Montana Public Radio

prisons

Inmate Populations for Select County Jails in Montana
Charles Bolte / Montana Public Radio

County jail populations dropped this spring as the state reacted to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Now, with cases of COVID-19 on the rise, inmate populations in several of Montana’s largest county jails are growing and cell blocks are crowded. Some advocates are calling for more action to reduce the number of people locked up during this time. But local sheriffs say they’re balancing virus risks and public safety. It’s all leaving some inmates worried about their health.

The Montana Supreme Court will not mandate expanded measures requested by disability rights advocates to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Montana prisons and jails.

Justices Tuesday unanimously denied a petition filed two weeks ago by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana on behalf of Disability Rights Montana.

In an effort to keep people from returning to jail and prison, the 2017 Montana Legislature approved $400,000 in funding for a pilot program to help former inmates find stable housing when they’re released.
(PD)

Misti Liberti had few available housing options when she was released from jail last fall. Liberti sometimes resorted to couchsurfing with acquaintances she knew before her jail sentence; a big  gamble for someone who has spent years battling chemical dependency.

"When I got out I was kind of at the mercy of staying with people, and you put yourself in a risky environment sometimes. You just go back to what’s familiar," she says.

Montana Capitol.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

The Montana Office of Public Defender is asking lawmakers to allow it to collect fees from people who are in jail or prison. A bill to do that was introduced Friday, and drew a rebuke by one of the office’s own attorneys.

The change proposed by OPD would reverse 2015 legislation that suspends payments by people for their public attorney until after they are released from prison or jail.    

Sen. Jennifer Gross. sponsored Senate Bill 144, which would update laws dealing with stalking and restraining orders. File photo.
Montana Legislature

Native Americans who have been incarcerated in Montana need more help finding housing and re-entering their communities. That’s the premise of a bill introduced in the Montana Senate Friday.

Missoula County Property listings by price range.
Missoula Organization Of Realtors

Missoula County is developing a pilot program to help former prisoners find housing.

No small task in a community with a notoriously tight and expensive rental market.

The Montana Capitol in Helena.
Mike Albans

Governor Steve Bullock has rejected a budget bailout offer from the state’s only private prison in exchange for a revised and extended contract to house Montana’s inmates.

Sally Mauk: Welcome to a special edition of "Capitol Talk" our political analysis program I'm Sally Mauk And I'm joined by University of Montana Political Science Professor Rob Saldin and veteran Capitol Reporter Chuck Johnson.

Chuck, the Legislature met in special session for three days this week to deal with a $227 million budget shortfall. And they've come up with a combination of cuts and transfers and fees to deal with it but not with any new tax increases as the governor had proposed. Republicans of course control the House and Senate, and Chuck they got a lot of what they wanted out of this special session.

Montana Capitol, Helena, MT.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

The Republican party’s keystone bill to patch the state budget passed Montana’s House and Senate Wednesday afternoon nearly along party lines.

House Bill 2 is a package of bills Republican leaders are pressing forward with. Democrats say HB 2 handcuffs them into choosing between the better of two evils. House Bill 2 is the Republicans’ plan to make permanent the $76 million in budget cuts Governor Steve Bullock put in place Tuesday.

The special session of the Montana Legislature got underway with lawmakers still at odds with the Bullock Administration on how to deal with the projected $227 million budget shortfall. One sticking point remains over a proposal to accept $30 million in exchange for extending the contract for a private prison in Shelby another 10 years should be part of the mix. 

Pages