Wagswoofs – On November 14th, Montana began transferring inmates to a privately-run prison located in southern Arizona. The initial group of 30 people left on that day, with the goal of alleviating overcrowding at state facilities. However, the contract received criticism from Democrats who voiced concerns about the level of oversight at the facility.
During a meeting with the Law and Justice Interim Committee on Wednesday, November 15th, Cynthia Wolken – the Deputy Director of the Montana Department of Corrections – announced that the agency will be transferring 120 male prisoners to CoreCivic’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona.
CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based company, operates various private prisons throughout the United States, including one in northern Montana. The company’s Arizona facility has a capacity of 1,896 beds, and it currently houses inmates from Hawaii and Idaho. According to company filings, the facility holds 875 inmates from Hawaii and almost 600 from Idaho.
During a recent legislative hearing, Wolken reported that the new capacity is relieving the pressure on facilities such as the Montana State Prison and jails that are operating at their maximum capacity. He added that this additional capacity has provided some breathing room, enabling them to transfer individuals from overcrowded facilities to the new capacity.
According to state data, the Montana State Prison currently houses over 1,500 inmates, exceeding its capacity by approximately 40 individuals.
This year, legislators passed a bill to increase the capacity of Montana State Prison. Additionally, they approved the allocation of funds, amounting to almost $4 million per year, for the operation of 120 out-of-state beds. Despite some opposition, the decision was made to support the construction and expansion of the prison’s facilities.
After the contract announcement this week, two Democratic congressmen on the Law and Justice Interim Committee expressed their concern in a news release. According to them, Montana will be sending the money to a private corporation located outside the state, and there may be minimal to no oversight.
In a news release on Thursday, the Montana Department of Corrections stated that they will ensure that the treatment resources and programs available to inmates at CoreCivic’s Arizona facility are on par with those offered in Montana.
YPR reached out for a comment but was informed by a spokesperson that the department is not conducting interviews concerning the matter.