Montana Legislatures Bring Prison Reform To Montana

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. 

  1. LC0172 – HB 3 – Supplemental Appropriations  – (Dept. of Corrections requested a supplemental $7 million)  Missed Deadline for Appropriation Bill Transmittal – Died
  2. LC0359 – HB 19 –   Clarify that the governor may change parole board presiding officer – Law
  3. LC0358 – HB 28 –   Require parole hearings to be video and audio recorded – Law
  4. LC0338 – HB 33 –   Appropriate money for new or expanded mental health crisis intervention – Law
  5. LC0339 – HB 34 –   Appropriate money for additional secure psychiatric detention beds – Law
  6. LC0347 – HB 35 –   Appropriate money for short-term voluntary mental health treatment – Law
  7. LC0361 – HB 43 –   Revise executive clemency laws – Law
  8. LC0301 – HB 128 – Revise MAPA provisions related to board of pardons and parole – Law
  9. LC0360 – HB 135 – Revise parole criteria laws – Law
  10. LC1978 – HB 516 – Revise petition for DNA testing laws – Law
  11. LC2342 – HJ 14 –    Interim study on eyewitness identification policies – Law
  12. LC0195 – SB 316 – Generally revise laws re when certain individuals may be transferred to DOC – Law
  13. LC0914 – SB 411 –  Plan for the closure of Montana developmental center at Boulder – Law
  14. LC2049 – SB 224 – Create a commission to study criminal justice system. – Law
  15. 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!

Congratulations Montana!  Congratulations

Gallatin County Jail Revenues Helps Sheriff’s Office Buy New Equipment…Or Is It Prison Profiteers?

Gallatin County Detention Center

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” 

According to another article Law Enforcement Agencies Across Montana Apply For Federal Cash:

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? 

Montana Incarceration “It’s Business. It’s Dollars And Cents, And It’s Jobs.” Direct Quote To Law And Justice Committee



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……

Montana’s Prison Business, Overcrowding Prisons For The New Montana Budget



Too many hands in the pot. Now, Helena and Polson want to build a new jail. Yellowstone county wants to add 100 beds to their jail. Gallatin county is saving up to add to their jail.   
Let’s just take an add out in the tourism guide!  Maybe something like this…..

Blue Light Special! Need A Place For The Night? Montana Has A Bargain For YOU!


P.S.  Gallatin talks all about the benefits of this excess money, but something smells rotten.  Why then did the ACLU have to publish this document as recent as February 2015?  

Montana Jails In Crisis

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana, let’s hope the new budget will reflect changes that are needed.  Let’s put hard earned tax money into a future of hope.  Not a future of despair. 

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.