Prisoner increase leads to shortfall

Montana State Roundup

Published May 1, 2002  | May 2002 issue

The state Corrections Department faces a current budget shortfall of $1.8 million, according to a report prepared for the Legislative Finance Committee. The prison system already has 127 more inmates this year than were anticipated.

Over the past four years, the inmate population grew about 7.4 percent annually, thus filling the spaces created by a prison building surge in the late '90s. Prior to the construction of state facilities in Great Falls, Glendive and Missoula and a private prison in Shelby, hundreds of Montana inmates were sent to out-of-state prisons.

To fill the budget shortfall, the department has suggested alternatives to jailing parole or probation violators and putting more of them into less-expensive treatment programs. In addition, a new Butte treatment center for repeat drunk-driving offenders could save the state $2.5 million in prison costs next year.

Kathy Cobb