New Path, New Life Reentry Initiative
By Gail Boise, Administrative Officer, Montana Correctional Enterprises ;Gayle Lambert, Administrator, Montana Correctional Enterprises; and Sam Casey, DOC Reentry Manager, Montana Correctional Enterprises
The Montana Department of Corrections (MTDOC) has a unique perspective on the offender population with an 80-20 philosophy. The MT DOC’s goal is to have 80% of the offenders under community supervision, which includes pre release centers, treatment facilities or under the supervision of probation and parole officers and only 20% in secure prison facilities. MT DOC places offenders in the least restrictive environment required for their crime while maintaining public safety as the highest priority, which provides offenders the opportunity for addiction treatment and rehabilitation while remaining under the direction of the MT DOC.
Maintaining the 80-20 balance has been a goal that has been set by Governor Brian Schweitzer and MT DOC is committed to achieving this goal by looking at new and innovative ways to handle the offender population.
MT DOC understands the importance of building and maintaining powerful partnerships and has found that the solutions to offender reentry does not fall solely on the Department of Corrections, as many entities have a stake in offender reentry such as family services, law enforcement, mental health programs and on the citizens of Montana.
Since 2009, Montana Correctional Enterprises Administrator Gayle Lambert and DOC Reentry Coordinator Sam Casey have been working closely with the Billings Area Reentry Task Force (BARTF) and MSU Billings, in Montana’s largest community, to implement collaborative initiatives that will assist offenders in the transition from prison to community. The BARTF is a community based group made up of people from the MT DOC, Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Montana State University Billings, law enforcement, and community partners involved in housing, employment, mental health, addiction, parenting, Native American and other organizations.
In October 2010 the BARTF received a Second Chance Act Grant of $165,000 to develop a pilot reentry program targeting female offenders who will be released from the Montana Women’s Prison to the Billings area. This pilot program, named “New Path New Life” focuses on three major areas; employment, housing and healthy relationships and targets the high risk female population, with an emphasis on Native Americans and offenders who have more than one return to prison. The goal of the reentry initiative is to reduce recidivism by 50% for the targeted population.
New Path New Life established a reentry case management team and assesses offenders prior to involvement in the program. Once accepted, offenders establish goals in the three major areas and meet with the case management team monthly. The case management team will remain consistent with the offenders while incarcerated, in prerelease and under parole supervision, providing a seamless transition from prison.
The reentry program builds on successful prison programming that was already in place and adds additional services that offenders need to be successful in the often cumbersome transition to the community.
Project Director Kim Gillan, who also is a State Senator, states “a key element of the new project is to determine at what point reentry planning should begin.” A critical component of the program is utilizing assessments and tools that are validated to reduce recidivism, use best practice models to develop short and long term reentry goals, focusing on the crimogenic risk and needs that affect recidivism outcomes and empowering female offenders to develop individualized reentry plans.
With the help of technical assistance, MT DOC leaders are working to replicate the BARTF reentry model in other communities across Montana.