Statement of Purpose
The Prison Issues Board was formed as a temporary task force in 1999 by then-Director Rick Day. Creation of the task force came at a time when the Montana prison system was expanding significantly.
Until then, Montana had only one facility for adult male inmates (Montana State Prison) and one facility for females (Montana Women’s Prison). But the state had more inmates than it had capacity in the two facilities, so inmates were placed in various out-of-state prisons during the mid-1990s. To address the problem, the state entered into agreements with three counties (Missoula, Dawson and Cascade) for construction and operation of regional prisons and with a private company (Corrections Corporation of America) for building and operating a private prison in Shelby, Mt.
The state was in the process of bringing these prisons into the corrections system in 1999 when the task force began.
Director Day saw the need to bring the administrators of the new facilities together with department officials to discuss and resolve problems as they arose. The creation of the Prison Issues Board was critical to making the expanded prison system more cohesive and to enact standard policies governing all facilities.
The Contract Placement Bureau chief chairs the task force and the bureau staff provides logistical support. Each prison administrator and the Montana Correctional Enterprises (MCE) administrator attend or sends a designee to the public meetings. The department director/designee and each administrator have a vote on major issues and policies; the chairman breaks tie votes. The department provides legal, information technology, fiscal, medical, policy and other support as requested by the group.
Since the board’s creation, the regional prison in Missoula was transformed into an assessment and sanction center, so it is no longer represented on the board.
The board addresses such issues as inmate welfare funds, security threat groups and facility activities. Each meeting includes a roundtable discussion in which each facility and MCE representative provides a quick overview of events or issues with which they deal. This provides board members the opportunity to further discuss new or ongoing issues that impact the inmate population, staff and overall public safety. Each meeting also includes a public comment period. Written public comment sent in to the board must be received by the chairman at least one day prior to the meeting, otherwise it will be held until the next meeting. The board may or may not respond to public comment and any responses will be in writing by the next meeting.
The board continues as a meaningful forum to discuss and resolve issues; adjust, change or create policies; and communicate among wardens and facility administrators. The world of corrections changes constantly and the board assists the leaders of Montana’s secure care adult facilities in dealing with the changes in uniform, constructive ways.
The board was meeting on a quarterly basis but has decided to try three meetings per year, to normally be held in May, January and September. The board agendas, meeting times and locations, and meeting summaries are published on this website.