August 2009 Update-additional
Finally the recommendations were sent, but too late to have an input at the meeting on the 17th, imagine that. At any rate here they are and please note they are a draft of the recommendations concerning growth and nothing else. I have sent an email to see if this is only part of what will be recommended and if we can submit our other issues before the final recommendation list goes in and when will that be due. I will let you know as soon as I hear something. Other issues would include parole board reform, mandatory parole, support of half-way houses for those that don’t qualify for PRC, and whatever else you guys want to add to that list.
I have heard from some that guys are reluctant to sign the sheet with the parole info I sent last time, because of retaliation. Please, let them know that the sheet will not be copied and handed out. I plan to use them to make a point and nothing else. They do not even need to put their names, only the last column of information is necessary.
I also was asked if we could list the ridiculous write-ups you guys are getting on our website. Again, no names, just the write-up and maybe the outcome. This was suggested to show the public what their hard-earned dollars are going for when you get written up foe bogus things and then have to stay in there longer costing taxpayers money. The same thing applies when you are violated from probation and sent back to prison for minor infractions. For now I would like your input, and if most agree I will send another form concerning write-ups and maybe probation violations as well.
Thank all of you for your hard work and support. We can do nothing without your input and help. Please let me know if you want to add anything to the list of issues for the Correctional Council. I look forward to hearing from all of you soon.
Take care and many blessings to you.
The estimated total cost of all recommendations,by 2025, would be $555.7 million. The proposals would accommodate growth of 8,000 in the total offender population.
- Corrections Council Finding and Recommendations
At its May 6 meeting, the council reviewed and discussed the report’s findings and recommendations.
The council adopted the offender population projections contained in the report. Members concluded they lacked the knowledge or expertise to challenge the projections by the consultants.
Members voted to advance four modified recommendations to the governor and established an order of priority. the recommendations, in order of priority, are:
- Create a program of treating up to 116 low-risk sex offenders outside of prison. Although this proposal was not among the consultants’ recommendations, it recognizes that the department had established a need for such a facility by including it in the budget originally presented to the 2009 legislature. The proposal was not funded because of legislative budget changes resulting from declining state revenue projections.
- Provide 512 beds for male inmates to meet the needs through 2015. The council did not specify how or where this increased capacity should be provided.
- Create a facility to meet the medical and mental health needs of up to 152 male and female inmates. This would serve the state’s needs through 2025. The council did not indicate where this facility should be located.
- Provide 256 beds for women inmates in the Billings area to meet the state’s projected needs through 2025. The council did not say whether this should involve a new prison or expansion of the existing 194-bed women’s prison. The council opted to specify Billings as the prefered location because of the available services in the area and due to the fact that the existing prison and its staff are located in Billings.
The council did not adopt the consultants’ major recommendation for a large correctional complex in the Billings area that would include male and female prisons arranged so as to share support programs such as medical, mental health and food services.
The council recognizes that its recommendations do not call for immediate construction. The chairman of the council, Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, expressed the administrations position that the state should focus its finite resources on education and other prevention measures in order to diminish the need to build additional prison beds.
The council did not discuss a timetable or potential costs for implementing its recommendations. However, members acknowledged that declining revenue and uncertainty over future economic conditions will present a challenge in the 2011 legislative session.
- Letter corrections Council from Sheriff David Castle
Wtih all respect I must answer the additional report. As Sheriff,
everywhere I go, I hear citizens “taxpayers” disgusted with government
administrators and the justifications used for the spending of their
harder and harder earned money. The main question I hear as Sheriff
is; What ever happened to the Fundamental Duty of government “by the
people” paying the taxes “for the people’s welfare and safety?”
Remember the majority of almost a million people make up Montana in
comparison to approximately a small minority of 13,000 offenders. The
scrutiny of our system by victims, their family and the public is that,
it is disproportionate to the majority beliefs of society. As we are
all aware, when talking about crime and inmates, most people are not as
informed as the DOC advisory council, However, in a republic we can
not forget that it is the majority of people that good government is to
represent and most still believe that if you do the crime you do the
DOC has taken a strategy to reduce costs within their governmental
department and before we anticipate success, it needs to be inclusive
of all criminal justice entities that play a part. We also need to be
sure that any acceptance of success without understanding the role of
the people and thier part would not only be ethically wrong, but
misleading. To give an impression that government investing into
inmates will give a good return, better be a correct statement,
especially in the economy of a current downturn. As being one
representative of the only elected official of law enforcement in the
United States, I would caution any criminal justice entity to take
credit for crime reduction or success without recognizing the founding
government grass roots of public input across our nation. To include
but not limited to schools, churches, businesses, boys and girls clubs,
big brothers and big sisters, alliance for youth groups, boyscouts,
girlscouts, and many more civic groups and organizations. I
continually analyze and survey thousands pretrial services and
programs, which includes the work of Judges, Prosecutors, Defenders,
Treatment courts, Mental Health and proactive Law enforcement. People
in Prison are not getting a second chance, it is more like their 10 or
12th chance. Incarceration is a comprehensive problem. It is
statewide. The prison has no more authority as to who is sent there,
than I do as to who is sent to jail. As Sheriff my philosophy for
years has been the costs of incarceration are tremendous when compared
to prevention and education. We all recieved a survey that reported
Montana spending almost dollar for dollar on incarceration as it does
on education. The Montana Meth Project as an example has done more for
Cascade County than any criminal justice agency including my law
enforcement. I don’t want to take away from DOC’s 80/20 plan and what
it does, but we have not fully looked at the impact that shift has made
on some local communities and other criminal justice agencies.
Constant and arduous efforts have been made locally to deal with crime,
giving people a second chance. Prison is not the second chance. I know
there are only so many dollars. I am unclear if pretrial, proactive
law enforcement, education and prevention are in competition for
incarceration costs.. My focus will have to stay with juvenile and
early intervention through education to impact a long term success.
Let’s be sure, before taking to many accolades with Prison programs
that we are not just shuffling the burden locally or
disproportionately. The real answer has to be not building more
prisons, not building more treatment, re-enntry or rehabilitation, but
start building our communities! And we have heard it many times from
criminologists that if you want to START that age is the biggest factor
for bringing change. We need to curb costs of incarceration, but it
will continually grow until we curb incarceration.
Sheriff/Coroner David Castle
PS, I am uncertain due to other commitments that I will make the next
council meeting, but if you could share my concerns, I would appreciate
ACLU comments to the Corrections Council August 2009
American Civil Liberties Union
P.O. Box 1317
Helena, Montana 59624
August 14, 2009
Members of the Department of Corrections Advisory Council
Montana Department of Corrections
1539 11th Avenue
P.O. Box 201301
Helena, MT 59620-1301
Re: Report to the Governor – Managing Montana’s Growing Offender Population
Dear Members of the Advisory Council:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana submits these comments in
response to the Council’s final draft report to the Governor (the Report), released on
August 11, 2009. The ACLU of Montana has actively followed the Council’s work in
soliciting, developing, and reviewing the Long-Term Strategic Master Plan (the Plan),
prepared by consultants Carter Goble Lee and architectural firm Dowling-Sandholm,
regarding the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) facilities needs. In addition to our
attendance at a majority of the Council’s meetings, we also joined the Council on many
of its tours of DOC facilities.
We are gratified that both the Plan and the Council’s draft Report recognize the
acute need for increased capacity in sex offender treatment programs and in medical and
mental beds system-wide. Addressing both of these needs is critical to providing proper
reentry and to ensuring humane treatment of incarcerated individuals. We commend the
Council for adopting recommendations to make actions on each of these issue areas a
priority for the State.
We are extremely concerned, however, with the population projections adopted
and the Plan’s resulting recommendation to increase capacity at our secure facilities by
more than 60 percent in less than 20 years. The Council is to be commended for rejecting
the Plan’s major recommendation for the development and construction of a large
correctional complex in the Billings area. As discussed more fully below, we urge the
State to continue its commitment to adopting measures that will decrease our rate of
incarceration – which is already above average for similar states – and thereby ameliorate
the perceived need for constructing additional secure facilities.
Historical Data Presented in the Plan
The Council’s draft Report offers a succinct summary of the Plan’s population
projections, yet, we believe it is also important to summarize the data presented in the
Plan regarding historic trends and variables affecting population growth. As the Plan
reports, Montana continues to have one of the highest incarceration rates of the states
included in the peer group selected by the consultants.1 Specifically, in 2007, our
incarceration rate per 100,000 population was 414 people, compared to the peer group
average of 360. Even accounting for what the consultants noted may be an abnormally
low rate of incarceration in one of the peer group states, our rate of incarceration is still
higher than other comparable states. And while the consultants state that our current rate
of incarceration is consistent with national trends, it is alarming to note that our
incarceration rate increased nearly 118% over the period of 1995 to 2008.
This relatively high rate of incarceration belies the fact that over the past decade,
our rates of violent crime and property crimes have both generally remained below the
national average and within a reasonable range of the average for the peer group states.
In fact, even though the violent crime rate has increased over the years, the rate of
property crimes has concurrently decreased; and because property crime rates are more
than ten times higher than violent crime rates, the net effect of the trends in each of these
types of crimes has resulted in a significant net decrease in both types of crimes
Fortunately, this high rate of overall incarceration has not translated into higher
rates of housing in secure facilities, as compared to the peer group states. Thus far,
Montana has maintained a lower level of inmates incarcerated in secure facilities and a
higher rate of inmates housed in alternative/transitional facilities. Montana also has a
slightly lower rate of individuals supervised under probation or parole, as compared to
the peer group states.3
Historic population data provided in the Plan demonstrates an increase in the use
of transitional and alternative beds and a decrease in secure facility beds. Despite an
increase in overall sentences to the DOC system, incarceration in secure facilities has
leveled out and even declined most recently, most likely because more inmates are being
housed in non-prison facilities. According to this data, the DOC’s policy goal of placing
80 percent of inmates in treatment or rehabilitation programs and placing only 20 percent
of inmates in traditional secure prison facilities is currently being met. Most importantly,
the Plan notes that a continuation of this “80/20” trend “will result in a significant
The consultants chose five states – Idaho, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and Oregon – to comprise a
peer group for purposes of comparison, based upon the states’ population, geographic location,
demographic traits, and geographic size.
The total combined number of violent and property crimes committed per 100,000 in 1995 was 4,797,
while that same total decreased to 2,942 in 2006.
“In comparing total sentenced populations (prison and alternative facilities), the MDOC has a much
lower percentage (21% versus an average of 27%) of inmates in a traditional “secure” facility and a higher
percentage (11% versus average of 3%) in alternative/transitional facilities. The use of Probation and
Parole for Montana is slightly lower than the peer states at 68% compared to an average of 70%.”
decrease in the in the number of more expensive ‘secure’ housing units needed in the
These recent trends indicate that housing inmates in non-prison settings is
definitely a viable alternative to increased incarceration in secure prison settings in our
State. And in addition to various other benefits regarding reentry and rehabilitation of
inmates, the Plan notes that the higher average daily costs for alternatives to incarceration
are mitigated by the long term savings offered by these programs: “These programs have
a higher expense than traditional incarceration practices but provide savings in the long
term by lowering recidivism rates, reducing vandalism of physical plants and a decrease
in the amount of time that inmates will require expensive services.” In other words,
alternatives to prison are not only feasible, but desirable, as they result in both economic
and public safety benefits.
Population Projections Made in the Plan and Adopted by the Council
According to the Plan, the State provided the consultants with historical data and
initial population projections. The consultants then met quarterly with DOC
representatives to finalize the population projections used in the Plan. The Plan states
that “[a] total of six projection models using different independent variables and different
statistical methods were used to analyze historic data from 1995 through 2008 and to
develop a range of capacity targets for State of Montana.”
As the Council’s draft Report summarizes, the population projections used in the
Plan show a 70 percent increase in the secure facility population, or an annual increase of
nearly 4 percent. The population projections also predict a significant increase in the
number of people housed in alternative facilities, by over 200 percent, or approximately
12 percent annually. While the projected increase in population among the various types
of facilities does reflect an “80/20” split, we are still concerned that the data relied upon
may not accurately reflect the results of the State’s current efforts to decrease secure
prison populations. Additionally, we know that there are factors that can reduce the
projected increases across all facilities and commitments.
All six of the models used as the basis for these projections analyzed data from
over the last thirteen years. We are concerned that more recent data may be more likely
to reflect the results of the State’s current “80/20” policy goal, as including data from
more than a decade ago increases the likelihood that the data will not accurately reflect
population trends under this “80/20” policy. In other words, the population projections
are relying upon data that reflects outdated policies and practices that historically resulted
in housing more inmates in secure facilities than in alternatives. It is entirely possible
that the State is capable of setting a higher bar, perhaps even adopting a goal of an
“85/15” split, and then examining the projected bed and treatment scenarios that would
Additionally, the final annual growth rates adopted for the population projections
were based upon the results given from only some of the six models. Specifically, in
reaching a final annual growth rate, consultants rejected the results of certain models,
where those results were above or below a predetermined “reasonable growth threshold.”
A striking example of the impact of the selective use of only some models is in the
population projection for the secure male prison population. In that instance, three of the
six models resulted in projections that were below the reasonable growth threshold, and
were therefore rejected.
While it is beyond our organization’s capacity or expertise to analyze such
statistical information adequately, it appears that the Council has found that it is beyond
its expertise, as well, as the Council’s draft Report indicates that the members concluded
that they lacked the knowledge or expertise to challenge the projections reached in the
Plan. However, these population projections must not go unquestioned. Given the
complexity of the data involved and the possibility that the projections do not accurately
reflect the results of the State’s “80/20” policy, we strongly urge the State to conduct a
thorough, independent review of the population projections before using these projections
as the basis for major decisions regarding facility needs.
Most importantly, however, we urge the State to recognize that the population
projections suggested by the consultants are not foregone conclusions as to future
incarceration rates. As the consultants caution, and as the Council’s draft Report
reiterates, the population projections can only be considered reliable to the extent that
crime trends and the public, judicial, and legislative policy towards crime remains
consistent with current and recent practice. As discussed below, there are several policies
and practices that could have a major impact in decreasing DOC capacity needs. We
strongly urge the State to consider adopting or expanding such policies before embarking
on any proposal to build more secure beds.
Alternatives to Higher Incarceration Rates
There are many ways in which policy changes can proactively decrease the
projected population growth. As the Plan acknowledges, sentencing policy can drive
much of the need for beds in secure facilities:
The sentencing determines in many cases the initial classification and therefore,
the placement or security level within the system. Certain crimes have minimum
sentencing requirements and therefore, require a certain period of “prison” time
prior to being eligible for program or treatment options, such as sex offenders.
When an offender is sentenced directly to the MSP or MWP, the MDOC has no
flexibility of placement and must provide bed space at the MSP or a contracted
facility for males and MWP for females.
Notably, the consultants stated at the Council’s May 7th meeting that the average length
of stay in secure facilities impacts the need for secure beds more than any other variable.
If the State were to accept the population projections adopted in the Plan and draft
Report, and then develop facility needs based upon those projections, it would be
ignoring the opportunity to positively impact the population growth by adopting proven
strategies to reduce incarceration rates. Over the last ten years, many other states have
demonstrated that the implementation of various policy changes to reduce recidivism and
to reform sentencing and release has resulted in slowing the growth of their prison
populations and increasing public safety. Such strategies include adopting or increasing
the use of “good time” or “earned time” reductions in prison terms; decriminalizing or
lessening sentences for certain crimes, especially non-violent drug offenses; and reducing
the rate of re-incarceration for probation or parole violations.
Adopting and/or increasing “good behavior” and earned time reductions: In its
July 2009 report, “Cutting Corrections Costs: Earned Time Policies for State Prisoners,”
the National Conference of State Legislatures examined the trend among states to
increase the use of prison term reduction. According to the report, at least 31 states
provide “earned time” or “good time” credits. “Earned time” credits allow reductions in
prison terms based upon an inmate’s participation in specific programs, while “good
time” credits are awarded to inmates for following prison rules. These incentives reduce
the costs of incarceration, reserve prison beds for the most dangerous offenders, provide
motivation for inmates to work and participate in rehabilitation and educational
programs, and ultimately help offenders successfully return to the community. In fact,
according to the NCSL report, states with earned time provisions have seen recidivism
rates either remain unchanged or actually drop.
Currently, Montana statute does not establish any earned time credits allowances.
The DOC has previously argued that it would be impossible to implement earned time
reductions. The fact that a majority of states, many with much larger prison populations
than ours, are capable of tracking earned time calls into question the credibility of DOC’s
Decriminalizing or lessening sentences for certain crimes, especially non-violent
drug offenses: The Plan reported that serious crime is decreasing in our state, and that
other crimes, including drug offenses, are the primary source for population growth
within the corrections system. There has never been a better time to question the need for
long prison terms for people convicted of less serious crimes such as nonviolent drug
Reducing re-incarceration for probation and parole violations: The Vera Institute
of Justice examined the high cost of re-incarceration for parole and probation violations
in its report entitled “The Fiscal Crisis in Corrections: Rethinking Policies and Practices,”
which was also released in July 2009. The report notes that many inmates on supervised
probation or parole will return to prison for failing to comply with their conditions of
supervision, such as not attending meetings with parole officers or failing drug tests.
While accurate numbers are not readily available for our state, more than one-third of
prison admissions nationally are the result of a parole violation. An increasing number of
states are relying on “evidence-based” policies and practices, which have been shown to
reduce recidivism among individuals on community supervision. These include using
graduated responses to violations as an alternative to revocation and re-incarceration and
eliminating or minimizing supervision requirements for lower-risk people.
The bottom line when examining all of these measures is the acknowledgment
that the State can be successful in reducing the average length of stay in secure facilities
and rates of recidivism and revocation through the use of reduced sentencing, earned
release, increasing transitional opportunities and programs to ease reentry, reduced
supervision of low-risk offenders, and graduated responses to violations of supervision
* * *
In regards to the recommendations the Plan makes regarding specific facilities, we
agree with the observations about the inadequacies of the Montana Women’s Prison
(MWP). It is painful to read the recommendations of the consultants as they arrive at a
proposal very similar to the one that was embraced and then abandoned by the State
nearly twenty years ago. Recognizing the need for a facility that is adequately provides
for the treatment and rehabilitation needs of the female prison population, the Governor’s
Advisory Task Force on Corrections eventually adopted a recommendation to develop a
women’s facility modeled after the Minnesota Correctional Facility for women in
Shakopee. Increased foundation costs caused by soft soil at the proposed site in Billings
led the Legislature to abandon the plan all together, subsequently forcing litigation from
the ACLU in the case of Many Horses v. Racicot. The suit was settled when the
women’s prison was moved from one hand-me-down facility to another: from the
dilapidated nurses’ dormitory on the Montana State Hospital campus, to the prison’s
current location in the retrofitted youth psychiatric facility in Billings.
We believe now, just as we did then, that the current women’s facility fails to
adequately address the needs of the female prison population and commend the Council
on adopting a finding calling for the provision of a women’s facility that is more
conducive to treatment and rehabilitation programs.
We also agree with the observations made in the Plan regarding the difficulty that
would result in hiring and maintaining trained, professional staff, should there be any
expansion at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. During its earliest meetings, the
Council heard information about demographic and population statistics that made clear
that not only MSP, but the prisons in Shelby, Glendive and Great Falls, would all be
severely challenged in finding enough competent, trained professionals to staff the
existing facilities in the years ahead.
This observation reflects the ever-present reality that the healthy functioning of
any facility – especially the safety of prison staff and inmates – relies just as much, if not
even more so, upon operational factors, and not just upon new bricks and mortar.
Finally, while the Council did not make any specific findings or recommendations
regarding the use or expansion of existing state-private partnerships to provide more
capacity in secure facilities, we continue to caution against the use of private for-profit
prison facilities to provide secure beds. The consultants’ report notes that the State’s
only private for-profit prison, Crossroads Correctional Center (CCC), suffers from
difficulty in maintaining adequate staffing and congealing deliveries and DOC transport
due to its rural and isolated location in Shelby. More troubling, however, are the
operational concerns that private for-profit prisons present. Most simply put, the
incentive for profits increases the likelihood that public safety measures will be cut in
order to decrease costs.
Additionally, the use of private for-profit prisons eliminates direct accountability
from prison staff to state officials. For example, the Department’s own investigative
report into recent allegations of abuse against Native American inmates at the Shelby
prison exposes a clear breakdown in communication between CCC staff and DOC
officials. Such restriction in communications demonstrates a lack of accountability from
the prison’s operators to DOC and speaks to the broader issue of how problematic it can
be to contract with a private company to operate a state prison.
* * *
We appreciate the Council’s thoughtful review of the issues raised in the Plan,
and are especially encouraged by the expressions of many of the members reflecting their
desire to continue to emphasize the use of alternatives and transitional facilities, to
increase access to a wide variety of reentry and rehabilitation programs, and ultimately to
diminish the need to build additional prison facilities. We hope that the information
above assists the Council and the State in meeting those goals, and strongly urge the State
to adopt one or more of the policies identified to curb growth in our prison population.
Thank you for your consideration.
ACLU of Montana
Public Policy Director
ACLU of Montana
Corrections Council Additional August 2009
The council believes, as do the consultants, that Montana Department of Corrections is
engaged in a trend-setting effort to make greater use of alternative programs to prison
that offer offenders a significantly better opportunity to lead productive, law-abiding lives,
allow limitations on offender population growth and make wise use of taxpayer dollars.
The council notes that these practices are working. Montana’s prison population has
declined 2.2 percent since 2006 and the overall growth in the offender population in
2009 was just 1.3 percent, the lowest growth rate in at least 20 years.
The council recognizes and endorses the following findings and statements of the
consultants in regard to the achievements of Montana’s correctional system:
“The MDOC and the state Legislature has invested much effort in providing alternatives
to incarceration and has set a standard for all other states to follow. The approach taken
has not been to harden the facilities, but rather look for alternative means to deal with a
growing population and determine the best ways to reduce the growth through
rehabilitation, treatment, and transitional programming.
“The department has established excellent working relationships with service and
custody contractors and seems to have accomplished a united focus to ensure that the
department’s mission is accomplished as stated by avoiding the traditional incarceration
model of limited access to treatment and rehabilitative programs. The general attitude
appears to be that simply locking an offender up is not in the best interest of the public
and is not a fiscally sound practice long term knowing that most inmates will eventually
return to society in Montana.
“The Montana Department of Corrections provides correctional programs that
emphasize offender accountability and rehabilitation. The MDOC has made a deliberate
effort to ensure that individuals committed to the state’s supervision have the opportunity
to succeed following release, and provides transitional services to assist in reintegration
“Montana has committed to community based corrections and has made progress
beyond what is common in most states. Primarily the community based programs are
contract operations that appear to be working well. The state/contractor relationships
appear to be very sound with all interests working toward the same goals. All levels of
the MDOC staff have committed to the use of community based programs and support
the idea of continued growth in these areas. The use of these programs increases the
chance of success following commitment and reduces the need for costly capital
investment for hardened facilities.
“What you’re operating is really quite good in contrast to what we have found
(elsewhere). You’re quite far ahead. Management and staff have a progressive attitude
towards addressing issues of treatment and rehabilitation.”