Will The Montana Legislature Bring Much Needed Reform?

SealMT

The 2015 Montana Legislature is in action!  The Capitol is buzzing about with state business!  Many advocates and lobbyists from both sides have been battling.  Lobbyists wanting to continue to make money within the system and Advocates fighting for justice and reform.  

Big news stories have been covering these issues for the last few years now.  One of the largest that was felt around the world: Barry Beach had a  resounding defeat with the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole, despite Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s support of his release and the thousands upon thousands of signatures of citizens around the world. 

2014 – Law & Justice Committee:

SJ 3: Study The Board Of Pardons And Parole

The LJIC approved the following SJ 3-related bill drafts.

LC 301 — Revise MAPA provisions related to the board of pardons and parole (LClj98)
LC 358 — Require parole hearings to be video recorded (LClj97B)
LC 359 — Clarify that the governor may chance parole board presiding officer (LClj94)
LC 360 — Revise parole criteria laws (LClj95)
LC 361 — Revise executive clemency laws (LClj90)

The LJIC approved the following bills that were developed by the committee after hearing testimony on various corrections-related topics.

LC 356 — Allow the Dept. of Corrections to set minimum amount of inmate earnings saved (LClj52)
LC 357 — Revise laws relating to housing for offenders (LClj51)
LC 364 — Study the Crossroads Correctional Center and oversight of that facility (LClj50)
Agency Legislation

Memo explaining agency legislation process
Judicial Branch
Office of the Public Defender
Proposal 01
Proposal 02
Proposal 04
Proposal 06 (September)
Proposal 07
Proposal 08 (September)
Proposal 09 (September)
Proposal 10
Department of Corrections
Department of Justice
POST Council explanation and draft bill
The Board of Crime Control and the Board of Pardons and Parole did not request legislation.

For more information on these sessions go to Montana Legislature Law & Justice.

These Bills are now in front of the Montana Legislature to be decided if a Bill becomes a Law. 

Bill Draft Number: LC0359    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill
Bill Type – Number: HB 19
Short Title: Clarify that the governor may change parole board presiding officer
Primary Sponsor: Ellie Boldman Hill  (D) HD 90

Bill Draft Number: LC0357    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill
Bill Type – Number: HB 25    Fiscal Note(s)  Sponsor FN Rebuttal(s)
Short Title: Revise laws relating to housing for offenders
Primary Sponsor: Margaret (Margie) MacDonald  (D) HD 51

Bill Draft Number: LC0358    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill
Bill Type – Number: HB 28    Fiscal Note(s)  Sponsor FN Rebuttal(s)
Short Title: Require parole hearings to be video recorded
Primary Sponsor: Jennifer Eck  (D) HD 79

Bill Draft Number: LC0361    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill  Previous Version(s)  Access all versions of this bill
Bill Type – Number: HB 43
Short Title: Revise executive clemency laws
Primary Sponsor: Margaret (Margie) MacDonald  (D) HD 51

Bill Draft Number: LC0301    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill
Bill Type – Number: HB 128    Fiscal Note(s)
Short Title: Revise MAPA provisions related to board of pardons and parole
Primary Sponsor: Ellie Boldman Hill  (D) HD 90

Bill Draft Number: LC0360    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill  Previous Version(s)  Access all versions of this bill
Bill Type – Number: HB 135
Short Title: Revise parole criteria laws
Primary Sponsor: Jennifer Eck  (D) HD 79

Bill Draft Number: LC0356    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill  Previous Version(s)  Access all versions of this bill
Bill Type – Number: SB 101
Short Title: Allow the Dept of Corrections to set minimum percentage of inmate earnings saved
Primary Sponsor: Robyn Driscoll  (D) SD 25

Bill Draft Number: LC0364    Current Bill Text:      Current version of this bill
Bill Type – Number: SJ 3
Short Title: Interim study of Crossroads Correctional Center and oversight of that facility
Primary Sponsor: Robyn Driscoll  (D) SD 25

Not a fan of  SB101.  My concern is that the Inmate Welfare Fund was dipped into by someone within the system and all that money that was paid in by inmates and their families went to someone.  Basically bled it dry, without doing what the Department of Corrections said it was going to do.   Other concern, these inmates only make about fifty cents a day or a dollar a day.  How are they going to pay all of these fees, save money to be able to be eligible to get out of prison and then also be required to pay for their healthcare while in prison?  It all sounds good, but basically it is going to come down to the Montana taxpayer, as this will hold inmates in prison longer. 

You can watch these hearings or listen to them by audio from the Montana Legislature website.  Legislative Audio and Video Archives

  • I received the following documentation with evidence that was presented in testimony.  Quite an eye opener. These are your taxes Montana, you should really take a look. 
  • DOC Budget hearing

If these bills pass the Montana Legislature, they will still have to go before Governor Steve Bullock to either be passed or vetoed.

Montana Jailers Sued Again

Colton Wilson

Colton Wilson

Do you see the difference in this young man?  This is a young man that is now on his proper medications, out of prison, healthy and doing well.   This was him before, featured in an earlier article.   He looks agitated, stressed, serving a 5 year sentence instead of the 90 day boot camp sentence because of being denied the medications that he so desperately needed under Montana Department Of Corrections.

Colton Wilson

Colton Wilson

 

According to the Missoula Independent, reporter Jessica Mayrer wrote the following article.

Justice

Jailers sued again

Wilson, 23, alleges in a lawsuit served to the Montana Department of Corrections this week that he should never have been sent to prison at all. In 2005, doctors diagnosed Wilson with bipolar and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Between 2005 and 2007, court records indicate that erratic and fearful behavior prompted Wilson’s family to hospitalize him repeatedly.

In 2007, Wilson, then 16, stabbed a man in the neck. In exchange for pleading guilty to the crime, Wilson received a deferred sentence, contingent upon his completion of a 90-day DOC boot camp.

Prior to Wilson’s arrival at the Treasure State Correctional Training Center boot camp, he says doctors finally found a pharmaceutical combination that helped control his irrational behavior. The problem, as the lawsuit alleges, is guards did not provide Wilson with any of his medications for days after his arrival.

“(It was) nothing short of a mental catastrophe disaster within my head,” he says.

Wilson’s worsening behavior prompted the boot camp to terminate him. He was then sent to prison to serve out a five-year term. According to the lawsuit, given Wilson’s “longstanding mental disorders,” Treasure State’s actions “constituted gross medical dereliction (and) reckless disregard for the well-being of the Plaintiff …”

Wilson seeks damages and says he wants the DOC to change how it treats mentally ill inmates. “You can’t get away with doing this to people,” he says.

Wilson’s story is strikingly similar to that of several others collected by Disability Rights Montana during a year-long investigation into the state’s prison system. According to the investigatory findings released last month, DOC engages in “a pattern of deliberately withholding medication from prisoners with mental illness,” and refuses to diagnose prisoners as suffering from mental illness “despite clear evidence.”

If jailers don’t remedy what Disability Rights alleges are widespread constitutional violations, it is threatening to file suit to compel the DOC to fulfill legal mandates against employing cruel and unusual punishment.

As for Wilson, he was discharged from prison in June. He’s relieved to be out of jail, back on his medications and looking for work. “I made it,” he says.

 

There are far too many cases of this happening within the Department of Corrections.  So many inmates have been thrown in solitary or have committed suicide due to the fact of not being on the medications that are needed.   They completely make those with mental health issues go cold turkey without what they need.  Then when the inmate has a mental breakdown they punish them and it goes on the record.   Thus making his or her stay longer at the prison.   Prisons for profit by torture?  Unbelievable!! 

 

Related Article :  Colton Wilson – Concerns For The Mentally Disabled

What Happens With A Homeless Inmate Prepared, To Leave Prison?

By Christopher Moraff

Stock_Prison_920_647_80

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Many of  the roughly 10,000 inmates who exit U.S. prisons each week following incarceration face an immediate critical question: Where will I live? While precise numbers are hard to come by, research suggests that, on average, about 10 percent of parolees are homeless immediately following their release. In large urban areas, and among those addicted to drugs, the number is even higher — exceeding 30 percent.

“Without a safe and stable place to live where they can focus on improving themselves and securing their future, all of their energy is focused on the immediate need to survive the streets,” says Faith Lutze, criminal justice professor at Washington State University. “Being homeless makes it hard to move forward or to find the social support from others necessary to be successful.”

Although education, employment, and treatment for drug and mental health issues all play a role in successful reintegration, these factors have little hope in the absence of stable housing. Yet, few leaving prison have the three months’ rent typically required to get an apartment. Even if they did, landlords are given wide latitude in denying leases to people with a criminal record in many states. Further, policies enacted under the Clinton administration continue to deny public housing benefits to thousands of convicted felons — the majority of whom were rounded up for non-violent offenses during the decades-long War on Drugs. Some are barred for life from ever receiving federal housing support.

As a result, tens of thousands of inmates a year trade life in a cell for life on the street. According to Lutze, with each passing day, the likelihood that these people will reoffend or abscond on their parole increases considerably.

Lutze and a team of researchers recently completed a comprehensive assessment of a Washington State program that aims to reduce recidivism by providing high-risk offenders with 12 months of housing support when they are released from prison.

The study tracked 208 participants in three counties and found statistically significant reductions in new offenses and readmission to prison. It also found lower levels of parole revocations among participants.

While housing is the immediate goal of the program, the Re-Entry Housing Pilot Program (RHPP) operates in concert with the Department of Corrections’ Community Justice Centers to provide a range of reentry support services.

Participants live in heavily subsidized apartments, often with roommates, and are required to engage in treatment, secure employment and work toward self-sustainability.

Lutze says stable housing not only reduces violations of public order laws related to living and working on the street, but it increases exposure to pro-social networks and provides a sense of safety and well-being conducive to participating in treatment and other services.

That not only improves community safety, she says, but it “reduces the economic and human costs of ex-offenders cycling through our jails and prisons just because they do not have a safe place to live.”

While this seems like a common sense strategy, programs that place housing at the forefront of prisoner reentry are actually relatively scarce in the U.S., and have historically been driven by a handful of pioneering non-profits.

Since the 1990s, the New York-based Fortune Society has graduated hundreds of ex-offenders from its transitional housing facility in West Harlem, known as “The Castle.” The program has been so successful — with recidivism rates as low as one percent — that the group received city support to open a second facility, Castle Gardens, in 2010. A similar program run by the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, offers housing and support services to drug addicts, many of them ex-offenders, in six cities.

For all their success, access to these programs is limited, and demand regularly exceeds supply. But governments are starting to catch on.

As part of its Returning Home Initiative, New York’s Corporation for Supportive Housing joined with the Department of Corrections and several city agencies to launch the Frequent User Service Enhancement (FUSE) program, which provides apartments to roughly 200 homeless people who had both four jail and four shelter stays over the previous five years.

By limiting trips to jails and shelters, the program generated savings of $15,000 per individual according to a two-year evaluation of the program released in March.

The program is now being replicated in nearly a dozen other cities, including Washington D.C. and Chicago, with a number of other cities in the planning stages.

If its past performance is any metric, in the coming years, FUSE is likely to help thousands of inmates across the country establish roots in the community, stay off the street and, ultimately, keep from going back to prison.

Via NextCity

Another factor we must take into consideration, as in Montana, many inmates are denied for parole because they cannot even establish a residency when they go before the parole board. (A place of residency is required as a condition for parole.)  This is next to impossible!   Countless inmates are clogging up the system because they have no place for them to go.  This is a HUGE problem. 

 

100,000 View, Milestone Surpassed! Thank You!

100,000 Views Milestone Surpassed!

Thank you to all of our followers and to those that share our website.  We have been spreading and more Montanans are wanting to help others.  More voices are speaking up on the truth, so the truth can be heard.  The system has spread their agenda for too long.  Citizens are standing up to be the voices of those that have no voice.  The parole board cannot try to use the flimsy excuse that these are just a few people that are inmates family’s. That is just not so, it is not the truth. There are thousands.  Just look at the Barry Beach Case.  More and more departments are looking into how the whole system is being operated.  As well as it should be.  When the government know longer listens to the outcry of thousands that are complaining of the same thing, that is when it is time to elect new ones.  Something smells very rotten and it’s time to get to the bottom of it! 

Colton Wilson – Concerns For The Mentally Disabled

 

PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER

Just an FYI for Montanans.  We have been following this young man’s story for a few years now.  We will be issuing a follow up story soon.   Issues like this need to change in Montana!

Colton Wilson – Concerns For The Mentally Disabled.

Judge: Using Pepper Spray on Mentally Ill Inmates ‘Horrific’

me4justice:

Excerpt from article:
The inmates’ attorneys and witnesses also told Karlton during recent hearings that the prolonged solitary confinement of mentally ill inmates frequently aggravates their condition, leading to a downward spiral.

Karlton agreed, ruling that placement of seriously mentally ill inmates in segregated housing causes serious psychological harm, including exacerbation of mental illness, inducement of psychosis and increased risk of suicide.

“He made findings in every area of ongoing constitutional violations,” said Michael Bien, an attorney who represents mentally ill inmates in the long-running class-action lawsuit. “Despite all these years of legal efforts, he found that there needs to be more done.”

Karlton ordered the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to develop a plan to keep mentally ill inmates out of segregation units when there is a substantial risk that it will worsen their illness or prompt suicide attempts.

He found that keeping mentally ill inmates in isolation when they have not done anything wrong violates their rights against cruel and unusual punishment. He gave the state 60 days to stop the practice of holding mentally ill inmates in the segregation units simply because there is no room for them in more appropriate housing.

Originally posted on Prison Reform Movement's Weblog:

  • By Don Thompson, Associated Press

A still image from a video showing California prison guards dousing mentally ill inmates repeatedly with pepper spray.

A federal judge ruled Thursday that California’s treatment of mentally ill inmates violates constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment through excessive use of pepper spray and isolation.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento gave the corrections department time to issue updated policies on the use of both methods but did not ban them.

He offered a range of options on how officials could limit the use of pepper spray and isolation units when dealing with more than 33,000 mentally ill inmates, who account for 28 percent of the 120,000 inmates in California’s major prisons.

The ruling came after the public release of videotapes made by prison guards showing them throwing chemical grenades and pumping large amounts of pepper spray into the cells of mentally ill inmates, some of whom are heard screaming.

“Most of the videos were horrific,” Karlton wrote in his…

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