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Back to the community

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | December 27, 2020 1:40 AM

While plans for an Idaho Department of Corrections reentry facility reamin up in the air, a former offender believes an alternative center would benefit the community.

Tesandra Graupman, 37, finished her term one year ago and returned home to Post Falls at the beginning of 2020. Like many in the criminal system, she is a repeat offender who has struggled with drug-related misconduct since she was 19 years old.

“I grew up in a life of addiction. That’s all I saw. That’s what I learned, and what I started doing,” Graupman said.

An IDOC extension, the reentry facility would allow offenders to work while being reintegrated with their families and the outside community. Through Probation and Parole Division programs, center residents receive employment, counseling treatment, education, health care, and other support services intended to lessen the likelihood of reoffending.

In Idaho, there are five reentry centers, all in the southern half of the state. Three are in the Boise area, with one each in Idaho Falls and Twin Falls. There is only one for women, which is where Graupman spent two years of her state sentence.

She went through the retained jurisdiction “riders” program before the reentry center, which places offenders in facilities based on programming and education needs. However, she said nothing was more effective than her experience at the work facility.

She’s seen the community pushback against reentry centers in Kootenai County, notably the 78% majority opposition reported from a nonbinding advisory vote earlier this year. The public disapproval inspired a revision to the Kootenai County Land Use and Development Code by the board of county commissioners in October, restricting the possibility of a facility coming to the area.

“It’s discouraging,” Graupman said. “I feel like in North Idaho, the problems are here, whether they like it or not."

As of Dec. 22, there were 8,062 people in the county and state-controlled facilities, IDOC Public Information Officer Jeff Ray said, and 392 in reentry centers. While work facility residents like Graupman are less common than other facilities, Ray said they are less likely to recommit.

“Individuals released directly into the community where the CRC (Community Reentry Centers) was located did better than individuals released from one of the traditional facilities (minimum-, medium- and close-custody) to those same communities,” Ray said.

Much of the public concern around reentry centers is the increased risk to safety and Kootenai County’s crime rate by bringing offenders into the area. Ray and Graupman said part of the success of CRCs is the ability for residents to restore relationships.

“You get to go out every day, get dropped off at work or counseling, and apply the skills you’re learning in the community,” Graupman said. “It’s medicine for your brain. It helps us develop the skills, practice, have the courage to use them, and come home to a safe place at night.”

Prisons are more restrictive than CRCs, Ray said, with few opportunities to develop habits like money management, volunteer services, child support, and victim restitution.

“Many former residents have told us their time at a CRC helped them decompress from the prison experience and prepare them to succeed on their own," Ray said.

Coming out with no money, transportation or employment were three major stressors for Graupman before her time at the CRC, and often her downfall to recommitting.

“I would get out of prison in Boise, come up here with maybe one month of housing paid by the state. Then by the time I got a job, they were kicking me out of my place,” Graupman said.

While working at the CRC, Graupman held two jobs: one with the SpringHill Suites and the other for All-American Publishing. Today, Graupman said she is 139 days clean, working for Scott’s Taxi, establishing local counseling support, and saved up enough money for an apartment.

“I didn’t think I could hold a long-term job. I just didn’t think that was in the cards for me,” she said. “Now, I thrive on getting up and going to work every day to pay my bills.”

Graupman and her cousin Kevin Patterson have both been in the criminal justice system. After discerning the positive and negative factors that promoted their success, the two developed a joint mission — to create a center all their own.

Through the IDOC Free-to-Succeed program, Graupman and Patterson connected with mentors to guide them after release. With their mentors’ support, the two are seeking investors to create a community center with transitional housing, work facility programs, and counseling services.

“I just want to give back to my community and help,” Graupman said. “I know I’ve taken a lot from it."