Amy Austin Pocatello Connection and Intervention Station

Amy Austin, program manager for the Pocatello Connection and Intervention Station, poses for a photo.

POCATELLO — Some of the 1,200 Southeast Idaho residents on probation or parole have been participating in a program designed to identify obstacles to their success and provide stability during their period of supervision.

Since the Idaho Department of Correction opened the Pocatello Connection and Intervention Station in Pocatello about two months ago in conjunction with GEO Reentry Services, dozens of local people on the verge of violating the conditions of their supervision have instead been referred to a program that offers both individualized programming and counseling to help them get back on track.

“The goal with our Connection and Intervention Stations is to both offer assistance to our probation and parole officers across the state and to provide support to our clients that are on probation or parole in providing both stability in the community and in their lives,” said Jimmie Gentry, the Idaho Department of Correction District 6 manager. “Connection and Intervention Stations offer support to those that are struggling on probation or parole or don’t have all the tools necessary to succeed in the community. They offer a myriad of services to help our clients without arresting them or sending them back to prison.”

The CIS in Pocatello works with community members on probation or parole following a direct referral from their supervising officer, says Evette Navedo, the statewide manager of GEO Reentry Services in Idaho. Supervising officers are constantly assessing and identifying particular needs for their clients and recommend they participate in the CIS program once a particular obstacle to their success has been pinpointed or they could benefit from an improved support system, Navedo added.

Participants at a CIS undergo multi-phase, evidence-based programming that includes an individualized behavior change plan to address criminogenic risks and needs; access to community resources for employment, education and housing; case management and counseling as well as classes that encourage them to confront their beliefs and practice pro-social decision-making.

The goal is to both help people on probation and parole be successful under supervision and reduce recidivism in the state, Navedo said.

“We have program pathways that we follow and everything is tailored to that particular individual,” Navedo said. “Once they are assessed and their needs are identified, then we begin scheduling how often they are coming in for particular groups or one-on-one settings. We have a system that is a high-accountability program that becomes easier as they work through the three phases. Sometimes people aren’t ready and we deal with some resistance, but our goal is to change their thinking from, ‘I don’t need this,’ to ‘maybe I do need this,’ to ‘I do actually need this,’ to ‘let me do the work.’”

GEO Reentry services says the goal for the CIS, of which there is now one in each of the seven judicial districts throughout the state, is to serve more than 2,000 participants annually. The first four stations were up and running this past December following the signing of a three-year, $4.5 million contract. Gentry says he expects more people on probation will be referred to participate in the program than those exiting prison on parole, simply due to a disparity in the numbers for each designation.

“To be very clear, this program is not for every person on probation or parole,” Gentry said. “This is for people that are struggling in some aspect of their supervision or their life and we are trying to stabilize before we have to write a probation or parole violation or even incarcerate them to get them back on track.”

The CIS services are delivered both in-person Monday through Saturday, and via technology-based programming and virtual services that participants throughout the state can access using a cell phone, tablet or computer. This dual format allows GEO Reentry staff to maintain close contact with participants and consistently monitor their progress.

In addition to addressing thought patterns that lead to criminal behavior, one of the most important goals of the station is to address underlying barriers to the success of a person on supervision, whether that’s finding reliable transportation, getting assistance with finding proper housing or finding the appropriate substance abuse treatment program.

“We know there are countless barriers for those on probation or parole in the community but we have community providers that we partner with to help with providing resources to our clients,” said Pocatello CIS Program Manager Amy Austin. “There are some instances where we can send out referrals to other service providers to help them succeed and that’s crucial for us because we all know it’s harder out here than it is in jail or prison.”