‘The reality is, they’ll be on our streets’
Amazing Member Linda Nichols helps inmates kick their addictions
Linda Nichols, a member of MEA-MFT's Local #4700, is a licensed addictions counselor at the Montana State Prison. She previously worked at Galen and the Montana Chemical Dependency Center. She also served on MEA-MFT's bargaining team for the state pay plan.
Here's what she says:
What I do, and why it matters: I did group sessions in the intensive treatment unit for six years. I help classify new inmates and recommend the appropriate level of chemical dependency treatment.
I work with the Board of Pardons to get people the right treatment and let them know what is available. I also do a sex offender relapse group. I'm secretary of my local union, and I'm on the labor management board.
One reason my job matters is that we need good relationships between all departments. We need to work together. The reality is these guys (inmates) are going to be on our streets and will be our neighbors. I want to see them healthy with treatment rather than thrown out there with nothing. Ninety to 95 percent of the inmates have a chemical dependency problem of some kind. This saying is on my wall: "It's easier to build a child than repair an adult." I like what I'm doing.
Toughest challenge of the job: With inmates it's resistance and the setting. A prison is a hard place to do treatment. It's hard to get through to them. We need to keep them positive and busy to keep them from acting out.
Greatest reward of the job: All the relationships I've developed across the state with other departments and within the institution. There are a lot of good people, and they work hard. There's a misconception that if you work for the state, you're lazy.
Why I belong to MEA-MFT: My father was in the union working at the smelters, as were my brothers, and they always believed in unions. I've been in a union since I worked at Galen. I was the union treasurer at the Montana Chemical Dependency Center.
I think MEA-MFT protects our rights and keeps people accountable. And I like it! That's one of the biggest things-I just enjoy it.
What I do for fun: I'm at the time in my life where I like the simple pleasures-camping, being with my family, reading and relaxing-when I'm away from everything. I like working in my yard. My daughter is a doctor now, and my son lives in California where he's an iron worker.
Best book I've read lately: Jerry's Riot, and Worst Enemy, Best Teacher.
Thank you, Linda, for doing Work That Matters for Montana!