Winner of the 2014 Pulizter Award, The State Integrity Investigation is a comprehensive assessment of state government accountability and transparency done in partnership with Global Integrity. The project uses extensive research by reporters in each state to grade and rank the states based on existing laws and analysis of how well they are implemented.
“The idea that the Treasure State’s government is as pristine as the mountain air has also fostered a complacency towards certain corruption safeguards.” Sarah Jane Keller
Public Access to Information GRADE:F(34) – RANK: 42nd
There was a tremendous amount of opposition from the Montana Board of Pardons & Parole, Montana Department of Corrections and others who opposed change due to their involvement in the prison system. There were a few temper tantrums, red faces, threats and confrontations against the advocates during testimonies before the Legislature.
Let’s take a look now that the dust has settled, and after years of hard work.
LC0172 – HB 3 – Supplemental Appropriations – (Dept. of Corrections requested a supplemental $7 million) Missed Deadline for Appropriation Bill Transmittal – Died
LC0359 – HB 19 – Clarify that the governor may change parole board presiding officer – Law
LC0358 – HB 28 – Require parole hearings to be video and audio recorded – Law
LC0338 – HB 33 – Appropriate money for new or expanded mental health crisis intervention – Law
LC0339 – HB 34 – Appropriate money for additional secure psychiatric detention beds – Law
LC0347 – HB 35 – Appropriate money for short-term voluntary mental health treatment – Law
LC0301 – HB 128 – Revise MAPA provisions related to board of pardons and parole – Law
LC0360 – HB 135 – Revise parole criteria laws – Law
LC1978 – HB 516 – Revise petition for DNA testing laws – Law
LC2342 – HJ 14 – Interim study on eyewitness identification policies – Law
LC0195 – SB 316 – Generally revise laws re when certain individuals may be transferred to DOC – Law
LC0914 – SB 411 – Plan for the closure of Montana developmental center at Boulder – Law
LC2049 – SB 224 – Create a commission to study criminal justice system. – Law
SJ3 – Original Study of the Board of Pardons and Parole in 2013 – Law
The Best Bill that Became Law. Senate Bill 224. The Governor signed it after changing the funding. Originally the bill was under DOC but was changed to the Legislative Service Division that has funding!!
*Department of Corrections General Budget was not approved for the amount they requested.
I was amazed that so many bills went through and became law. That is from the result of some awesome Montana Legislatures that pulled together to make a difference in their state! Many that have worked very close listening to testimonies, researching, the interim study and so forth. I am so thankful that they felt strong enough to stand up against some strong, vocal opponents. I am positive many families are just as thankful as I am. I am also thankful for the many network of other advocates that have worked hard, individuals and groups such as the Montana Innocence Project, Montana ACLU, Montana Disability Rights, Montana Coalition, etc. We all worked together as a team. Unfortunately, we lost two of our strongest advocates that have passed away. I do believe it was from all the stress.
It’s not done yet. There is still much work to be done! Get involved!
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Gallatin County Sheriff’s made revenue off the Gallatin County Detention Center (Jail). Here’s a small excerpt of their report.
When the Gallatin County jail opened its doors in April 2011, officials didn’t quite grasp how much money the county would get from renting beds to out-of-county inmates.
But when that total reached more than $1 million in just two years?
“We were shocked,” said Gallatin County Commissioner Steve White. “We never expected to get that much.”
That first year, revenue from out-of-county inmates was $152,505.
In 2012, revenues increased by 78 percent to $271,715.
By the 2013 fiscal year, out-of-county jail inmates brought in more than $1 million. And last year was a record year with room-and-board inmates bringing in $2,018,235.
Through February of this year, jail revenue is just over $773,800 and is expected to be between $1.5-1.8 million by the end of the fiscal year in June.
And while a majority of those funds are put aside to help fund future expansion plans for the jail, a portion is given to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. And Sheriff Brian Gootkin said those funds have helped his office catch up with important purchases.
For Commissioner White, the most important part of the funding is the 65 percent that gets set aside for future expansion.
Through the end of the second quarter of this fiscal year, the county has $2.03 million banked for future expansion. Gallatin County Finance Director Ed Blackman said they estimate that pot of money will be $2.4 million by the end of June.
“Our intention is to do the responsible thing,” White said.
But the small portion that has gone to the sheriff’s office has allowed the county to make purchases that would have otherwise come from county taxpayers, White said.
Even if the county didn’t have these jail funds, the expenses would still be there and the need to replace equipment would still exist, White said.
“Do you take it out of jail money or do you take it out of the pocket of the taxpayer?” White said. “We could have either shorted departments and services, or we could have bumped up taxes a little bit.”
Commissioner Don Seifert echoed White, saying jail money is preferable to taking it from the county’s general fund.
There are things in this article that make me go “hmmmmm”….
Is not the general fund paid by the taxpayers?
They don’t plan on to continue to profiteer from Montanan’s being locked up, but they have huge plans for expansions that will generate more money. Does not the taxpayer still fund all of this?
Let’s take a look at what the media has to say about this kind of prison profiteering. Six videos in a series titled “Prison Profiteers”
The Gallatin County sheriff wants to apply for three grants totaling $202,484 from the Department of Homeland Security and is asking for the County Commission’s approval this week.
According to the Montana Department of Military Affairs, which is overseeing the applications, 64 Montana government agencies have started applications and 12 are complete. Most are for radio equipment or backup generators. The largest is the state Department of Justice’s request for $452,052 to fund the Montana All-Threat Intelligence Center, an intelligence clearinghouse linked to local, state and federal agencies.
The goal of the Department of Homeland Security state grant program — with $402 million in total available funding in 2015, including $3,734,500 earmarked for Montana agencies — is “to implement investments that build, sustain, and deliver the 31 core capabilities essential to achieving the National Preparedness Goal of a secure and resilient Nation.”
The sheriff’s justification for the night vision states they will be used to enhance terrorism prevention activities.
Montana, is this for “real terrorists” or for your children? Really? How much money for prisons does one state with a small population need? But then again, remember back a few years ago this article?
That was stated by your Montana officials. They are making money off of you, the taxpayer, coming and going. Taxes for getting you in prison, taxes to maintain you in prison, and taxes to expand to get more of you in prison. All the while the fat cats rake in more, laughing all the way to the bank while they catch the unknowing mice. Well, you know now! Why then are you letting them get away with this again on an even larger scale? You have MORE inmates now than before!! Ahhhhhh, yes, it’s that Budget request time……
“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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Growing Number Of Inmates Found Innocent In US Prisons
Published on Feb 11, 2015
An increasing number of prisoners are being set free after they were found to have been wrongly convicted, according to a new report from the University of Michigan that is raising eyebrows. Breaking down the 125 exonerations in 2014, the study’s authors found that the defendants in 47 cases had originally pleaded guilty despite being innocent, and in 58 instances, no crime had actually been committed. RT’s Manuel Rapalo explores.
America’s Guilt Mill – Thousands of Americans, many of them poor, are wrongfully convicted each year for crimes that don’t make headlines. While innocence advocates focus on lifers, those falsely accused of lesser crimes are the overlooked casualties of our overburdened courts.
Study Estimates Alarming Wrongful Conviction Rate On Death Row – Dr. Gross estimated that 4.1 percent of convictions resulting in a death sentence are wrongful convictions. This is an alarming number, especially when understood in context. Specifically, if death row convictions are that wrong so frequently, it is very likely that wrongful convictions occur even more often in cases with less serious consequences.
National Registry of Exonerations: 2014 was Record-breaking with 125 Exonerations in U.S. – For the first time, more than 100 exonerations were recorded in the United States in one year. According to The National Registry of Exonerations Report for 2014, 125 exonerations of innocent criminal defendants mark an increase of 34 over the prior record of 91 in 2012 and 91 again in 2013. The report notes the work of Conviction Integrity Units in the increase.
The 24-page report, released on January 27, 2015, is available (here).
An information graphic illustrating patterns and trends can be viewed (here).
Montana, are you really going to try to justify and get away with the fact that your incarceration rate is higher than any other state around you and with only a population of 1 million? The Montana Department of Corrections and Montana Department of Justice are trying to say that violent crime is on the increase, that crime itself is on the increase….yet….
Does perjury and misconduct by officials count as part of that crime increase, Montana?