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Miles City Field Office
Release Date: 09/19/13

BLM, community, public, benefit from Restorative Justice Program

     MILES CITY, Mont. --- The BLM Miles City Field Office and the local community has benefitted this summer from the State’s Restorative Justice Program which has maintained and beautified several public areas while contributing to the rehabilitation of some of Montana’s troubled teenagers.

     The Restorative Justice Program is a state-wide volunteer program, of which a local version was started this year at the male juvenile Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility located in Miles City.

     Pine Hills School Chemical Dependency Unit Manager Jeff Lee and School Curriculum Coordinator Bob Cremer started the program locally; the premise being to allow the youth at Pine Hills School an opportunity to give back to the community. According to Lee, the idea is not a new concept as Pine Hills has had a restitution program in the past in which the kids worked on community projects to help pay back their victims. In February, Lee had a conversation with BLM Recreation Specialist Dena Lang at a youth hockey practice and Lang mentioned that BLM summer help was getting scaled back. The program was a good fit for the BLM’s maintenance requirements.

     “The Restorative Justice Program is a volunteer program where the youth can earn hours toward paying back community service hours, or if a youth just wants to help give back to the community, he can volunteer to help with different projects,” said Lee.  “In order for the youth to be a part of the Restorative Justice Program and to leave campus, they must go through a screening process which we take the following into consideration:  their offense, length of stay, escape risk and their current compliance with their program.”

     A majority of the youth participating in the program are those who are close to release and will be going back into Montana communities, he said.

     On April 23, Pine Hills youth made their first appearance at the BLM’s Matthews Recreation Area located a short drive east of Miles City.

     “Since that time, the youth have logged over 115 hours helping the BLM at the Matthews Recreation Area and at Dean S. Reservoir,” said Lee.  “Word spread quickly about the program and in the weeks that followed we had work lined up with Fort Keogh, Head Start, Rosebud Schools, Custer County Cemetery and the City of Miles City.”

     Those 115 hours translated into over $2,500 in cost savings to the BLM, said Lang who applauded the enthusiastic youth effort mowing, trimming, picking up trash and emptying garbage containers, sweeping vault toilets and parking lots. Those tasks represented work that otherwise would not have happened this year, she said.

     Two successive years of flood damage was also fixed by the Pine Hills volunteers.

     “The crew shoveled, dug and cleaned dirt and debris from the Matthews cement walking path to make it safe and secure,” said Lang.  “The crew continued their work at another BLM recreation site, Dean S. Reservoir, re-seeding a scoria pit reclamation project and picking up trash. Every time the youth crew went on a work assignment they did so with professionalism, a good attitude, and took pride and ownership in the work they did.”

     As part of the program the Pine Hills School is also developing some land beside their facility into a park that can be used by the public.  The youth will help develop and maintain the park as a way to give back to the community of Miles City.

     So far, the youth have logged over 450 hours on various projects; 28 different youth have participated in the program and 16 different staff helped supervise the projects, said Lee. The outside, physical work has produced some positive results and changed some attitudes.

     “The youth have learned a number of valuable life skills,” said Lee. “We have noticed that the rapport between the youth and staff is entirely different when they are presented with a new environment.  Instead of staff re-directing negative behaviors, the staff is now providing new positive direction to the youth.”

     Lee said that by helping out the BLM, the youth appear to have a gained a new respect for taking care of public lands.

     “After picking up broken glass and other litter at the Matthews Recreation Area, one of the youth commented, ‘I will never litter again,’” said Lee. “Another youth stated, after picking up litter near the Yellowstone River: ‘All this trash would end up in the river if we weren’t out here and if it did, it could end up killing a number of birds and fish.’ These are just a few of the comments; of how we’ve seen youth take ownership and have a sense of responsibility with the projects they have worked on.”

     Lee said that the backing of School Superintendent Steve Ray was particularly instrumental in the program’s successes.

     “He has been a huge supporter of getting the kids out into the community to not only give back, but to help teach life skills the youth will benefit from for years,” said Lee.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Miles City Field Office   111 Garryowen Road      Miles City, MT 59301  

Last updated: 12-12-2013