Montana State Prison is basically "home" to over 1,600 inmates. The crimes of these inmates vary, as does the level of security needed. Unfortunately, the state prison has run into a problem with security, and it's a big problem.

Recently, the Montana Department Of Corrections announced that they will be ending visitation to inmates INDEFINITELY starting October 31st due to staffing shortages. Only 1/3 of the 257 open positions have been filled.

Some may not see this as a bad thing; you could say, They did the crime they can do the time. Well, I can tell you why this is a less-than-favorable choice.

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Studies from the National Institue Of Corrections, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, found that:

Using multiple measures of visitation (any visit, total number of visits, visits per month, timing of visits, and number of individual visitors) and recidivism (new offense conviction and technical violation revocation), the study found that visitation significantly decreased the risk of recidivism.— National Institute of Corrections

Imagine if we have these inmates that are going to be released back into Montana communities within the next few months, or a year from now (however long it takes to safely staff our state prison) and they have had no visitation from the "outside world". How will that affect their ability to operate as successful members of society?

Furthermore, the NIC states,

While offenders are in prison, visits from family and friends offer a means of establishing, maintaining, or enhancing social support networks. Strengthening social bonds for incarcerated offenders may be important not only because it can help prevent them from assuming a criminal identity (Clark, 2001; Rocque, Bierie, and MacKenzie, 2010), but also because many released prisoners rely on family and friends for employment opportunities, financial assistance, and housing.— National Institute of Corrections

How will this affect how inmates reconnect with their families, friends, job prospects, etc.? Will this make every aspect of their return to normal life more challenging? What will it do to their mental health? It's quite concerning that there isn't a way the state prison can devise a calendar schedule that would allow for some type of (even limited) visitation.

Without visitation, what is the prison doing to try and compensate for the lack of in-person visits?

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On top of the two free weekly calls that inmates already receive, they will be adding two free 20-minute video visitations a week. Is this better than nothing? Yes, but I will tell you, I hope there is a plan in place for when the video system is down and these inmates are not able to make their 20-minute video call.

Will this decision impact the future of released inmates? How will it affect the communities they're released into?

cc: National Institute of Corrections

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