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Montana Has Second Largest Private Prison Population in U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed President Barack Obama's efforts to phase out private prisons. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed President Barack Obama's efforts to phase out private prisons. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
September 11, 2017

HELENA, Mont. – Montana has the nation's second largest population incarcerated in private prisons.

According to the criminal justice reform group The Sentencing Project, the state's private prison population grew by 50 percent between 2000 and 2015, and now tops 40 percent of the people in prison.

Montana's only private prison is the Crossroads Correctional Facility near Shelby. It's run by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private corrections company in the country.

Nicole Porter, director of advocacy for the The Sentencing Project, says prisons with a profit motive inevitably have safety issues.

"Private prison companies don't pay their guards and correctional staff the same rate that public prisons do,” she points out. “They also don't invest in the training and professional development resources that public prisons do, and are required to do in order to get the accreditation."

In 2016, President Barack Obama laid the groundwork to phase out private prisons at the federal level, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has since reversed that.

Montana state officials still are deciding whether to renew CoreCivic's contract at the Crossroads facility, which is up in 2019. Porter says this gives Montana a chance to follow in the footsteps of other states.

"State lawmakers and correctional officials, and the people following corrections trends, should be aware that other states this year have phased out contracts, despite the national shift from the Obama administration to the current administration," she stats.

Since 2000, six states have banned private correctional facilities.

The Sentencing Project says the private prison population has decreased 8 percent since its peak in 2012, when more that 137,000 people were incarcerated in private facilities across the country.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT