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Visitation suspended at Montana State Prison due to staffing shortages

Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana
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Montana Department of Corrections
Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana

In-person visitation remains on pause at the Montana State Prison at Deer Lodge. Prison officials implemented the suspension late last month, with limited exceptions over the holidays.

In making their announcement last month, Montana Corrections officials chalked up the suspension of in-person visitation at the state prison to higher-than-normal staffing shortages.

The agency says it recognizes the value of in-person visits, but it must also place the safety and security of the public, staff and inmates above all else.

In lieu of in-person visits DOC now provides each inmate two free phone calls and two free video visits every week.

The suspension does not affect the Montana Women’s Prison in Billings.

Corrections Department spokesperson Carolynn Bright says the state prison at Deer Lodge did provide holiday in-person visitation last week on a first-come, first-served basis. Bright tells MTPR the agency will do its best to provide similar limited opportunities further into the holiday season, adding that will depend on appropriate staffing levels.

Bright says the agency continues working to improve officer recruitment and retention. Beyond a $2 an hour raise already received by officers at the state prison earlier this year, the governor has included an additional pay increase for correctional officers in his proposed budget to be considered during the upcoming legislative session.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at edward.obrien@umt.edu.