GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Pre-Release Center at 1019 15th Street North is operated by a non-profit group contracted by the Montana Department of Corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The facility typically houses about 240 men and women at a time, and all of those residents are required to hold full-time jobs in the community. Along with work, residents must fulfill any legal obligations such as fines or substance abuse treatment. Most only stay at the center for about six months before they are allowed to return to life in the community.
The center offers a six-month program that helps criminal offenders make a smooth transition back into the community; residents are within 24 months of parole or one year of their discharge date.
Justin Johnson is a member of the center’s honors program that rewards residents that excel in the program. “Everything that happens here is our choice. If you let the program work for you, let the people that work here help you , then you can be successful here,” said Johnson.
While serving the remainder of their sentence at the center, residents will establish employment, build money management skills, and participate in counseling and other rehabilitative courses.
After trying three times to complete the program, Johnson now fully believes in the process: “It’s not easy coming here but it teaches us discipline. I never knew that all the three times I’ve come here. I finally learned that knowing that the way they designed this program is to teach us discipline and how to be proactive in our own lives.”
The transition center monitors residents for for up to three years after they are released. On average, more than 75% of residents that complete the program stay out of the prison system.
Honor resident Rostelle Beston will be released in 64 days and has high hopes for the future she’s building now at the center. “I’ve been to treatment before. I’ve never been through a pre-release where they actually help you make the first steps to getting a job, going to treatment, classes. I’ve seen people fail and I’ve seen people walk out of here with their head held high. I know I’ll be one of those with my head held high and I’m happy for that."
GFPRC director Alan Scanlon says it’s an alternative way to finish their sentence while working toward their future.
“If they do the program properly, at the end of six-months they will have stayed on the job for six months, which most have never done before. They will have saved close to five thousand dollars. They will have been established in the community with A.A. or a church, maybe they have family here. If you contrast that to someone who stays in prison until their very last day, they come to Great Falls on the bus with what’s left of $100. No job, no community support, no treatment.”