August 2009 Update-additional

Hi Everybody,

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.

Casey

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.

The populatiom projections expressed as ADP ( average daily population), are summarized in the following scan.

Members voted to advance four modified recommendations to the governor and established an order of priority. the recommendations, in order of priority, are:


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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



Dear Bob,

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

time.

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.

Respectfully,

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

it.


  • ACLU comments to the Corrections Council August 2009

    American Civil Liberties Union

    of Montana

    P.O. Box 1317

    Helena, Montana  59624

    406‐443‐8590

    www.aclumontana.org

    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

    combined.2

    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

    1

    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.

    2

    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.

    3

    “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%.”

    2

    decrease in the in the number of more expensive ‘secure’ housing units needed in the

    future.”

    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

    result.

    3

    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.

    4

    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

    argument.

    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

    offenses.

    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.

    5

    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

    conditions.

    * * *

    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.

    6

    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.

    Sincerely,

    Scott Crichton

    Executive Director

    ACLU of Montana

    Niki Zupanic

    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

    into society.

    “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.”

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