LONGMONT -- Fifteen men gathered in a classroom at the Boulder County Jail on Wednesday afternoon and mulled the reasons why they were there.
Not the crimes they are accused of committing, but beliefs at the core that motivated those behaviors.
"I didn't realize that ... most of our emotions and feelings come from core beliefs," inmate Chad Morris said.
Some of the men completed the cognitive behavior therapy class Wednesday and earned certificates. Morris, 22, said the lessons he learned are valuable and he believes he will be able to apply them to try to stop his cycle of being in and out of jail. It is cycle he started as a juvenile.
But the program could take a blow if far-reaching federal budget cuts go into effect Friday. The program is one of several inmate programs at the Boulder County Jail funded with a federal grant. The instructor, Michelle Pierce, is paid out of those funds.
"That is saddening," Morris said of the possibility that the funding could be cut or lost. "They definitely need to have programs like this in more jails. People need to learn, especially coming in and out of jails, to learn new coping skills."
Sgt. Tim Oliveira, who oversees the programming, said jail officials see the positive effects of the programs.
"Those who take advantage of it really benefit from it," he said.
The jail draws only one federal grant. The jail uses a private company to apply for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program money. If the grant is awarded, the private company gets 15 percent for the application process. Boulder County Division Chief Bruce Haas said without the company, a county employee would have to work full time to apply for the data-heavy grant.
Essentially, the grant is used to reimburse county jails money spent housing illegal immigrants who are accused of crimes in order to shore up funding for inmate programs. In 2012, the county pulled down $125,000 from the grant, minus the private company's fee.
Haas said it has been difficult to determine if the federal budget money on the chopping block this week will affect the grant funding, but it is likely, he said.
"If we do lose this funding, I would go back in front of the (Boulder County) commissioners," he said, as part of an effort to save it.
Already, the grant award varies from year to year with the federal budget allocation and the amount of competition nationwide for the funds. Haas said the future of the funding has been in question since 2005 as rumors circulated that the federal government was going to discontinue the grants.
For now, officials are watching pending cuts and bracing. Morris is holding out hope.
"I need something to change my life and this is definitely in that direction," he said.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.