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New jail re-entry coordinator hits the ground running
Bozeman Daily Chronicle: March 6, 2015

Tiffani Pimley is the first coordinator for Gallatin County Fresh Start, a program which helps reintroduce inmates back into the community.

While the Gallatin County jail’s re-entry coordinator has only been on the job a few months, she is already reporting success. “We’ve come a very long way in a very short time,” said Tiffani Pimley, coordinator of Gallatin County’s Fresh Start re-entry program for jail inmates.”It’s been overwhelming in a really great way. The community has been amazing.”

The program, a first of its kind in Montana, began in October with the aim of helping Gallatin County inmates return to the community. The organization connects inmates to services that help with housing, employment and more. Pimley, the program’s first coordinator, is a Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office employee and has her office in the jail. The position is paid for with revenue the jail receives from housing out-of-county inmates. That revenue will fund the position for its first 21 months, costing about $173,977.

The program is the culmination of five years of work by the Re-Entry Task Force, created in 2009 by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, an advisory group that includes members of the county’s criminal justice system.
The task force’s goal has been to keep criminals from re-offending, and it created a strategic plan that included parameters for the re-entry program. In August, the Gallatin County Commission agreed to fund the program for its first two years.

Fresh Start participants are Gallatin County men who have been sentenced for a crime and are considered a medium or high risk to re-offend. Pimley reported to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council earlier this week that since December, she has been in contact with more than 30 inmates within the jail. And so far, three that she has worked with are out of jail and have both steady housing and jobs.

Referrals have come from many different places, Pimley said, including from officers, the public defender’s office, judges and jail volunteers. Inmates must go through a screening process that Pimley said includes looking at the “overall package” — an inmate’s mental health, criminal and substance abuse history, and more. And most importantly, Pimley said the program is looking for inmates who are motivated to change with the hopes of setting them up for success so they don’t return to jail.

“Ultimately, making it safer for everyone,” Pimley said. The program is set up to have intensive case management for its participants, Pimley said. She has daily contact with the former inmates and helps track their progress such as keeping up with important appointments, like with probation officers or mental health professionals.

The program has been working closely with many community organizations and agencies, including the Human Resource Development Council, the Bozeman Job Service, Victim Services, and Alcohol and Drug Services. In addition, the jail has received an outpouring of donations to help inmates leaving jail. Wild West Shirt Co. donated backpacks filled with necessities like soap, toothpaste, shampoo and snacks. The backpacks are given to inmates who need them upon their release. Local churches have also been pitching in warm winter clothes for inmates. “It’s one of those big, community, collaborative efforts,” Pimley said.

Already, Gallatin County’s program has drawn the attention of other counties. Pimley said officials from Missoula want to visit later this month to get ideas. Rev. Roxanne Klingensmith, co-chair of the Re-Entry Task Force, sang Pimley’s praises, saying she is the perfect woman to lead the re-entry program. “The program is going to be very successful under her,” Klingensmith said. “It’s a dream come true.”

Whitney Bermes, Chronicle Staff Writer  

Vision Statement
to eliminate recidivism by empowering healthy, productive, law-abiding citizens through collaboration and effective use of resources
Mission Statement
to reduce recidivism by promoting successful reentry in Gallatin County

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