Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. (Provided by the Montana Department of Corrections.)
Following a meeting between Gov. Greg Gianforte, lawmakers and the state department of corrections leaders, an entire unit at the Montana State Prison remains closed with no immediate reopening plans.
“The department does not have any immediate plans to reopen the F Unit at MSP. However, the DOC is continuously evaluating the most effective and efficient ways to use available space and resources,” Montana Department of Corrections spokesperson Carolynn Bright said in an email.
Last Tuesday, Department of Corrections Director Brian Gootkin met with Gov. Greg Gianforte, Law and Justice Interim Committee chair Sen. Jon Esp, R-Big Timber, and Rep. Donavon Hawk, D-Butte, to discuss chronic staffing issues at the state prison.
“All we did was talk about retention and recruitment … it was a pretty simple meeting, not a lot came out of it other than the commitment to improve retention and look at new ways to recruit,” Esp told the Daily Montana.
“The Montana Department of Corrections and the Governor’s Office engaged in a productive conversation with legislators last week and we look forward to continuing the discourse in the future,” Bright said in an email. The governor’s office did not respond to multiple emails asking about the meeting.
The state prison, outside of Deer Lodge, is a 1,600-person men’s prison. And citing staffing shortages the state shut down the F Unit of the state prison in early May for the first time in 30 years. Bright said about 20 percent of 328 correctional officer staff positions at MSP are unfilled at any given time.
“The DOC cares about the well-being of its staff and has been seeking innovative ways to alleviate the strain on MSP employees. The closure of F-Unit was a new concept that made sense for the facility at this time,” Bright told the Daily Montanan in May.