When they’re together, brothers Steve and Dan Lindly generally don’t talk about work. Yet they’ve spent decades focusing on similar areas within the criminal justice system — one from a statewide perspective and the other a local one.
Sheridan County Justice Office Administrator Dan Lindly said they were raised to value social service and support opportunities for positive change. For the past 40 years, Steve Lindly said he worked under the simple philosophy: “Work hard, be kind.”
Steve Lindly is now in his second week of retirement from the Wyoming Department of Corrections, where he served as the deputy director for 16 years.
He has watched the Wyoming justice system encounter setbacks but overall, the trend line is going up, he said.
Recidivism increased about 7-8% since certain substance abuse treatment programs in prisons were eliminated, Steve Lindly said. While he can’t confirm a direct correlation, he said there are several pieces to the puzzle that have fluctuated over time. He is confident the remaining WYDOC staff and administration share his goals for criminal justice reform.
“There have been a number of things put in place over time that I think have been some of the better efforts in the country,” Steve Lindly said.
After a career of accomplishments including implementing offender treatment and reentry programs, educating legislators about the value of substance abuse treatment and developing other evidence-based practices, Steve Lindly said his goals this week are to take four ski trips and start cooking for his family. Steve Lindly retired with nearly 43 years of work related to criminal justice, stemming back to his undergraduate and graduate education.
Dan Lindly has been at the SCJO for 17 years, working directly with adults and juveniles on probation. He was a teacher at Normative Services Inc. and public schools prior to focusing on criminal justice.
Steve Lindly said he and Dan share similar beliefs about the value of treatment to address criminogenic needs, and addressing what has led to a person’s involvement in the criminal justice system. Dan Lindly said they share a desire to serve a population that is often “maligned or misunderstood” by the general public, balanced with public safety.
Substance use and/or mental health challenges are often common denominators for people who find themselves in the system, Dan Lindly said. Piecing together what’s missing in their life and providing coping mechanisms for positive, internalized change requires a different approach than just incarceration, he said.
“You can’t get that just by being locked up,” Dan said.
The Lindly brothers agreed that from their vantage points, there has been a gradual shift in criminal justice reform over their careers, with stakeholders at all levels working toward similar goals and acknowledging the serious limitations of incarceration as a long-term solution.
Total juvenile arrests in Wyoming have steadily declined since 2006, according to Juvenile Justice Geography, Policy, Practice and Statistics. Violent crime arrests have decreased slightly and juvenile placements in residential treatment facilities for violent crimes have increased over the past five years.
Steve Lindly said he believes Wyoming has long been a leader in using evidence-based practices in its approach to criminal justice, including today’s drug court and recent justice reinvestment legislation.
Gov. Mark Gordon signed justice reinvestment legislation into law in March 2019, which is intended to reduce recidivism by 25% by 2024 and avert about $18 million toward behavioral health treatment for probationers and parolees. Steve Lindly said the future of the justice reinvestment initiative is uncertain given the current budgetary challenges.
Dan Lindly said he has witnessed the person by person benefit of state initiatives applied locally as models for providing services to meet individual needs. Accountability and supervision on probation includes comprehensive substance abuse treatment, which can otherwise be cost prohibitive for many people in the criminal justice system, he said.
Court judges, county attorneys, public defenders, victim services, law enforcement and schools all appear to be cooperating and supporting state programs as alternatives to incarceration when applicable, Dan Lindly said.
“It’s nice in any community, whether Sheridan or elsewhere, to kind of have people on the same page, working toward the same goals,” he said.
If a person is defined solely by their crime, prison might look like an appropriate option. However, nuances about contributing and risk factors to criminal tendencies make the conversation about criminal justice more complex and difficult — but a worthy discussion, Steve Lindly said.
Dan Lindly said looking ahead until his own retirement, he will continue to monitor community trends and search for opportunities to build on existing programs. As a rural state, is is challenging for Wyoming communities to access some critical services in a timely manner, he said. A person can go to jail immediately but might be waiting months for a residential treatment bed.
The Lindly brothers have both found it rewarding to work to address risk factors to criminal behavior and reduce recidivism, and take steps toward building healthy, well-rounded communities in Wyoming — and their mom likes them fairly equally, Dan Lindly said.