A Message From Barry Beach

Barry Beach

Barry Beach

This link shows the hearings of HB 43 to revise the Executive Clemency Law. The bill was written to restore the original intent of an existing statute. It will give the Governor the ability to grant clemency to an individual who has been convicted of a felony and was denied parole by the Board of Pardons and Parole. Clemency is not just a pardon, but it allows the Governor to grant kindness, leniency, mercy, or respite to change an individuals status.

House Judiciary – Room 137 – January 20th, 2015

House Bill 43 passed by an 88-12 vote

The board has come under increased scrutiny after inmate complaints about inconsistent decisions and after Gov. Steve Bullock supported commuting the life sentence of convicted murderer Barry Beach. The board declined to forward a clemency recommendation.  This bill would allow the Governor of Montana to grant clemency anyway.

House Passes Bill To Allow Governor Clemency Power

As Barry said, this House Bill goes before the Senate on Friday 13th, 2015.  We are hoping and praying that they too will pass it.

Barry Beach Facebook Cause 

The Montana Bar Association And Prosecutorial Misconduct

crossed-fingers

On January 28th, we shared with you “Montana Lawyers Expose State Prosecutors Corruption, AG’s Office Looks The Other Way.”  

According to Flathead Legal, Montana defense attorneys, Tim Baldwin and Phyllis and Jack Quatman in Flathead County, have revealed serious unethical actions of prosecutors and Northwest Drug Task Force Agent in Flathead County, Montana and their apparent attempt to cover it up. The seriousness of their actions caused these defense attorneys to request an investigation to the Montana Attorney General. After reviewing their request for an investigation, the Attorney General’s Office responded and stated that while they will not prosecute Corrigan and Park criminally, they are very concerned about the allegations of ethical violations and referred the matter to the proper authority in Montana.

This brings up another serious question.  If the Attorney General’s Office responded in this manner, how does the Montana Bar Association respond when Prosecutorial Misconduct is brought before them in a complaint? What exactly is the use of ODC – Office Of Disciplinary Council For The State Of Montana?

Montana ODC

Cases In Montana Inventory

The reason for the reduction in the number of reports ODC submits to a COP Review Panel for review is a result of the amendments to the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement effective January 1, 2011, which give ODC greater discretion to dismiss informal complaints.

Montana Practice Areas

Nature Of Grievants

Complaints By County

Montana, what does that look like to you?  Did you see the ratio of complaints under Criminal Law? Do you really think these are properly evaluated? ODC’s official websites state that after their website was established they referred people to that and they no longer keep a log of those inquiries. ??  Why not?? Continue reading to find out the likely scenario that is happening around the country.

Found on the Innocence Project Blog

Judge Says There’s an Epidemic of Prosecutorial Misconduct

In his most recent Huffington Post column, Radley Balko writes about the epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct as noted in the dissent by Alex Kozinski, the Chief Judge for the Ninth Circuit.

Last week, Kozinksi issued a blistering dissent in a case where the court upheld the conviction of Kenneth Olsen, a man convicted of developing ricin.  The defense subsequently learned that one of the people handling the evidence for Olson’s case was Arnold Melnikoff, a forensic analyst who is under investigation for forensic misconduct that has led to three wrongful convictions.   One of those cases is that of Jimmy Ray Bromgard, who was wrongfully convicted of raping an 8-year-old girl based on faulty hair analysis conducted by Melnikoff, and served more than 15 years in prison.  According to Kozinksi, the prosecution know about the investigation, but still allowed Melnikoff to testify against Olson.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks also withheld information Melnikoff’s history of misconduct from Olsen’s attorneys and allowed Melnikoff’s attorney to characterize it as an “administrative” review that was limited to one case from 10 years ago.

According to the 9th Circuit panel of judges, the investigation of Melnikoff’s misconduct wasn’t “material” to Olsen’s conviction; he would have been found guilty regardless.  In his dissent, Kozinski criticizes the other two judges on the panel.
The panel’s ruling is not just wrong, it is dangerously broad, carrying far-reaching implications for the administration of criminal justice.  It effectively announces that the prosecution need not produce exculpatory or impeaching evidence so long as it’s possible the defendant would’ve been convicted anyway.  This will send a clear signal to prosecutors that, when a case is close, it’s best to hide evidence helpful to the defense, as there will be a fair chance reviewing courts will look the other way, as happened here.”
“Protecting the constitutional rights of the accused was just not very high on this prosecutor’s list of priorities. The fact that a constitutional mandate elicits less diligence from a government lawyer than one’s daily errands signifies a systemic problem: Some prosecutors don’t care about Brady because courts don’t make them care.”
“There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.”
  
Judge Alex Kozinski asked Vienna if his boss, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, wanted to defend a conviction “obtained by lying prosecutors.”  If Harris did not back off the case, Kozinski warned, the court would “name names” in ruling that would not be “very pretty.”   Other courts had already determined that prosecutors had presented false evidence in Baca’s trial but upheld the verdicts anyway.
Criticism of a state prosecutor begins around the 15:50 mark. Video via 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on YouTube.

“Some prosecutors don’t care about Brady because courts don’t make them care.” 

Nor, unfortunately, do bar associations or disciplinary boards. In a phone interview today, Olsen’s attorney Peter Offenbecher says he’s profoundly disappointed with the decision. “My client did not get a fair trial. And it’s because of a systemic problem of misconduct that the courts fail to correct. It’s a sad day for the criminal justice, and it’s a sad day for the Constitution.”

Recent media investigations by USA Today ( Prosecutors’ Conduct Can Tip Justice Scales) have found that such discipline is rare. Even in cases involving high-profile, egregious misconduct, like the prosecution of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, prosecutors can usually duck any serious sanction. In the Stevens case, the DOJ imposed light suspensions on the offending prosecutors, and even those were later overturned by an administrative law judge.

Defense attorneys have to work with prosecutors on behalf of other clients, including negotiating favorable plea bargains. Putting yourself in the cross-hairs of a U.S. attorney’s office can make it very difficult to be an effective advocate. That’s a lot of risk to take on, especially if it’s unlikely that anything will actually come of the complaint.

This highlights a system that provides strong incentives for prosecutors to shortcut constitutional rights (convictions are good for a prosecutor’s career) and provides no incentives whatsoever for the courts, defense attorneys, bar associations or anyone else to do anything about it.  As you will find in the article – The Untouchables: America’s Misbehaving Prosecutors, And The System That Protects Them.   The following excerpt about Exoneree John Thompson

The wrongly convicted often show remarkable grace and humility. It’s inspiring to see, if a little difficult to understand; even after years or decades in prison, exonerees are typically marked by an absence of bitterness.

Not Thompson, but you can hardly blame him. Even among outrageous false conviction stories, his tale is particularly brutal. He was wrongly convicted not once, but twice — separately — for a carjacking and a murder. He spent 18 years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, 14 of them on death row. His death warrant was signed eight times. When his attorneys finally found the evidence that cleared him — evidence his prosecutors had known about for years — he was weeks away from execution.

Ken Abraham of Citizens For Criminal Justice made this comment pertaining to “Epidemic Of Prosecutor Misconduct.” 

As a former prosecutor, this is infuriating to me. Today, there is a great organization trying to rein in errant prosecutors: The Center For Prosecutor Integrity (CPI) , run by my colleague Edward Bartlett. All prosecutor misconduct should be reported to CPI. Bad Prosecutors 1) should forfeit (or legislatively be stripped of) their immunity from civil suits, and 2) must be prosecuted in appropriate cases (this is the only effective deterrent!), or at least seriously disciplined.

One problem, as this article says, is so many judges who look the other way. Those judges should be disciplined!

Another major problem in this area is State Bar Associations. When one files a complaint about any lawyer in a criminal case, the odds are better than 90% that, even when the error is manifestly devastating (how about a case I saw where the lawyer admitted that he never discussed appeal with his client and never even told the client he had 30 days to appeal!), one will get a form letter from the Bar Association saying “We find no merit to your complaint.” I have seen hundreds. This is a nationwide problem and another national disgrace. Bad lawyers, like bad cops, and bad judges, must be held accountable.

THE CENTER FOR PROSECUTOR INTEGRITY

The nation’s only organization with a sole focus on enhancing prosecutorial ethics.

Montana Boosts Economy By Locking Up Native Americans

Montana Reservations

Montana Native American Reservations

The Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in Hardin was built in 2007 on hopes it would boost an economically-depressed area of southeast Montana bordering the Crow Indian Reservation. Local officials said they at last have found a legitimate and reliable operator for the 464-bed jail in Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private corrections company.

After being vacant for over seven years after construction was completed, the Facility became operational in July 2014 and in August 2014 accepted the first inmate. By early October, the inmate population had increased to almost 60…all Native Americans.  Two Rivers has taken in almost 60 inmates in recent weeks from American Indian reservations in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. Most are serving time for alcohol or drug crimes and must go through an intensive rehabilitation program in Hardin

“They should have consulted us beforehand,” Blackfeet Nation Chairman Harry Barnes said. “They showed up on a Friday and said they were going to tear the jail down Monday. …We were only in a position to listen, but we had some concerns with people going all the way to Hardin.”

Barnes said that could present a hardship for family members who want to visit inmates but can’t afford to make the journey.

But according to Bruce Gillette “We’ve sent people to other treatment facilities but there are no locked doors so they can literally walk out of get kicked out … From where I’m at, only God could have sent those guys from Hardin to me.”

The jail is owned by Hardin’s economic development agency, Two Rivers Authority.

Hardin Jail To House Native Americans

Sooooo, let me get this straight…. they have teamed up with Louisiana who is notoriously known for their high incarceration rates and prisons for profit?      Louisiana imprisons more people than any country in the world. 1,619 people per 100,000 residents.

Lt. Dee Hutson: ‘It’s a career.’

You have people who are so invested in maintaining the present system — not just the sheriffs, but judges, prosecutors, other people who have links to it,” said Burk Foster, a former professor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and an expert on Louisiana prisons. “They don’t want to see the prison system get smaller or the number of people in custody reduced, even though the crime rate is down, because the good old boys are all linked together in the punishment network, which is good for them financially and politically.”

In the early 1990s, when the incarceration rate was half what it is now, Louisiana was at a crossroads. Under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, the state had two choices: Lock up fewer people or build more prisons.

It achieved the latter, not with new state prisons — there was no money for that — but by encouraging sheriffs to foot the construction bills in return for future profits. The financial incentives were so sweet, and the corrections jobs so sought after, that new prisons sprouted up all over rural Louisiana.

The national prison population was expanding at a rapid clip. Louisiana’s grew even faster. There was no need to rein in the growth by keeping sentencing laws in line with those of other states or by putting minor offenders in alternative programs. The new sheriffs’ beds were ready and waiting. Overcrowding became a thing of the past, even as the inmate population multiplied rapidly.

“If the sheriffs hadn’t built those extra spaces, we’d either have to go to the Legislature and say, ‘Give us more money,’ or we’d have to reduce the sentences, make it easier to get parole and commutation — and get rid of people who shouldn’t be here,” said Richard Crane, former general counsel for the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

The more empty beds, the more an operation sinks into the red. With maximum occupancy and a thrifty touch with expenses, a sheriff can divert the profits to his law enforcement arm, outfitting his deputies with new squad cars, guns and laptops. Inmates spend months or years in 80-man dormitories with nothing to do and few educational opportunities before being released into society with $10 and a bus ticket.

Locking up as many people as possible for as long as possible has enriched a few while making everyone else poorer. Public safety comes second to profits.

Read more Louisiana Is The Worlds Prison Capital 

I wanted to see just how much Native Americans represented the Montana Offender Population.  This is what I found from Montana Department of Corrections.

Based on self-reporting by offenders, Native Americans continue to be over-represented in the corrections system. Although they make up about 7 percent of Montana’s overall population, Native Americans account for more than 17 percent of the total number of offenders under department supervision. This includes offenders anywhere in the corrections system, from prison to parole and probation. All other minorities represent 5.2 percent of the offender population.

Based on self-reporting by offenders, Native Americans continue to be over-represented in the corrections system. Although they make up about 7 percent of Montana’s overall population, Native Americans account for more than 17 percent of the total number of offenders under department supervision. This includes offenders anywhere in the corrections system, from prison to parole and probation. All other minorities represent 5.2 percent of the offender population.

One out of every five incarcerated male offenders is Native American. That is almost three times higher than the rate at which natives are represented in the general Montana population. The proportion of the prison population that is native has changed little since 2008, but increased from 15.1 percent to 20 percent since 1997.

The actual number of Native Americans may likely be higher than those that “self reported” in the DOC document. Given the racial disparities of the system some Native Americans are likely failing to acknowledge their status out of the hope for less stigmatization.

The DOC solution to the staggering numbers of Native Americans . . . a single staff member, The American Indian liaison serves as the department’s authority to provide knowledgeable guidance to department staff on Native American spiritual and cultural issues within the environment of sound correctional practices. The liaison regularly meets with the governor’s Indian affairs coordinator, tribal officials, Indian Alliance Center staffs, Montana- Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council members, and other American Indian representatives to ensure ongoing communication regarding department activities, programs and initiatives. The liaison communicates with American Indian offenders and their families to listen to concerns and develop solutions that take into consideration the cultural and spiritual needs of native offenders. The liaison provides training on American Indian cultural practices and helps recruit prospective employees from within the native community and at state and tribal colleges.  Perhaps the most shocking information to be found is the apparent total lack of concern on the part of DOC that its own workforce is clearly not representative of Montana’s ethnic groups, which are most widely represented by Native Americans . . . As is the case with most Montana employers and reflecting the state’s overall population, the Department of Corrections work force is predominantly Caucasian. Minorities account for only 3 percent of the department employees, which is lower than their representation in the state’s total population (emphasis added).

If Native Americans were hired at DOC at their population incidence of 7% there should be 93 Native American workers within the Department of Corrections – not 15.

INDIAN PEOPLE’S ACTION – P.O. BOX 113 BUTTE, MT 59703-0176 – PHONE:406.565.3475 had this to say:

Documented minority-hire within the Montana Department of Corrections is abysmal and a disgrace to our State. That this Department plays such a vital and important role with so many Native Americans and other minorities and their families and yet boasts such an employment record is beyond understanding. The message has gone out to Indian Country loud & clear that DOC is not a place where we are welcome . . . except as inmates. The lame and worn out excuse of, “they don’t apply” does not remove the responsibility of this agency to do a substantially better job of reaching out to the Native American and other Minority communities for workers. As a Native American, when one looks at the incarceration numbers and then at the employment numbers it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than the Montana Department of Corrections is anything but minority-friendly. The other, less gentle, version is that the DOC is rife with institutional racism and oppression and simply refuses to recognize it! There you have it. What comes across is a smug and self-satisfied agency that acknowledges that Native Americans are over-represented, but then shrugs its shoulders and self-congratulates that there is nothing more left to be done. The lack of engagement is staggering and contributes to the reality and perception that the Montana Justice system is stacked against Native Americans.

While considerable amounts of other DOC-related issues were documented in the Report, none provided any delineation of data regarding Native Americans. It is impossible to determine from the Report if there were substantial differences in these other categories between the Native American and general populations. We suspect that there are. From a Native American perspective, the Montana Department of Corrections rightfully appears to be a bastion of gross cultural insensitivity. Their own Report and data confirms that. The over-representation of Native Americans in the prison system is nothing new. It has gone on for decades. What is disheartening and sad to see is that the DOC simply seems to accept this now as the status quo and, after all this time, still doesn’t appear to regard it as an issue worthy of study and understanding much less systemic change or initiative.

We see little in the DOC 2013 Biennial Report that makes us believe that DOC will change anytime soon.

Side note, I looked at the DOC 2015 Biennial Report and the chart and that last statement seemed to be correct.  This is what I found. 

AdultAmericanIndians.jpg

Scott Crichton of the Montana American Civil Liberties Union has said, “People who claim that racism is not an issue in Montana, have their heads in the clouds. Racism here is real and it is profound, it’s demonstrated in the prison system at each stage of the processing, from profiling and arrests and public defense to probation.”

Montana, you already know what I think on this whole subject.  It’s a disgrace. Montana has become and is a prison for profit state. No ifs, ands or buts.  That’s the truth.    Remember the article I shared on a Native American 10 year old.  A Montana Grandmother’s Fight For Her 10 Year Old Grandson Who Was Arrested And Placed On $500,000 Bond.

  

Cops That Had Framed A Mentally Challenged Man For Rape And Murder Are Ordered To Pay Him Seven Million!

Antony Caravella

Image Credit – Sun-Sentinel

According to Counter Current News, article by Moreh B.D.K.

Antony Caravella had to wait 26 years for justice. The 46-year-old was wrongfully imprisoned after being framed by two Miramar police officers for the rape and murder of 58-year old Ada Cox Jankowski.

Jankowski was in fact brutally raped and stabbed over a dozen times, but the mentally challenged Caravella had nothing to do with the crimes against her. Still, back in 1983, Caravella framed by two police officers William Mantesta and George Pierson.

Caravella was released from prison back in September 2009 and was cleared of any and all involvement through DNA testing. But now, a federal appeals court has ruled Officers Mantesta and Pierson, must pay Caravella $7 million directly. That’s right, the city is not being told to foot the bill for these rogue officers: they are being told to pay Caravella themselves.

When Caravella was arrested back on December 28, 1983, Officer Mantesta and Officer George Pierson spent hours alone with him, telling the 15 year old information about the Jankowski crime scene, and then tricking him into repeating the information back in a way that they said amounted to a confession. Caravella had an IQ of 67, and was considered mentally challenged.

The jury who awarded Caravella the $7m claim against the officers, found that both had, “while acting under color of state law as a members of the City of Miramar Police Department acted with malice or reckless indifference to Caravella.”

Resources:

Counter Current News

Broward/Palm Beach New Times

I think that those who abuse their position should be held responsible and even charges filed against them.  We see more and more of this and the prosecutorial misconduct.  Although these wrongly convicted victims are awarded money, most have a hard time collecting it.  But money is hardly ever enough to compensate spending decades locked up in prison.  It’s a horrific nightmare.

The Most Important FCC Vote Of Our Lifetime Is About To Happen!

Battle For The NetLast year, more than 40,000 websites participated in the Internet Slowdown to demand real net neutrality. It worked! But monopolistic Cable companies are pouring millions into a last ditch effort to derail the FCC’s historic vote. Help us flood Washington, DC with calls and emails to show lawmakers that the whole Internet is watching, and we’re literally counting down the seconds until we get real net neutrality.

Cable companies are famous for high prices and poor service. Several rank as the most hated companies in America. Now, they’re attacking the Internet–their one competitor and our only refuge–with plans to charge websites arbitrary fees and slow (to a crawl) any sites that won’t pay up. If they win, the Internet will never be the same.

Team Cable has the money, so they have the power. They’ve been lobbying Congress and the FCC for years, and now they’re calling in their favors.

On Feb 26th, 2015 the FCC will vote to save net neutrality or let Comcast and other ISPs create Internet slow lanes. Some members of Congress, on behalf of their Cable donors, are trying to stop the FCC from protecting the Internet we love. There isn’t much time to stop them, contact them now.

Dear Senators and Representatives:

There is no doubt that the public wants real Net Neutrality. Right now, the Federal Communications Commission is on the brink of fixing a decade of bad policies and preventing ISPs from discriminating online.

In short: Let the FCC do its job. Right now the agency has no authority over the most important communications medium ever created. By reclassifying Internet-access service under Title II of the Communications Act, the FCC can protect Internet users from online discrimination and blocking. Any other approach will fall short.

Don’t put the public in the slow lane. Protect real Net Neutrality now.

Thank you,

Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.

Here Lies The Internet

Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?

Battle For The Net

Mental Illness And Prison

Mentally Ill In Prison

As Americans we always make judgments on Human Rights in other countries.  But, have you wondered about the Human Rights Violations in our own country?  We incarcerate 2.3 million people and have well over 7 million under the Department of Corrections.  Have you ever questioned how our incarceration rates have skyrocketed?  Let’s take a little history journey.

The following is excerpted from “American Psychosis”

Beginning in the late 1950s, California became the national leader in aggressively moving patients from state hospitals to nursing homes and board-and-care homes, known in other states by names such as group homes, boarding homes, adult care homes, family care homes, assisted living facilities, community residential facilities, adult foster homes, transitional living facilities, and residential care facilities. Hospital wards closed as the patients left. By the time Ronald Reagan assumed the governorship in 1967, California had already deinstitutionalized more than half of its state hospital patients. That same year, California passed the landmark Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, which virtually abolished involuntary hospitalization except in extreme cases. Thus, by the early 1970s California had moved most mentally ill patients out of its state hospitals and, by passing LPS, had made it very difficult to get them back into a hospital if they relapsed and needed additional care.

As early as 1969, a study of California board-and-care homes described them as follows:

These facilities are in most respects like small long-term state hospital wards isolated from the community. One is overcome by the depressing atmosphere. . . . They maximize the state-hospital-like atmosphere. . . . The operator is being paid by the head, rather than being rewarded for rehabilitation efforts for her “guests.”

The study was done by Richard Lamb, a young psychiatrist working for San Mateo County; in the intervening years, he has continued to be the leading American psychiatrist pointing out the failures of deinstitutionalization.

By 1975 board-and-care homes had become big business in California. In Los Angeles alone, there were “approximately 11,000 ex-state-hospital patients living in board-and-care facilities.” Many of these homes were owned by for-profit chains, such as Beverly Enterprises, which owned 38 homes. Many homes were regarded by their owners “solely as a business, squeezing excessive profits out of it at the expense of residents. Financial ties between the governor, who was emptying state hospitals, and business persons who were profiting from the process would also soon become apparent in other states.

California was the first state to witness not only an increase in homelessness associated with deinstitutionalization but also an increase in incarceration and episodes of violence. In 1972 Marc Abramson, another young psychiatrist working for San Mateo County, published a landmark paper entitled “The Criminalization of Mentally Disordered Behavior.” Abramson claimed that because the new LPS statute made it difficult to get patients admitted to a psychiatric hospital, police “regard arrest and booking into jail as a more reliable way of securing involuntary detention of mentally disordered persons.” Abramson quoted a California prison psychiatrist who claimed to be “literally drowning in patients. . . . Many more men are being sent to prison who have serious mental problems.” Abramson’s paper was the first clear description of the increase of mentally ill persons in jails and prisons, an increase that would grow markedly in subsequent years.

1980s: THE PROBLEMS BECOME NATIONAL

Until the 1980s, most people in the United States were unaware that the deinstitutionalization of patients from state mental hospitals was going terribly wrong. Some were aware that homicides and other untoward things were happening in California, but such things were to be expected, because it was, after all, California. President Carter’s Commission on Mental Health issued its 1978 report and recommended doing more of the same things—more CMHCs, more prevention of mental illness, and more federal spending. The report gave no indication of a pending crisis. The majority of patients who had been discharged from state hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s had gone to their own homes, nursing homes, or board-and-care homes; they were, therefore, out of sight and out of mind.

In the 1980s, this all changed. Deinstitutionalization became, for the first time, a topic of national concern.  During the following decade, there were increasing concerns publicly expressed about mentally ill individuals in nursing homes, board-and-care homes, and jails and prisons. There were also periodic headlines announcing additional high-profile homicides committed by individuals who were clearly psychotic. But the one issue that took center stage in the 1980s, and directed public attention to deinstitutionalization, was the problem of mentally ill homeless persons.

During the 1980s, an additional 40,000 beds in state mental hospitals were shut down. The patients being sent to community facilities were no longer those who were moderately well-functioning or elderly; rather, they included the more difficult, chronic patients from the hospitals’ back wards. These patients were often younger than patients previously discharged, less likely to respond to medication, and less likely to be aware of their need for medication.

Media attention directed to homeless persons made it increasingly clear that many of them were, in fact, seriously mentally ill. In 1981, Life magazine ran a story titled “Emptying the Madhouse: The Mentally Ill Have Become Our Cities’ Lost Souls.”   In 1984, a study from Boston reported that 38% of homeless persons in Boston were seriously mentally ill. The report was titled “Is Homelessness a Mental Health Problem?” and confirmed what people were increasingly beginning to suspect—that many homeless persons had previously been patients in the state mental hospitals.

In 1989, when a San Francisco television station wished to advertise its series on homelessness, it put up posters around the city saying, “You are now walking though America’s newest mental institution.” Psychiatrist Richard Lamb added: “Probably nothing more graphically illustrates the problems of deinstitutionalization than the shameful and incredible phenomenon of the homeless mentally ill.”

At the same time that mentally ill homeless persons were becoming an object of national concern during the 1980s, the number of mentally ill persons in jails and prisons was also increasing. A 1989 review of available studies concluded that “the prevalence rates for major psychiatric disorders . . . [in jails and prisons] have increased slowly and gradually in the last 20 years and will probably continue to increase.” Various studies reported rates ranging from 6% (Virginia) and 8% (New York) to 10% (Oklahoma and California) and 11% (Michigan and Pennsylvania). By 1990, a national survey concluded:

Given all the data, it seems reasonable to conclude that approximately 10 percent of inmates in prisons and jails, or approximately 100,000 individuals, suffer from schizophrenia or manic-depressive psychosis [bipolar disorder].

The author of  “American Psychosis”  by E. Fuller Torrey, “closing institutions resulted not in better care – as was the aim – but in underfunded programs, neglect, and higher rates of community violence. Many now wonder why public mental illness services are so ineffective. At least one-third of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, jails and prisons are grossly overcrowded, largely because the seriously mentally ill constitute 20 percent of prisoners, and public facilities are overrun by untreated individuals. As Torrey argues, it is imperative to understand how we got here in order to move forward towards providing better care for the most vulnerable.”

I agree with this author.  Considering the data was from 1990, let’s fast forward to 2015, year end of 2014.  The numbers have skyrocketed. We don’t have the appropriate mental facilities, and now we have a prison for profit big business much like the board and care homes in 1975.   This is a national problem.  But each state is going to have to step in and do their part to combat this growing problem.  It is our responsibility to do the right thing.  These individuals are burdened enough having to deal with a mental illness without having a country that burdens and punishes them more.

Montana, let’s take a look at you.

Remember a prior article “The ACLU Accuses Montana State Prison Of Illegal Activities.”

According to the ACLU under Criminal Law Reform, The ACLU  of Montana, on behalf of its client Disability Rights Montana, is challenging the treatment of prisoners with mental illness at Montana State Prison and the Montana State Hospital. A year-long investigation at those institutions revealed a pattern at Montana State Prison of withholding medication, misdiagnosing prisoners with a long history of mental illness, and punishing them for behavior caused by their mental illness. Prisoners with mental illness are routinely subjected to months or years of solitary confinement and “behavior modification plans” that deprive them of clothing, working toilets, bedding and proper food. This serves only to worsen their illness and cause needless suffering.

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana had this to say “In our investigation of the prison and its practices, we have uncovered shocking and inhumane treatment of people who are mentally ill.”

Her organization conducted a 16-month investigation into the two agencies, interviewing at least 50 prisoners from the Montana State Prison and looking through thousands of documents.

Disability Rights Montana sued seven top officials with both the state Departments of Corrections and Health and Human Services

Federal Lawsuit

Letter to DOC and DPHHS

Press Release

The Helena Vigilante gives a startling in-depth account of the complaints.

Solitary Confinement is one way that prisons torture mentally ill inmates, even when they have provoked an outburst by not giving them the medication that is required.

According to Solitary Watch

What is solitary confinement?

Solitary confinement is the practice of isolating prisoners in closed cells for 22-24 hours a day, virtually free of human contact, for periods of time ranging from days to decades. Few prison systems use the term “solitary confinement,” instead referring to prison “segregation.”  Some systems make a distinction between various reasons for solitary confinement. “Disciplinary segregation” is time spent in solitary as punishment for violating prison rules, and usually lasts from several weeks to several years. “Administrative segregation” relies on a system of classification rather than actual behavior, and often constitutes a permanent placement, extending from years to decades.

The number of people held in solitary confinement in the United States has been notoriously difficult to determine. The lack of reliable information is due to state-by-state variances and shortcomings in data gathering and in conceptions of what constitutes solitary confinement. However, a census of state and federal prisoners conducted in 2005 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics–and cited by the Vera Institute of Justice–found more than 81,622 people held in “restricted housing.” A widely accepted 2005 study found that some 25,000 of these segregated prisoners were being held in supermax prisons around the country.

That study was back in 2005!  Can you imagine how it has increased in the past 10 years? Is solitary a form of torture?

What are the psychological effects of solitary confinement?

Following extensive interviews with people held in the SHU at Pelican Bay in 1993, Dr. Stuart Grassian found that solitary confinement induces a psychiatric disorder characterized by hypersensitivity to external stimuli, hallucinations, panic attacks, cognitive deficits, obsessive thinking, paranoia, and a litany of other physical and psychological problems. Psychological assessments of Pelican Bay’s solitary confined prisoners indicated high rates of anxiety, nervousness, obsessive ruminations, anger, violent fantasies, nightmares, trouble sleeping, as well as dizziness, perspiring hands, and heart palpitations.

In testimony before the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee in August 2011, Dr. Craig Haney discussed the effects of solitary confinement: “In short, prisoners in these units complain of chronic and overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression.  Many people held in solitary become deeply and unshakably paranoid, and are profoundly anxious around and afraid of people (on those rare occasions when they are allowed contact with them). Some begin to lose their grasp on their sanity and badly decompensate.”

For more on the psychological effects of solitary confinement, see our fact sheet on the topic.

Are people with mental illnesses put in solitary confinement?

Yes, in large numbers. Over the past 30 years, prisons and jails have become the nation’s largest inpatient psychiatric centers, and solitary confinement cells, in particular, are now used to warehouse thousands of prisoners with mental illness.

Recognizing that solitary confinement worsens existing psychiatric conditions and causes severe suffering in prisoners with mental illness, several court decisions and pieces of legislation have been crafted to protect these prisoners. In New York, for example, the SHU Exclusion Law, which took effect in July 2011, mandates that prisoners with serious mental illnesses be diverted from solitary confinement units and instead be placed in residential mental health treatment units. The law has loopholes for “exceptional circumstances,” however, and critics charge that the diagnostic process is excluding many prisoners with mental illness from the law’s protections. A December 2011 hearing on the solitary confinement system highlighted a surge of suicides that have taken place despite reforms.

Definition of the Term “Human Rights” Human rights refer to fundamental and basic rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because he or she is a human being. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties, they are known as being universal, inalienable, egalitarian, non-discriminatory and coherent. In this sense, human rights belong to all people everywhere around the world and no one may be denied these rights simply because one lives in a certain geographic area. All people are entitled to these rights as equally regardless of such factors as race, nationality, gender, etc. and nobody has privilege over the others in this matter. 

It is not all hopeless, changes can be made.  There are many advocates across our nation fighting for changes to be made.  Here is a message from Pete Earley. Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.  My Message To Utah Legislators: Treatment Makes More Financial Sense Than Incarceration!

These are the bills being presented before the Montana Legislature as of right now!

Disability Rights Montana shares the following:

HB 33, 34, and 35 would expand support for Community Adult Mental Health Services Across Montana.  DRM’s talking points on HB 33, 34, and 35.

Talking points include why Montana needs to invest in crisis services throughout Montana, why Montana needs to have regional stabilization facilities, and local services are not only a good idea, they are required by federal law.

HB 34 would appropriate money for additional secure psychiatric detention beds.

This bill would fund new programs to establish crisis response for adults with mental illness throughout the state.  This program, first enacted in 2009, has been very successful, even though it has never been fully funded to the original intended $1.2 million.

Let’s hope for changes that are needed!  Montana Legislatures, we are counting on you! You have the power to help make a difference in hundreds, even thousands of lives. 

Montana State Prison Has One Of The Highest Rates Of Rapes And Sexual Assaults Nationwide

Officer Misconduct

According to the Great Falls Tribune,  by Matt Volz:

A nationwide survey of prisoners found Montana State Prison has one of the highest rates of rapes and sexual assaults, but state corrections officials questioned the report’s methodology and said Wednesday it’s unlikely the problem is as bad as it seems.

The U.S. Department of Justice Survey of inmates in 233 state and federal prisons and 358 jails released last year identified Deer Lodge prison as one of 11 with high rates of sexual victimization of inmates.

Nearly 10 percent of Montana respondents, reported staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct — the second-highest rate in the survey.

Robert W. Dumond, LCMHC, CCMHC, Diplomate CFC Senior Program Director, Just Detention International gave the following testimony Review Panel on Prison Rape U.S. Department of Justice.

Montana Department of Corrections Director Mike Batista and Montana State Prison Warden Leroy Kirkegard testified by teleconference on Tuesday during a hearing on the survey held by the Justice Department Review Panel on Prison Rape in Washington, D.C.

The hearing was not broadcast to the public outside of Washington. Copies of Batista’s and Kirkegard’s prepared testimony were provided by the state Department of Corrections, and Batista spoke by phone to The Associated Press after he testified.

Increased prisoner awareness about reporting assaults and a 2011 dispute over pat-down searches at the prison may have contributed to the survey’s high numbers, but the report depends on a small sample of anonymous prisoners whose complaints can’t be verified, Batista said.

“I think the numbers were high,” Batista told the AP.

The authors of the Bureau of Justice Statistics survey acknowledge that some of inmates’ allegations may be untrue. However, others inmates who were assaulted may not have participated in the survey, despite assurances of confidentiality, the report said.

The untrue and unreported allegations may offset each other, but the extent of under reporting and false reporting is unknown, the report said.

Batista and Kirkegard said they suspect the number of staff-on-inmate complaints was related to how two prison guards conducted clothed pat-down searches.

“One of the officers accused excelled at finding contraband on inmates, which potentially made him a ‘target’ for inmates who would prefer that officers searched less effectively,” Batista said, according to his prepared remarks.

One inmate filed a lawsuit in which he claimed he was sexually assaulted by a guard who squeezed his genitals during one such search, bringing tears to his eyes. The inmate sought $2 million for mental and emotional distress.

The case went to trial in 2011. A jury found in favor of the prison guard and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by the plaintiff.

Montana State Prison

Montana State Prison

I don’t even know where to start on this one, but let’s continue to break this down.

First the hearing was not made public outside of Washington.  So, how many Montanans knew of this survey, it’s findings, and the hearing?

Second, Mike Batista said “I think the numbers were high.”  He “thinks?”  Since when is what one “thinks” actual, verifiable testimony on something so important?

Third,  look through the archives here on this website through the last 3 years on all of the sexual misconduct between staff and inmates in Montana.   These are just the ones that have been reported.  This is not counting all the allegations that have been slid under the carpet, that inmates and DOC staff and officials know about.

Fourth, the whole sexual misconduct aspect with pat downs or searching for contraband is a bit suspicious to me.  I agree they need to do pat downs, but from what I’ve seen and from what I’ve been informed from Montana State Prison staff, it’s the prison staff that brings in the contraband. Who monitors that?   Who monitors how staff searches an inmate, especially if they are trying to get the focus off a real problem?

Fifth,  this also brings into focus the Mental Health Allegations of Illegal Abuse at Montana State Prison towards those with mental health issues within the prison system.  You can see how the testimony at the hearing by Robert W. Dumond explains this issue above.

Again, the words I read and hear does not match up with the actual results of good changes being made.  Lot’s of pretty words but no changes.   Although so many are locked up in Montana, if you are in the state staff system, you get a “get out of jail for free” card.  Just food for thought for the Montana tax payer.