Billings television station KTVQ reports that the Montana Department of Corrections (MDOC) teamed up with Montana Job Service to put to good use funds supplied by the Department of Justice. The DOJ gave funding of $600,000 to be used for a demonstration program. The MDOC has used the money for its “Pathways to Self-Sufficiency” program that ties Montana State University Billings to the Great Falls Women’s Prison in that city.
On June 1, thirteen women graduated after completing the required 124 hours of coursework. KTVQ reveals that since 2008, 125 women have enrolled in the program, with 73 graduating. Although those numbers may seem small, the dreams of the women are big. Being able to leave prison with new skills under one’s belt creates a new confidence for the future.
The women are taught math, reading, writing, and “personal work skills development,” according to KTVQ, and they are also required to choose at least two electives. The purpose of the “Pathways to Self-Sufficiency”program is to give the woman skills they will need to find employment upon release. With so many barriers to employment already in place for people with criminal histories, the program’s goal is to enable graduates to provide a legal income for themselves, and their families.
Too often women coming out of prison have no marketable skills and poor education. Thirty percent of inmates in the Great Falls Women’s Prison do not have a GED or a high school diploma the Billings television station discovered. The MDOC encourages all inmates in their prison system to take advantage of any available educational opportunities. The thirteen women in “Pathways to Self-Sufficiency” program certainly did.
It is a well known fact in reentry circles that formerly incarcerated persons who are plugged into a job soon after release from prison are less likely to recidivate. Less recidivism means less money spent on keeping people locked up. Speaking to KTVQ, Kim Gillan, the director of the “Pathways to Self-Sufficiency” program, put the costs in perspective: $121 a day to be kept in prison, or the cost of $5 daily for someone on parole or probation. Although KTVQ did not mention the recidivism rate of graduates of the “Pathways to Self-Sufficiency” program, the new graduates were all in agreement of one thing; they wanted to walk out the prison gates and onto the pathway of success.