By Risa Johnson
Seventy-six miles from the nearest state prison, inmates are serving their sentences under entirely different terms.
Here, there are no cells. There is no barbed wire. They are free to go outside whenever they want, within the confines of an ankle bracelet.
The pale pink housing facility on Oro Dam Boulevard East is where participants of Butte County’s three-year-old male re-entry program reside and receive services. The program, which is the only of its kind in the state, offers felony offenders the chance to serve up to one year of their sentence in a treatment facility as opposed to prison. Though there are private institutions that receive state funding, Butte is the only county that partners with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for this type of program.
Steve Bordin, Butte County’s chief probation officer, said it makes a huge difference to not operate as a business.
“We don’t want to just keep the beds full,” Bordin said. “We want to process these guys and behaviorally change them so they come back as productive citizens. That’s what we’re doing and we’ve been extremely successful so far.”
Since the inception of the voluntary program three years ago, 83 have graduated and two have since returned to prison.
That is an incredible statistic compared with the most recent state data, which shows a recidivism rate — return of an inmate to prison within three years of release — at 46 percent.
“The staff is vested in the community,” Bordin said. “We care deeply about the success of these guys.”