Budget cuts would risk prison safety, make jail crowding worse
Published 17 days ago by The Billings Gazette

The Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.

Proposed budget cuts to the Montana Department of Corrections would close a care facility for frail inmates, leave youth sex offenders without a primary housing program and end plans to create a new drug addiction treatment center that observers say was sorely needed.

The cuts would require the state to lay off dozens of workers, adding to the workload of existing staff. More responsibilities would fall to local law enforcement. And routine overcrowding at county jails would almost certainly get worse.

State officials must cut $40.2 million over the current biennium from the DOC — one of the hardest-hit departments under the proposed cuts — or find another way to balance the budget.

Gov. Steve Bullock will have the final say on budget cuts and has urged lawmakers to raise taxes to lessen the blow. A legislative committee meets Monday and Tuesday to make recommendations.

The cuts come amid efforts to reform Montana’s criminal justice system and save the state money in the long run by reducing crowding at jails and prisons, shifting more responsibilities onto probation and parole services and improving treatment opportunities statewide. Now budget cuts could jeopardize those cost-saving reforms.

Closing the infirmary

The cuts call for closing the Lewistown Infirmary. The infirmary has been open to male prison inmates since December 2012. State officials had stressed the need for the facil ...

Added: 16 days ago