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New program designed to help convicted felons transition back into society

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IDAHO FALLS — Parolees and probationers will now have a little extra help thanks to new Connection and Intervention Stations across the Gem State, including one in Idaho Falls.

The Idaho Department of Correction recently signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract with the GEO Group’s Reentry Services division. The GEO Group is a real estate trust that invests in private prisons and mental health facilities. As part of the contract with Idaho, GEO opened four Connection & Intervention Stations Monday in Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, and Twin Falls.

The new centers aim to decrease repeated crime convictions amongst Idaho’s parolees and probationers by giving greater community support.

“At probation and parole, we are focused on targeting and addressing behaviors,” said Glenda Thomson, manager for IDOC Probation and Parole District 7. “This Connection and Intervention Station really addresses the root cause of the behaviors … We believe it’s going to make Idaho a safer place for all of us.”

Evette Navedo is the statewide manager for GEO’s new stations. She explained state felony probation and parole services will refer offenders to GEO. The staff at the stations will assess their needs and create behavior change plans. The stations plan to help clients with employment and education assistance, group meetings, individual therapy, and other programming aimed at helping them succeed in the community.

CIS computer lab
A computer lab inside the Idaho Falls Connection and Intervention Station. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

“We don’t want anyone to fall through a crack,” Navedo said. “We do a family engagement night (every month) for those who have kids (to make) sure their support system is also part of their success.”

The first client came into the office for assessment on Monday, according to Idaho Falls Program Manager Socorro White. It’s too early to see the outcome locally, but nationwide, Navedo explained they’ve seen similar programs work in other states.

“We’re just passionate about changing lives and making sure that every individual that comes into contact with us, that they will truly have a meaningful life as a family member, as a member of society … and be impactful in a positive way,” Navedo said.

While the center is in Idaho Falls, Thomson says the services will reach people across eastern Idaho. Through teleservices and virtual programming, parolees and probationers not within a close distance of the Connection and Intervention Station can still get help.

They also plan to bring in local people to help at the centers.

“It’s a very creative and innovative approach for the state of Idaho,” Thomson said. “It’s very forward-thinking, we’re bringing in the outside expertise, but … who better to know the resources than our local people and our treatment providers already in the community? It’s just connecting them.”

IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray says about $225,000 of the $4.5 million is based on hitting certain performance metrics. Those metrics include evidence-based programming and reducing the current baseline revocation rate. Officials expect the new program to reach hundreds, if not more parolees and probationers statewide.

“I love what I do,” White said. “What brings me here is the outcomes of the participants that we service. Just changing one life out of a hundred, if that’s what it is, is amazing.”

Community members who want to assist in the program, like providing job opportunities or other resources, can contact the Idaho Falls Connection and Intervention Station. It’s on Desoto Street and can be reached at (208) 591-8400 ext. 1.

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