Private Prisons Raping The American Tax Payers


“Promising to keep private prison cells full will be illegal in Nebraska if a proposal from state Sen. Amanda McGill (D) becomes law.

McGill, who is running for higher state office this year, has introduced legislation banning the government from guaranteeing payment to private contractors regardless of the level of service the contractor provide. While that may sound so obvious as to be unnecessary, states often make those kinds of promises to corporations when they privatize public services.

The most notorious examples are private prison contracts that guarantee companies like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) a certain minimum occupancy level at prisons, and promise to pay CCA the difference should prison populations sag below that level. Such “lock-up quotas” appear in two-thirds of all prison privatization contracts, according to a report last fall by the anti-privatization group In The Public Interest (ITPI).

Skyrocketing profits aside, the prison industry saw some setbacks last year. In a single month last fall, CCA lost contracts in Idaho, Texas, and Mississippi. The Idaho prison that closed was so violent and brutal that it was nicknamed “Gladiator School,” and CCA juiced its profits there by understaffing the facility, effectively outsourcing prison security to gangs of prisoners.

America spends 2.5 times as much per prisoner as it does per public school student. The country’s incarceration levels help drive economic inequality, and the combination of criminalization and neglect creates a “cradle-to-prison pipeline” for black and latino Americans.

McGill’s legislation would ban those kinds of payment guarantees across all state contracts, but is specifically targeted at prison contracts.”* The Young Turks hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian break it down.

*Read more here from Alan Pyke / Think Progress:

Nebraska Lawmaker Wants Her State To Stop Paying Private Prisons For Empty Cells 

“Guaranteed Occupancy” Is a Crucial Part of the Business Model
When CCA made its 2012 offer to 48 states to buy the state prison systems outright, that offer came with one important condition: the state would have to “guarantee” a 90% occupancy rate. Last year, In the Public Interest (an anti-privatization group) reviewed 62 private prison contracts. Two-thirds of them (41 total) included occupancy requirements

Montana’s Jails In Crisis

Montana's Jails In Crisis.jpg

The report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana was released, analyzing conditions in county jails across the state. Just five months earlier they released a report on the mistreatment of pregnant Montana inmates.  

According to the ACLU of Montana:

In one 2012 case from the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, 27-year-old Angela Robinson told the ACLU that she was forced to give birth on the jail’s booking room floor, swaddling her baby in towels normally used “…for cleaning the floor and human excrement.”

In 2008, another prisoner made it to the hospital to deliver her baby, but was humiliated and put in harm’s way because detention officers insisted on keeping her in shackles throughout her labor and delivery against the advice of medical staff.

The vast majority of the 4,000 women booked into Montana county jails each year are non-violent offenders of reproductive age. Yet, even as the number of pregnant prisoners in jail grows and they are staying for longer periods of time, many county jails in Montana provide inadequate medical treatment to pregnant prisoners, and continue to engage in universally rejected practices such as shackling during labor and delivery. Our report seeks to address this issue, by documenting the problem and providing jail and detention center administrators recommendations on how to ensure pregnant prisoners get the care they need.

Most recently the ACLU of Montana did a walk through of these jails to get a first hand view of the situation and to survey the inmates.   Out of that study the Montana’s ACLU branch has released a 70-page report detailing problems like overcrowding and unsafe conditions in many detention centers across Montana. It includes reports of inadequate staffing and insufficient medical care.

“Montana’s detention centers are in crisis. Outdated facilities, inadequate staff, overcrowding, insufficient medical and mental health care, and an overwhelmed criminal justice system are status quo,” said Montana ACLU Executive Director Scott Crichton in a press release.

The report says researchers found trends like over-use of solitary confinement for mentally ill people and inadequate amounts of staff.

“There are reasons why everybody should have a concern about how we operate these places. If they are overcrowded, as they are, ask ourselves ‘Is there not a better way we could do this?'” said Crichton.

Missoula County Under-sheriff Jason Johnson told NBC Montana he is still in the process of reviewing the report, so he couldn’t respond to specific details, but he did say he plans on looking at the issues raised by the ACLU, and his office is committed to transparency.

“I look forward to hearing what the ACLU has to say. A lot of what I read in their press release are things that are very concerning with regards to overcrowding. Overcrowding is an issue that we face almost daily in our jail and it’s an issue that our community’s going to have to help us solve,” said Johnson.

Johnson says he plans to examine the facility’s approach to issues like mental health and he’ll hold a press conference on Wednesday to elaborate.

“The press release that came out from the ACLU also mentions the issues of having inmates with mental health [problems] and being able to service them properly. That’s something we want to do but it is a challenge we face every day,” said Johnson.

Both the ACLU and Disability Rights Of Montana have joined forces to combat this problem with the mental health issues within the Montana prison system.  Many voices that are not as big as these large organizations have worked tirelessly to get the word out to our legislators and the community.


So, here we go again Montana on the overcrowding issue. Missoula County Under-sheriff Jason Johnson basically said the same thing as Mark Johnson, supervisor at the Butte jail. Does anyone question the very high rates of incarceration in this state? Does anyone notice a fundamental problem throughout not only the jails but the prisons also?  Again, lets look at the following previous articles. 

  1. Montana’s Prison Business, Overcrowding Prisons For The New Montana Budget
  2. The Montana Bar Association And Prosecutorial Misconduct
  3. Montana Boosts Economy By Locking Up Native Americans
  4. Mental Illness And Prison
  5. ACLU Accuses Montana State Prison Of Illegal Activities
  6. Montana State Prison Has One Of The Highest Rates Or Rapes And Sexual Assaults Nationwide
  7. Montana Lawyers Expose State Prosecutors Corruption, AG’s Office Looks The Other Way
  8. Montana Did You Know?
  9. Montana Jailers Sued Again
  10. Montana Incarceration “It’s Business. It’s Dollars And Cents, And It’s Jobs.” Direct Quote From Montana Officials. 
  11. Has Montana Citizens Lost Their Heart? 

These are just 11 articles, there are almost 500 articles on this site.  Should I go on?   I keep hearing over and over how this is a community, Montana problem.  A solution then would be to adjust the over crowding issue.  Use the tax payer money to make the existing prisons and jails up to human standards, instead of lining a few peoples pockets to create more of a burden to society.  Don’t warehouse the mentally ill, help them get treatment.   Look into the states tons of allegations of corruption and misconduct.  Former Montana Governor Forrest Anderson had to address this problem once before and it’s time to be addressed again. 

Montana Governor Forrest Anderson

 MT Gov. Forrest Anderson

I would like to present some facts to the Legislature probably not known to most people. It deals with the corruption, waste, graft and greed of the Department of Corrections. If their budget (and corresponding prisoner incarceration levels) were reduced to what is actually and truthfully needed, that single act would solve the State’s Budget Crisis. The DOC is only interested keeping their beds full and expanding to waste more taxpayer funds. I sent this to Dave Lewis yesterday morning. I am hoping to find at least one member of the Legislature who is brave enough to become involved in the solution and not continue as part of the problem by voting to waste taxpayer dollars through endless funding to the DOC.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s the prison population was way up. A majority of the prison population had been either denied parole or were back in for trivial, technical violations. (Exactly the same situation as today.) The cell house was full and cells were double occupied. The Dorm and other housing areas were full. Forrest Anderson, who had previously been Attorney General, was elected Governor. From his tenure as A.G., knew the problems and the solution. He was well aware of the hateful, spiteful attitude toward prisoners from the staff and administration of the prison and parole board. He fired the Warden, the Director of the Department of Institutions and replaced the members of the Parole Board with instructions to reduce the population down to a level actually needed and to stop the long standing practice of revoking for technical violations. In less than a year, the population went down by about 50%. We need for something like that to happen again.

At one time, the prison was pretty much self-sustaining. It even produced a good share of the food for other state institutions until the crooks decided too much money was being saved by the taxpayers! The dairy produced milk, ice cream, cottage cheese, etc. There was a poultry operation which raised turkeys, and chickens for both meat and egg consumption. There were both beef and hog operations and a slaughterhouse and butcher shop which produced all the meat necessary to sustain the state institutions. They also grew all their own potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. Then, a realization was made that all the millions of taxpayer dollars being saved could better be utilized by buying these products from local vendors. (Think of all the nice presents being received from those vendors for the business directed their way.)

Over the years, the administration has split positions and jobs so now it takes two or three people to do the exact same thing previously done by one person. This way, all of their friends and relatives can have a state job. Nice for those people but terrible for the taxpayers. The ratio of staff per prisoner is way too high for what is necessary for security and orderly operations. The staff utilizes state equipment for their personal and private use, etc. The above is just the tip of the iceberg. I would be willing to answer any questions or provide additional information. I am also attaching a report from Legislative Services which you may or may not have seen. It helps to demonstrate that the prison population is inflated by the practices and policies of the Parole Board and those practices and policies are contrary to the expectations of our judicial system.


Gary Quigg

Excerpt taken from: Montana’s Board Of Pardons And Parole And Their Gang

It’s All About Corrupt Money 

“U Raise ‘Em, We Cage ‘Em” – School To Prison Pipeline – Trafficking American’s Children

The T-shirt, put out by the Twin Rivers Police Officer's Association, has been rejected by even those who made it.

This T-shirt, put out by the Twin Rivers Police Officer’s Association, has been rejected by even those who made it.

Through the juvenile courts and the adult criminal justice system, the United States incarcerates more of its youth than any other country in the world, a reflection of the larger trends in incarceration practices in the United States. In 2010, approximately 70,800 juveniles were incarcerated in youth detention facilities alone.  Approximately 500,000 youth are brought to detention centers in a given year. This data does not reflect juveniles tried as adults. Around 40% are incarcerated in privatized, for-profit facilities.

The term “zero tolerance” is not defined in law or regulation; nor is there a single widely accepted practice definition. The United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, defined zero tolerance as “a policy that mandates predetermined consequences or punishments for specified offenses“.  The purpose of zero-tolerance policies, according to their proponents, is to send a message that certain kinds of behaviors are not tolerable on school grounds. About 94% of public schools in the United States have zero-tolerance policies for guns; 91% for other weapons; 88% for drugs; 87% for alcohol and 79% for tobacco.

But, in 2011, a study by the National Education Policy Center found that zero-tolerance policies across the nation were increasing suspension rates, with students being accused of offenses such as attendance violations, dress code violations, cell phone use, and other minor offenses. They found that zero-tolerance policies put children, particularly black and Latino children, on a path of truancy and likely incarceration. Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than White students and are held responsible for 70% of arrests while attending school. Simultaneously Latino students are 1.5 times more likely to be suspended than their White classmates.


America = The Prison Capital Of The World

Kiera Wilmot a Florida high school student who was arrested and expelled after a science experiment exploded, was known as a model student. She ran into trouble after combining aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner in a bottle as a science experiment. The mixture blew off a bottle cap and produced smoke. No one was injured and no property was damaged. Wilmot was charged with creating a chemical explosion on school grounds, and was expelled.

Keria Wilmot, Student, Aspiring Scientist

According to the ACLU, many schools rely on poorly trained police, rather than teachers and administrators, to handle minor school misconduct. The reality is that public schools have in the last 15 years undergone mass changes in school security policies. Video surveillance, drug-sniffing dogs, and sworn-in security officers are now commonplace fixtures in most public schools in the United States. Scholars argue that this increase in security measures is a result of rising fears about violence in schools.  One highly publicized example is the 1999 Columbine High School Shooting. The irony of the increase in security after the Columbine Shooting is that armed police officers were stationed at the Columbine High School at the time of the massacre, yet they were still unable to stop it. Now that police are more present in public schools, the line between disciplining under a schools’ general policy standards versus disciplining by law enforcement standards is getting blurred.

A 2012 school “lockdown” in Casa Grande, Arizona, included employees of the private Corrections Corporation of America company—unusual participants in a government policing action. Caroline Isaacs of the Tucson American Friends Service Committee said of the event: “To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the ‘schools-to-prison pipeline’ I’ve ever seen.”

The pipeline can also be critiqued in terms of neoliberalism, the idea that market forces can organize every facet of society. Because prisons can be privatized and run for profit, and traditional public schools cannot, the market favors sending people to prisons rather than schools—particularly if they are not destined to become part of the high-skilled workforce. (As prisoners, people can be compelled to perform labor anyway.) In keeping with this system, school budgets have shrunk while prison budgets have expanded massively, while even within schools more funding goes to police and less to teachers and children. The feedback loop between standardized testing and school funding is seen by some as another facet of neoliberalism, creating competition between students and teachers who need good test scores to keep their jobs.

Kids For Cash

School to Prison Pipeline – Wikipedia

America’s School Children Being Arrested

Proof that politicians corporations and the judicial system make more money if you or your children are sent to prison

Horrifying Video: Prison Guards Callously Laugh as Mentally Ill Man Dies in Front of Them

We see Mr. Lopez struggling to breath for hours, and then, finally, we have an unobstructed view as Mr. Lopez takes his last breath, dying, half-naked on the cold concrete floor of a prison cell – isolated and alone with no Defendant caring whether he lived or died”

Horrifying Video: Prison Guards Callously Laugh as Mentally Ill Man Dies in Front of Them.

This awful ordeal began at 3:30 in the morning, and at 9:10 a.m., Mr. Lopez took his last breath and died, shackled and face down in the intake cell with no help from the people watching him struggle.

Three employees have been fired, and five others disciplined. No criminal charges were filed.

If Fyodor Dostoyevsky was correct in stating that you can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners, this video is a very horrific display of what our society has become.  We can do better.

Read the full lawsuit here.

Via The Free Thought Project


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. 


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.


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.


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.