By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE— (March 19) When the new Community Corrections facility opens in the old work release building at the Montrose Justice Center Complex in May, non-violent offenders will be able to remain in the community—and so will roughly $760,000 annually.

“We have been sending our community members all over the state, and we have been sending our money all over the state,” notes retired chief probations officer Carrol Warner, one of those who has worked to establish a community corrections facility in the Seventh Judicial District.

“These are individuals who will be coming back to our community, many of them with family ties—and we need to give them strong skills to make that transition,” Community Corrections coordinator Stephanie Tolen said. “They have to be willing to accept the programs and structure, and when they return to the community we want them to be gainfully employed.”

Effective strategies have been developed for those who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions, Warner said, adding that the alternative to community corrections—prison—is not appropriate in many instances, and costs twice as much.

Research shows that community corrections clients are also much less likely to commit further offenses than offenders who have been imprisoned.

“It makes no sense to imprison non-violent offenders who are amendable to making changes,” Warner said.

According to information compiled by the Seventh Judicial District, most community corrections clients are employed, and pay a portion of their own costs for treatment as well as room and board. Many are also paying restitution or child support, and would be unable to do so in prison. They receive education, job training and receive treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues.

The Seventh Judicial District is one of just three in Colorado without such a facility. When it is complete, the new facility will encompass around 8,000 square feet with separate wings for males and females, and will hold a total of 72 clients. The former work release building, which was constructed with inmate labor, will be remodeled with the help of inmate labor to meet community corrections needs.

In addition to bringing more resources to the community and those served by community corrections, the new facility is run by a separate non-profit entity, relieving the county of  maintenance costs, Warner said.

Community Corrections is overseen by a board that includes three law enforcement agencies, members of the legal system, and representatives from the six counties within the Seventh Judicial District. The team (pictured in photo) includes Fred McKee, Tom Chinn, Dan Hotsenpiller, John Orey, Casey Grossnickel, Chip Page, Keith Maddox, Lauren Berryhill, Gregg Kildow, Jim Gerlach, Wendy Cranck, Rob Omer, Kerry Carl, JoAnn Seymour and coordinator Stephanie Tolen.

“Sheriff Rick Dunlap really got this whole thing rolling,” Tolen said. “He realized the Work Release building would be an almost perfect fit for a community corrections facility, and contacted ICCS (Intervention Community Corrections Services) to begin discussions that ultimately led to ICCS leasing the building, which will be the West Central Community Correction Center.”

Estimates compiled by the Seventh Judicial District anticipate a breakdown of around 35 residential clients, 40 transitional (from prison) clients, and 20 non-residential clients.

“The individuals we serve will be closely supervised, and given frequent drug tests,” Tolen said. “This fits right into the Justice Center complex, and has been a very collaborative effort. We believe that it will continue to be so as the need for expansion grows.”

Funding is stable, and the services greatly needed, Warner said.

“Our community has a screening board, and If clients fail (to accept programs and structure), they will go to prison,” Warner said. “If they are not deemed appropriate for admission, they are not accepted—and no court can change that decision. But those who here can work, pay restitution, and develop support systems within the community.”