Week 12 Bill Alert: SB 344

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Bill Alert: SB 344

“Allow for adult inmates at Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility”  

- Not just about Pine Hills . . .

 Click here to read this bill

1. Proponents claim this bill is just about retroactively allowing something pine hills has done for awhile - having adult offenders at the youth prison.  But it’s not just about that program.

It is a really big bill - 67 pages long.  It makes significant changes including allowing youth to be sent out of state and allow any “correctional facility” to house both youth and adults.

2. The Department of Corrections has been housing adults at Pine Hills since 2016.  If they wanted a bill to allow this to occur, it could do so in a few short pages. That is not what is happening here.

3. The big sections of the bill are section 5, section 10, and section 33.  They each make important changes to state law.

*Section 5 - it defines a new kind of facility - a correctional facility is now defined as a facility that houses both youth and adults.  These youth can be as young as 10 years old (see section 30 of SB 344)

There are few statutory limitations aside from sight and sound separation in section 17 of the bill.   Any other limitations will be in just administrative rule passed by DOC - not in statute.  This means that under statute, adults of any age can be housed at Pine Hills.  They can be guilty of any offense.  This bill sets no limitations on the population of adult men who will be housed there. 

*Section 10 takes away limitations on the ability of DOC to contract with the federal government and out-of-state entities to house youth.  The DOC currently may only enter into these contracts in certain circumstances.  These are removed in section 10.

*Section 33 authorizes the transfer of youth to facilities under contract with Montana. Current law does not allow them to be placed in facilities not under the jurisdiction and control of DOC.  

*Strangely enough, this bill addresses the requirements for the warden at the state prison in section 51.  It seems to add requirements for the state prison warden and then eliminates the requirements for the warden of the women’s prison. 

This is not a good bill. There needs to be a larger conversation about this program, youth corrections, and the future of correctional facilities. 

The House Judiciary Committee heard SB 344 on March 26th.

Click here for the contact information for the House Judiciary Committee.


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