GREAT FALLS — Local, state, and federal correctional and law enforcement agencies from across Montana teamed up this week to swap Montana Department of Corrections’ (DOC) inmates and U.S. Marshals Service detainees between Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby and Great Falls Regional Prison.
The DOC said in a news release on Thursday that the move was the culmination of a plan announced earlier this year following an order by President Joe Biden to the U.S. Department of Justice to phase out its contracts with private prison companies such as CoreCivic, which owns and operates Crossroads Correctional Center.
“Cascade County saw this as an opportunity to help the U.S. Marshal Service respond to the President’s order, while at the same time, alleviating overcrowding at GFRP by moving Montana Department of Corrections’ inmates to Crossroads,” Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said. “The U.S. Marshals have fewer detainees than the DOC, allowing us to use that space to keep more people who pose a danger to our community off the streets.”
DOC director Brian Gootkin agreed ending the state’s contract with Cascade County for 152 beds at GFRP was in the best interest of all parties, including the inmates. The 2021 Montana Legislature agreed to end the regional prison contract with Cascade County, allowing the move to take place.
“Crossroads has more services available related to recreation space, education, behavioral health, religious offerings and more,” Gootkin said. “It’s key to the department’s mission that we create a safer Montana through accountability, rehabilitation and empowerment. This collaborative agreement definitely furthers that.”
Over the past two days, the DOC moved 65 DOC inmates to Crossroads.
In addition to the DOC, U.S. Marshals, CoreCivic, and the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, agencies involved in the transfer included the Montana Highway Patrol, and the Pondera County and Toole County Sheriff’s offices. Support measures were also in place just in case any medical issues came up during transport.
“I felt this operation was one of the most professionally ran and well-executed missions I have been a part of from the team leaders down to each and every individual operator,” said Acting U.S. Marshal Timothy Hornung. He added that the prisoner transport was a large operation by Montana standards.
Crossroads Warden Pete Bludworth said CoreCivic was pleased to be able to accommodate the new distribution of inmates.
“One of the ways we provide value to our partners is offering flexibility in how they manage their populations,” Bludworth said. “We are also proud of the robust reentry programming and comprehensive services provided at Crossroads and we stand ready to support our partners as their needs evolve.”