CDOT acknowledged for parolee work program partnership with Center for Employment Opportunities

Independence Pass was temporarily closed Wednesday morning, owing to rockfall on the road somewhere below the Weller campground. Special to the Times/Bob Ward

DENVER — The Center for Employment Opportunities has recognized the Colorado Department of Transportation for its role in providing transitional work to individuals on probation or recently released on parole.

CDOT’s partnership with the Center for Employment Opportunities has provided employment for nearly 200 people since May 2017. Participants in the program work within CDOT’s Division of Highway Maintenance to help maintain bridges, clear graffiti and trim or remove unwanted vegetation.

A Center for Employment Opportunities recognition and presentation event was held at CDOT’s Denver Headquarters on Thursday, Dec. 6.

“We’re honored to be recognized for helping other people get a new lease on life by providing employment opportunities,” said Michael Lewis, CDOT executive director. “And in addition to helping themselves, they’re helping us maintain our highway system, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

National organization

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The Center for Employment Opportunities is a national organization that provides individuals on probation or those recently released on parole with job training, placement and support. Its Colorado operation launched in May 2017 after the Governor’s Office of Community Partnerships, along with the Department of Corrections, visited Center for Employment Opportunities’ New York office in 2015 and found it a compelling program to reduce recidivism and wanted to bring it to the state.

“We are thrilled with, and grateful for, our partnership with CDOT,” said Samra Haider, national director of Center for Employment Opportunities. “Thank you to CDOT for working with (us) to provide returning citizens in Colorado the tools and opportunities to be successful in finding work and stabilizing their lives.”

Since the program’s inception, 23,000 work hours have included maintenance on 140 bridges, the removal of more than 1,700 bags of garbage, graffiti elimination and clearing the state highway right-of-way of unwanted vegetation.

“The initial success of the program has allowed us to expand it to other parts of the state,” said Kyle Lester, CDOT’s director of highway maintenance. “From its start in the Denver area, the program’s now grown to include the Greeley-Fort Collins area and the Colorado Springs area.”

CDOT expects to expand the program to other areas of the state in the next two years, including to the Western Slope and Southwestern Colorado.

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