In response to inaccurate statements recently made by the former Montana State Prison (MSP) warden regarding the implementation of evidence-based programming (EBP) at the facility, Director Reginald D. Michael assures Montanans EBP is engrained within the department’s curriculum and continues to advance.
“Montana State Prison continues to make significant progress on the objectives defined by the 2017 Montana legislature related to justice reinvestment, with evidence-based programming being the cornerstone to offender change,” Michael said. “In today’s DOC, we’ve adopted programming that delivers the skills our offenders require to re-enter our communities successfully. For example, we just launched an innovative, evidence-based parenting program at MSP — Connecting Adults and Minors through Positive Parenting (CAMPP) — that helps children cope with the challenges they face having an incarcerated parent, and to provide incarcerated fathers with a meaningful relationship with their children.”
Evidence-based programs use research and the best available data to guide policy and practice decisions. To date, the department has cataloged and reviewed curriculum to ensure it is evidence based and focused on core correctional practices like problem-solving techniques, structured learning and more. Regular evaluation of programming for quality and effectiveness occurs through an established Evidence-Based Programming Committee comprised of a broad array of stakeholders including behavioral health clinicians, tribal justice advocates, and other state leaders in the justice system.
Today, the department offers about 20 different evidence-based programs at its facilities designed to address substance use disorders, anger management, cognitive restructuring and more.
Sex offenders in DOC facilities participate in educational, therapeutic and cognitive based treatment, and the department is working to take that programming to the next level.
“When we heard the department was going to be making changes in its programming at the prison, we wanted to be part of that dialog and that has happened,” said Brenda Erdelyi, a licensed clinical social worker and a past president of the Montana Sex Offender Treatment Association (MSOTA). “The process has been inclusive and collaborative and the DOC is motivated to make positive changes.”
According to Erdelyi, the working group has reviewed several programming options and has focused on an integrated correctional program model to deliver sex offender treatment services to offenders in DOC facilities; however, COVID-19 restrictions have prevented required in-person observation of the program, postponing the timeline for implementation.
At Montana State Prison, Acting Warden Jim Salmonsen says his staff looks forward to implementing the new programming and playing its role in the state’s justice reinvestment efforts.
“Our staff members at the Montana State Prison are 100 percent committed to making these changes and having a positive impact on the lives of offenders at our facility,” Salmonsen said. “Needless to say, it was disappointing to them that their efforts were not acknowledged by our former warden. These folks — and those at all DOC facilities — are incredibly motivated and look forward to continuing to make progress toward our goals.”