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.

ACLU Accuses Montana State Prison Of Illegal Activities!

Montana State Prison is located in the Deer Lodge valley approximately 3.5 miles west of the town of Deer Lodge. The institution is designated to maintain a population of (1,495) adult male offenders that are classified to one of six custody levels (Max, Close, Medium I, Medium II, Minimum I and Minimum II). There are approximately 636 employees of which 407 are uniformed staff. The physical plant consists of three compounds, Max, High Side, and Low Side which are contained within a 68 acre double fenced perimeter. Montana State Prison utilizes a unit management structure that is ultimately managed by a warden, four associate wardens and three bureau chiefs. Outside the fenced perimeter is a 192-bed Work and Reentry Center, which houses minimum-custody inmates that work on a 35,000-acre ranch and dairy program operated by Montana Correctional Enterprises.

Montana State Prison is located in the Deer Lodge valley approximately 3.5 miles west of the town of Deer Lodge.

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.

In addition, people sentenced “Guilty But Mentally Ill,” and sent to the Montana State Hospital for treatment are routinely transferred to Montana State Prison because Montana State Hospital staff does not want to treat problem patients or they need beds for other patients. These very ill patients have no real opportunity to challenge these transfers from a hospital setting to the prison where mental health care is virtually nonexistent and they are punished for their mental illness.

“This is about a prison mental health system that is making prisoners sicker,” said Anna Conley, ACLU of Montana staff attorney. “What is happening at the Montana State Prison and the Montana State Hospital is not only illegal; it goes against common sense. We should be providing mental health care that helps these prisoners rather than treating them in ways that exacerbate their condition.”

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.

Constitutional violations and poor mental health practices at Montana State Prison include:

A troubling pattern of the prison psychiatrist meeting for just minutes with prisoners with mental illness before finding that they are “faking it,” in spite of significant histories of mental illness;

Refusing to provide prisoners with necessary psychiatric medications;

Routine imposition of solitary confinement and/or “behavior modification plans” depriving prisoners of clothing, bedding, human contact, a working toilet and proper food as punishment for behaviors caused by mental illness;

“Wellness checks” in solitary confinement that consist of a weekly knock at the cell door where any conversation can be overheard by guards and other prisoners;

Inadequate mental health staff and training; and

Providing just 12 mental health beds in a prison with more than 275 prisoners with mental illness.

“It was readily apparent during the investigation that these problems were not isolated incidents. They were part of a pattern of unconstitutional and abusive treatment of prisoners with mental illness,” said Jeff Simmons, an attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP who is assisting the ACLU of Montana. “These people have a constitutional right to receive appropriate mental health care and to be free from abusive solitary confinement and ‘behavior modification plans.'”

Disability Rights Montana and the ACLU of Montana have asked both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Health and Human Services to correct these serious problems.

“We want to work with these agencies, but if the issues cannot be resolved, we will have to take legal action,” Conley said.

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

A response from Montana State Prison Warden Leroy Kirkegard:

“We take these allegations very seriously,” said Montana State Prison Warden Leroy Kirkegard about the ACLU letter, but said he disagrees with how some of the problems are portrayed.

He said there are questions about whether some of the people mentioned in the ACLU letter actually have mental illnesses.  Also, he said the letter makes it seem as if prisoners are placed in solitary confinement because of a mental illness, and that’s just not the case.

“They’re a danger to themselves, they’re a danger to other inmates,” he said. “It reaches a point where we get them their medication, the mental health staff see them on a regular basis, and nothing seems to help.”

“No agency ever wants to go to court,” he said.

Franks-Ongoy said they have not heard any response to the suit from the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

You may listen to a report here by  at Montana Public Radio

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

So, let me break this down:

The Warden of Montana State Prison states that “No agency ever wants to go to court”, yet there are dozens of lawsuits against this prison and Montana Department of Corrections in the past. There are years of evidence with documentation that shows the same ongoing problems.  Courts, judgments, even the state elected officials do not seem to deter them.  They operate the way they want to operate.  They continue to request for budget increases to hold more inmates, not for making changes to the system, but for making money off the “prison hotels.”

The audacity for the Warden to blatantly state “there are questions about whether some of the people mentioned in the ACLU letter actually have mental illnesses” after a 16-month investigation into the two agencies, interviewing at least 50 prisoners from the Montana State Prison and looking through thousands of documents says otherwise.  When clearly this was an issue that was addressed in this investigation citing “A troubling pattern of the prison psychiatrist meeting for just minutes with prisoners with mental illness before finding that they are “faking it,” in spite of significant histories of mental illness.”

I have shown you case after case throughout this website of those that have not received their medicines.  They make them go cold turkey by suddenly not administering them to the inmates.  A practice that is dangerous not only for mental reasons but for health reasons.  This is a regular ongoing practice.

It seems the Warden and Montana Department of Corrections are still not accepting the facts about this lawsuit. This is their method of operation when it comes to making changes.  Say a lot of pretty, feel good words but never follow through.  At least he did state they don’t really believe that some actually do have mental illnesses. In other words, they are better than the medical history that says otherwise. They are diagnosing that these mentally ill people are faking it.  Wow….

As far as Montana Department of Health and Human Services, well just look at the ongoing crisis at the Montana Developmental Center.  I don’t trust them to do anything different either.  You can dig through the archives on here and find out that to be true.

Inmates From A Montana Prison Proceed With Class Action Suit Filed January 18th, 2012

Montana State Capitol

Montana State Capitol (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)

Inmates proceed with a Class Action Suit against Mike Ferriter, Mike Mahoney, Myron Beeson, Leroy Kirkegard, MDOC Prison Issues Board.

IN THE MONTANA FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT LEWIS AND CLARK COUNTY

PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS, INJUNCTION, PROHIBITION, DECLARATORY JUDGEMENT AND OTHER RELIEF.

The Plaintiff’s in the above entitled action, and on behalf of all similarily situated Montana State Prison Inmates, allege and petition the court as follows:

INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT

This is a class action suit for a writ of mandamus, writ of injunction or prohibition, and declaratory judgement, and is a proper proceeding in where this court of record is granted power to declare plaintiffs rights, status, and other legal relations bearing on the below mentioned justiciable controversy in where there is herein alleged, past, present, and future injuries.

Furthermore, plaintiffs allege they will suffer irreperable harm without this courts intervention to divide the controversy.  They further allege that there is no plain, speedy, or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Although the procedural aspects of this case will most likely become muddled in procedural entanglements, the facts are clear, and are easily discoverable. This case deals with the Montana State Prison Wardens failure to follow clearly written statutes regarding the method from which the Warden and other defendants allow monies to be spent from the Inmates Welfare Account.

The Montana Statutes that regulate the process for expending I.W.F. monies, is of such mandatory language, that the plaintiffs constitutional liberty interests are implicated.  Due to such implications, Montana Law does not require exhaustion of administrative remedies. However, at least one of the Plaintiffs has exhausted the prisons grievance process to no avail, and as such, the remaining plaintiffs see any attempts to exhaust, to be futile.  Plaintiff’s access to IWF documents are also at issue.

Montana basically in a nutshell certain prison officials stuck their hand in the cookie jar (The Inmate Welfare Fund) and used up the funds that are allocated for programs and for programs with the inmates families.  They disembanded the Inmate Committee that speaks on the behalf of all the inmates concerning what is needed.  These funds come from the high cost of phone calls, vendors, commissary, etc. that families of inmates pay for. The inmates have wanted to see the accounting records of where the funds went to and why.  They have been told “No”, Good people of Montana wouldn’t you like to know why also?  I am at a complete lack of understanding when I see budgets of millions of dollars that we the taxpayers are paying for, money that is also granted through the state, money that is granted on a federal level, money that is received through privatizing,  with all those millions and those that are receiving kickbacks the prison deems it necessary to resort to stealing from The Inmate Welfare Fund?  So, I see that in the Montana Department Of Corrections a person can get away with sexual assault, stealing and not making the accounting public with DOJ backing them up.  DOJ states that they are keeping us safe.  Safe from what?  We need to be kept safe from the corruption that is going on.  Oh Montana it is time to speak up!  Quit letting these outlaw cowboys keep stealing from us!  I told you there was more gold in the gravy train, just you and I never get to see it.