BILLINGS - Jennie Hansen started Monday as new warden of the Montana Women’s Prison in Billings, 11 days after she was named to the position.
"When I was in high school, when I was in college this is what I wanted to do. It is kind of a dream come true that I get to be the warden… it's always what I wanted to do to help people," said Hansen, who was selected as new warden Nov. 16.
Hansen is a Billings native who graduated Billings Central High School. She graduated St. Mary College in Kansas and earned a degree in psychology, with ambitions of working in law enforcement.
Hansen has worked for the Montana Department of Corrections since 2009, spending nearly five years at the Montana Women’s Prison before moving over to the Billings Probation and Parole office. There, her specialized caseload included those dealing with mental illnesses.
"When I started here in 2009, I really started to develop a passion for gender specific care for inmates,” said Hansen. "It's very important that there is gender-specific care for the females here, and we make sure we look at things through different eyes. Because the women are different. We all are different."
Most recently, she was the eastern region bureau chief for the division of probation and parole, where she oversaw 10 field offices around the region. During her time, she implemented new procedures and policies for community safety and championed the use of evidence-based practices like risk-and-need assessments to ensure more individualized and effective care.
"Ninety-eight percent of these women are going back out to the community, so what can we do inside the prison to help rehabilitate them?” said Hansen. "We know that 80 percent of the women have some kind of trauma in their life, and there is a whole lot of intricate details to help with that. And I think that is the biggest goal that I have: to ensure that we are using evidence based practices with gender specifics as well as making sure we are trauma informed.”
Hansen said another goal is to keep the community informed of the work done at the prison, including the various programs run to help better the inmates. Programs for the inmates range from parenting classes to gardening, all aimed at preparing them to return to their communities and be productive members of society.
Hansen replaces warden Joan Daly-Shinners, who retired in October.