As part of a national initiative to spotlight successful correctional programs, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock visited the Riverside Correctional Facility and heard nothing but praise from women in its re-entry program, reports KTVH in Helena. “I want people to feel the energy I’ve gotten, to feel the compassion that I’ve gotten,” said Darci Hill of Billings. “I mean, the other places that I’ve been, they put you in your room and you stay in your room, and if you cry, you cry all night. … These people lift you up.” Hill and two other women said they’d gone through many programs in Montana’s correctional system, but had experienced none so positive as the re-entry program at Riverside. “We’re always doing things here; we’re taking action,” said Kayte Mutrie of Helena, who graduated from the program and now has a job as a park ranger. “It’s not just about sitting around and wallowing in what you did wrong, why you’re bad.”
The Riverside Recovery and Re-Entry Program is run by Boyd Andrew Community Services, a nonprofit company that contracts with the Corrections Department. In operation for less than two years, Riverside Recovery has 22 slots, all for women, and plans to expand to 32 beds. Superintendent Dan Kissner said only two people who’ve entered the program have failed to graduate, and that as of Wednesday, 64 women will have completed the program. It usually takes three to four months. The program focuses on treating people and educating them about trauma in their lives, and how that trauma has contributed to their addictive or criminal behavior. Nicole DeRoche-Johnson said before the program, she’d never grasped the impact that trauma had on her life. “This program taught me that we don’t have to carry that baggage any more, that we can let it go,” she said. “You have some programs (in the system), but nothing even comes close to the treatment that I got here.” Bullock got a tour of the facility before sitting down with staff and residents to listen to their stories. His visit was part of Face to Face, a national initiative to spotlight the work of correctional programs.