Montana is Experiencing Crisis with Overcrowded Prisons
Date:  12-11-2014

People are put on a waiting list to enter prisons
Modern life is filled with waiting. We wait in line at the grocery store, at banks and restaurants. We are put on waiting lists for elective surgery, jury duty and even sometimes for job promotions. Our children are put on lists for consideration to attend kindergarten at a highly rated school, and then later in life might be put on a waiting list to get into the university of their choice. But being put on a waiting list to get into prison is adding insult to injury.

Yet, that is the problem in Montana. The Billings Gazette reports that Montana has seen a jump in violent crimes which carry longer sentences, which mean people are not being released as quickly as they are pouring in.

One solution to the overcrowding might be to halt sentencing people to prison for minor crimes, and instead offer alternatives to incarceration. Another solution would be to release those already incarcerated for a non-violent crime, keeping Montana’s prisons as a place to house those who are convicted of a serious crime. Instead, the Gazette reports that the warden of Montana’s state prison in Deer Lodge remarked “We’ll find room for them somewhere,” even if “somewhere” means the floors of jails or in private prisons.

Besides overcrowding being a security problem for correctional officers, it is expensive and may spread air- borne infectious diseases among those crammed into prisons that are far above capacity. It may also mean that those who are behind bars might not be treated for illnesses in a timely manner or may be overlooked as having mental health issues. Crowded cells also raise the level of tension and that might lead to fights, or even murders, among those who are sentenced to prison.

And, adding to the problem, while Montana’s prison population rises, the number of correctional officers has declined, forcing the state to implement aggressive recruitment drives to entice more people to become a correctional officer in the state.

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