Andrew Montano, a former resident of a Henderson, Colorado, halfway house, kisses his newborn baby boy in his family’s Colorado home on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. In January 2020, Montano was sent back to prison for a year, delaying long-awaited plans with family after already being incarcerated for 12 years. He was sent back on a technical violation by his facility, then run by private prison company CoreCivic. Before catching the hour-long bus ride after work back to his facility, he used a gas station restroom without first getting their permission.

“Another Place to Warehouse People”: The State Where Halfway Houses Are a Revolving Door to Prison

Colorado’s halfway houses purported to reduce recidivism by rehabilitating people when formed in 1974. But insiders outline an opaque system in which facilities are a revolving door back to prison. They say community corrections lack transparency and oversight, and have excessively punitive and frequently trivial rules, inadequate staffing and training, and ineffective addiction treatment programs, among other issues.

For Andrew Montano, using a gas station bathroom without prior approval from his halfway house led to nearly a year back in prison after already serving 12 years inside, delaying long-awaited family plans. And when former resident Robert Román Prieto overdosed in his facility, staff not following procedures contributed to his death.

“He was so full of life,” said his sister, Naddia Román. “He was doing really, really good. He was more around his kids, more around his family. He wanted to be better, and they took away that opportunity.”

I photographed current and former residents and staff for this investigative series for ProPublica, written and reported by Moe Clark.

The halfway house that Andrew lived in when it was owned by CoreCivic. The facility, owned by Adams County, is now operated by Intervention Community Correction Services of Intervention Inc.

Michael Anthony Martinez, formerly a resident at an Advantage Treatment Centers halfway house in Sterling, Colorado, gets ready for church in his room at the Hope House, a sober living home in Sterling, on Sunday, March 13, 2022. Martinez has shuffled through prison, halfway houses and drug treatment programs. “I’m ready to be (a) successful man and show everybody that I can do something right,” he said. “Because this is just sickening. In and out, in and out.”

Martinez shows his tattoo that reads, “Family: we may not have it all together, but together we have it all,” in his room at the Hope House, a sober living home in Sterling, Colorado, on Sunday, March 13, 2022.

John Sherman eats with family on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022, at his family home in Denver, Colorado. After three decades in prison, Sherman didn't get a single write-up. Within two days of his release to a Denver halfway house, however, that changed when dozens of family members surprised him while on a clothes shopping trip approved by his facility. Due to the excitement of the moment and the store not letting him use their phone, he missed the deadline to report his arrival at the store to the halfway house by a few minutes and was written up.

A painting by Sherman depicts a clown-like correctional officer with no brain stepping on flowers in his bedroom at his family home in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. “The halfway house doesn’t care if you leave or succeed,” said Sherman, who finished his program in January 2021. “Somebody’s gonna fill that bed no matter what.”

Christopher Bonham poses for a portrait in his neighborhood park in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. Bonham worked for ComCor Inc., a privately run halfway house in the Springs, on and off for five years. During that time, three residents died from overdoses, which he feels could have been prevented if the house was properly staffed and trained.

Joselymar Román, the late Robert Román Prieto’s sister, braids Román Prieto’s daughter Mariela Román’s hair as his other daughters, Kiaraly Román, 10, and Annalise Román, 15, relax at the family’s home in Fountain, Colorado, on Sunday, November 27, 2022.

Naddia Román shows a necklace charm, gifted to her by her late brother, Robert Román Prieto, outside her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Sunday, November 27, 2022. “He was so full of life,” Naddia Román said. “He was doing really, really good. He was more around his kids, more around his family. He wanted to be better, and they took away that opportunity.”

Iris Román Prieto lays with her granddaughter, Naddia Román, who she says is the spitting image of her late son, Robert Román Prieto, at the family’s home in Fountain, Colorado, on Sunday, November 27, 2022. “If that person had checked on Robert when they said that they would, if that would have been taken care of right away, he would still be alive,” said his mother.

Hope House residents, including Martinez at center right, play football at a local park in Sterling, Colorado, on Sunday, March 13, 2022. Many say their time at the Hope House, a sober living home, has been much more supportive and effective than halfway houses.

Ava LeVan brushes her mother Shannon Lucas’ hair at their home in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Friday, November 18, 2022. Lucas, who was diverted to a halfway house over going to prison, says her post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety medication was stolen from her at the Larimer County community corrections facility. She complained about it, but the facility wrote her up for "medication misconduct" rather than investigating. “I was so scared I wasn’t going to be able to see my daughters," said Lucas, who worried her complaints would land her in prison.

LeVan doodles signatures as her mom sits at the table in their Fort Collins, Colorado, home on Sunday, November 27, 2022. LeVan, who was in sixth grade when her mom was living in the halfway house, says she was depressed at the time, and it was draining living with another guardian instead of her mom.

Alycia Samuelson receives training for a serving job at a 1950s themed diner in Littleton, Colorado, on Monday, April 18, 2022. State audits have shown that few halfway houses are meeting quality standards for employment services despite the benefits to the long-term success of residents.

Affirmations and reminders cover Alycia Samuelson's Littleton, Colorado, apartment on Monday, April 18, 2022. Several months into her stay at an ICCS halfway house, she was suicidal after a series of life tragedies and told staff. She says they did nothing, so she ran. "I literally ran from the halfway house to save myself.”

John Sherman sits for a portrait at his family home in Denver on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. A prolific artist, John has murals in most Colorado correctional facilities.

Old paint marks a palette in John's studio. When incarcerated, he dreamed of one day having his own studio and is now building it out at his family home.

Andrew Montano, his wife, and their 10 month old daughter stand for a portrait near their home. Andrew is glad to be back with his family and launching a career after nearly 12 years in prison, four months in a halfway house and nearly an extra year in prison for his technical violation.

Dusk falls on Montano's former halfway house in Henderson, Colorado, now owned by Adams County and run by Intervention Community Correction Services, on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2022. “Of all of the stages in the criminal law system … I think this is probably one of the most opaque,” said Wendy Sawyer, research director for the Prison Policy Initiative. “There’s just a sort of [a] black hole.”

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