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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Surge In Prisoners Puts Montana Corrections $2 Million In Red

A bill asking for the end of capital punishment was voted down.
Courtesy Two Rivers Authority

An unanticipated surge in prisoner numbers means Montana’s Department of Corrections has gone over budget, and will likely have to ask state lawmakers for more money in the 2017 legislative session.

The Legislative Finance Committee heard that in Thursday's budget update.

The budget lawmakers passed last year projected that the state would need to pay county jails to house 250 prisoners whom there’s no room for in the state prison system.

Legislative Fiscal Analyst Greg DeWitt said that projection turned out to be far too low.

“2016’s actual daily population was 382, and through July the trend is even worse, it’s 399 average daily population.” 

The state’s rate for housing prisoners is $69 a day, although that can vary slightly based on the jail.

The higher prisoner numbers mean that the Department of Corrections went $2 million over its budget for housing prisoners in county jails.

And that means the department is likely to ask for a supplemental appropriation in the next legislative session, DeWitt said, but he could not offer a specific dollar figure.

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