Montana Prison Program That Helps Women Recover from Trauma, Change Lives Is Expanding

Independent Record

By Holly K. Michels

In a campus near the river here, a program that focuses on helping women who have suffered trauma is seeing success a year and a half after its inception.

Riverside Recovery and Reentry Program, operated by the state Department of Corrections along with private contractors, aims to provide a safe, secure and trauma-informed program for women who have been sentenced to time with the department.

“It’s healing the mind, body and soul,” said Darcy Hill, who is just over a week into the program. “I’ve never been to a facility where that’s the focus. It’s always finding something wrong with you, but now I’ve got a brand-new start, a brand-new life.”

The program at Riverside focuses on addressing trauma in adult women through a 3.5- 4-month program. By all accounts it’s working well, with 64 women graduating and returning to their communities. To date, only two women have not been able to complete the program.

The 22-bed facility is preparing to expand to 32 with the addition of some bunk beds to create more shared space. There are currently 18 women on a waiting list.

Hill said she “begged” to come to Riverside. Last week she discussed bouncing between jail, prison, pre-release and different treatment programs going back more than a decade, never able to settle.

“It was never explained to me what the tools I had were, so I went back to my addiction,” she said. “This was my last chance. I had a feeling this is where the healing was going to begin. The other places I’ve been, they put you in a room all night and if you cry, you cry. … Here they build on your strengths. They build you up.”

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