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.
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.