by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
February 4, 1999
Rebound Programs of Denver acknowledged recently that the reform program they intend to operate for juvenile delinquents at the former prison boot camp near Goat Creek needs community support or it won't succeed.
Joe Newman, Rebound director, promised residents of Swan Lake and Condon a grocery list of items including everything from heightened security and prompt searches for escapees to hiring 70% of Rebound's staff from the local area.
Additionally, he explained that an admissions committee, made up of agency and parole officials, law enforcement officers and local residents, will screen all admissions to the Rebound program, ensuring staff and community safety.
"It's going to be different than it was in the past," he said.
The Swan River Boot Camp, operated by the Montana Department of Corrections through a lease agreement with the Montana Department of Natural Resources which manages the land, closed in 1997, following an inmate's brutal attack on a staff member. In 1995, convicted murderer Rodney Sattler sliced the throat of one of the camp's employees, causing serious injury. He was caught and jailed. While he was in jail in Lake County, he committed another murder, and is now on death row in the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
Local citizens were outraged after learning that hardened criminals like Sattler were being housed at the minimum security boot camp facility and protested its operation. They reminded Department of Corrections officials that the camp, which was established in 1966 as the Swan River Forest Youth Camp, was planned as a reform program for boys under the age of 18, and was never intended for use as an adult corrections facility. As a result, Montana's governor, Marc Racicot, promised that never again would a Department of Corrections facility be operated in the remote forests of the Swan Valley.
That promise will not be broken, according to Rebound administrators. Rebound would be licensed by the Montana Department of Family Services, not the Department of Corrections. Family Services' parole officers are responsible for placing Montana's juvenile delinquents into appropriate youth reform programs. Currently, youth offenders are often placed in out-of-state programs, because of a lack of services within Montana.
According to Barbara Monaco, Polson area probation officer who attended the recent meetings, an in-state program for youth offenders is sorely needed in Western Montana. She spoke in favor of Rebound's programs, which she explained the state has used in the past. She also added that the $185 per day that the state pays for such services comes from a variety of government and private sources such as Family Services, Medicaid, private insurance companies and parents.
Rebound operates five other reform programs in three states supervising a total of 250 youth. According to Newman, the Montana program, which will accommodate 50 youth and hire 55 adult staff members with a payroll of $1.2 million, will be specifically designed for Montana boys ages 13 - 18. All of the boys in the program will have been through a court system and be responsible to a judge, Newman explained.
"They will all have done things they shouldn't have done," Newman said. However, he added that no violent, hardened offenders will be allowed. Newman and others with Rebound repeatedly emphasized that youth in the Swan Valley program will be "front-end kids" many of whom will be first-time offenders.
"These will be boys who have a chance at being rehabilitated," Newman said.
Fred Maynard, maintenance supervisor with Rebound, agreed. "These are not hard core kids. They will come into the program very scared," he said.
Through a lengthy bidding process conducted last year by the Montana Department of Natural Resources, which owns the facility, Rebound won the right to be considered as a camp leasee. The Denver company offered DNRC $75,000 a year to lease the 62-acre camp and buildings.
The recent public meetings, sponsored by DNRC, were the first step in the state's review process which will include an environmental assessment and on-going public comment period.
Rebound officials say their program could be "up and running" within 90 days, following approval and licensing by state agencies. The 90-day start-up period would be necessary to remodel the main buildings, upgrade electronic technology at the camp, and train staff.