mountain facility had been through "some growing pains." The Times reports that Palatucci and Governor Christie are close friends, once worked at the same law firm, and may have both lobbied on behalf of CEC while at that firm.

The Times series concludes tomorrow.

More from our Prison Life archive: "Hassan Latif: Ex-con advises others how to stay out of prison."

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This person that said he didn't feel comfortable with my son in CEC ended up violating a rule there and was placed in CMRC. My son broke no rules and ended up there. Do you see the mistreatment that some prisoners are getting so the company can make more money?

I've heard the more prisoners in higher classifications the more the company makes hence why the higher security places are full.

If you have someone in prison check their classification and then check to see what the classification is where they are placed.

The federal government has laws against this and they need to enforce them.


My son was out there in a medium security (CMRC) place with a classification of minimum. He was jumped and then was put in the shu (however they spell it) for something he had no control over. Thank God I had someone tell me it is against the federal law to place a minimum classification in a medium prison. They kept my son there until they moved him to try another place.

My son was released to a CEC place where he would have been able to get a job and to help himself to live back in society. He wasn't there a full day and because someone said he didn't feel comfortable with my son he was taken out and placed in county jail. From the words of his PO and a woman in the community center my son did not raise a hand, yell, threaten, etc....... he was taken out of there sure to one person. Then he was placed right next door in CMRC which is privately owned by the same company as CEC. Gee sound fishy to you, it does to me also. My son had done great in Rifle and even has his GED with an honorable mention and this is how DOC lets the prison system tray the inmates.

Grant it my son did go to prison but he has done time and per Rifle prison they felt he was able to come out into society.

Why doesn't anyone do something about this company that owns CEC and CMRC?

Also, cmrc's staff are dressed in cop uniforms and not in the attire mentioned in the article.

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