Corrections unit unveils upgrade

Michelle Cooley, operations manager of the Criminal Justice Services Department, gives a tour to Mesa County commissioners of the newly remodeled women’s facility.  The renovated Community Corrections facility is at Seventh Street and South Avenue.

Soft lavender and teal paint.

A spacious dressing room with well-lit mirrors to do makeup and fix hair before work or interviews. A “quiet space” for reading or homework.

Mesa County commissioners on Tuesday morning got a sneak peek at renovations underway at the Mesa County women’s community corrections facility, designed to make the building at Seventh Street and South Avenue safer and more adapted to female residents, and to create a more comfortable atmosphere for visiting family members. Residents — women who have been sentenced to the program as an alternative to prison or probation — have been housed nearby since October and are expected to move back on Sept. 30, said Michelle Cooley, operations manager for the Criminal Justice Services Department.

“It’s much more open,” said Vanessa Lujan, a former resident at the facility who now lives in the program’s independent living apartments. “It’s much more clean,”

Lujan said she’s most excited about the new “bonding room,” where mothers of infants and young children can spend time with their little ones with more privacy.

“They’re allowing the girls to be excited about getting back to their kids,” she said.

Community corrections client Misti Favorite, who also now lives in an independent living apartment, said the renovations will help clients work on relationships with their families. When Favorite first reunited with her teenage daughters after 15 months in jail, it was in a common space where other people interrupted repeatedly and were able to hear her conversation.

“It was really uncomfortable for me,” she said. “It made me not want them to come visit me.”

Lujan and Favorite both said the facility’s new dedicated urinalysis bathroom also will make a major difference to clients. Before, urine samples were collected in a small bathroom. Not a problem for regular restroom trips, but awkwardly crowded when a community corrections staff member has to be in the bathroom during collection, they said.

The renovations, which have a preliminary price tag of $408,836, have made room for four extra beds, up from 44, Cooley said. Windows have been installed into case management rooms, and various rooms have been reconfigured with safety in mind. The dayroom kitchen area, used more for family activities than for cooking, has been expanded.

Lujan and Favorite said the remodel should hopefully strike the balance between being comfortable enough to make residents feel stable, but austere enough to keep their focus on moving on to independent living.

“It’s still an institution,” Lujan said. “You don’t want to get too comfortable.”


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