Montana U.S. Attorney's Office Announces Reentry Week Events as Part of DOJ "Roadmap to Reentry"
HELENA – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana will participate in a reentry training event at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge today, as part of the Department of Justice’s national reentry week events. The event will be one of more than 500 reentry week events across the nation, promoting the importance of reentry issues.
President Obama kicked off reentry week events on Saturday with remarks that stressed the economic and societal costs of high rates of incarceration and the importance of investing in alternatives to prison such as drug courts and mental health treatment. On Monday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the “Roadmap to Reentry,” the Department’s comprehensive vision to reduce recidivism through reentry reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The initiative is intended to respond to the needs of more than 600,000 citizens who return to neighborhoods and communities after serving time in federal and state prisons.
The principles Attorney General Lynch outlined in the “Roadmap to Reentry” are aligned with the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, which has been working for the past five years to reduce recidivism and improve employment, education, housing, health and child welfare outcomes. These principles include the formulation of individualized reentry plans; educational, employment, life skills, and substance abuse programs during incarceration; resources to maintain and build family relationships for inmates while incarcerated; establishment of halfway house and supervised release programs that cater to the needs of individuals; and the provision of comprehensive reentry-related information and resources necessary for former offenders to succeed as citizens.
Thursday’s event is a combined effort that will include a presentation by the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office Reentry Coordinator, Michael Lahr; the American Indian Liaison for the Montana Department of Corrections, Harlan Trombley; and the Vice-President of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Winfield Russell, as well as Reentry Specialist Jim Pagels of the Montana Department of Corrections. The presentation to the inmates will focus on federal firearms laws and address general reentry issues. The Northern Cheyenne Vice-President, the DOC American Indian Liaison and the USAO Reentry Coordinator will also meet with prison officials regarding reentry efforts with a particular focus on Native American inmates.
This event follows a Tribal Reentry Training held on March 29 and 30, 2016, and co-hosted by the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Tribal Defenders Holistic Defense Program of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The training included presentations by members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program, which is considered a model for effective reentry programs, presentations by the CSKT Tribal Defenders on the Flathead reentry program, which is currently under development, and presentations from the Montana Department of Corrections Staff about the Montana Reentry Task Force. The program concluded with a presentation by the United States Probation Office on reentry issues from the federal perspective.
Following that training, U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter met with United States District Court Judge Brian Morris on April 6, 2016 to discuss expanding reentry efforts by the courts. Judge Morris invited U.S. Attorney Cotter to provide him with information about reentry initiatives in Montana and across the country with the goal of integrating reentry concepts into judicial practices. Some of the topics discussed included special courts, including drug and veterans courts, along with mentoring and training programs. The high recidivism rate of Native Americans was also a major topic as Judge Morris handles cases involving four of Montana’s seven Indian reservations.
“Successful reentry is a critical issue both on and off of Montana’s reservations,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter. “The Department of Justice has made clear through its ‘Roadmap to Reentry’ initiative that our approach must be holistic, rather than focused merely on prosecution of offenders. It is in the best interests of federal, tribal, state, and local governments to ensure that offenders who have paid their debt to society are given a meaningful opportunity to rebuild their lives and participate in their communities. This Office’s reentry efforts, with the help of our tribal and state partners, are a critical part of that initiative.”
The “Roadmap to Reentry” initiative can also be seen as an extension of former Attorney General Eric Holder’s Smart on Crime Initiative. While Smart on Crime looks to change policies to reduce incarceration rates and reserve BOP resources for the most hardened criminals, Attorney General Lynch is looking to advance target programs while individuals are in prison so that they are more productive when they return to their communities and are less likely to reoffend. More information on DOJ’s reentry week programs and the “Roadmap to Reentry” can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/reentry.