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Montana Detention Center May Not House Out Of State, Federal Prisoners

Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath, upon request of Hardin City Attorney Rebecca Convery, issued an opinion that detention center officials lack the authority to contractually house out of state and federal prisoners.

A reportedly $20 million detention center facility, the Two Rivers Detention Center (TRDC) was completed in 2007. Due to prisoners being diverted to prerelease and drug treatment centers, the TRDC's opening was prevented for a lack of contracts for the 250 prisoners needed for economic feasibility. Convery sought an opinion from McGrath allowing the signing of contractual agreements to house out of state and federal felony and misdemeanor prisoners.

McGrath opined that only the Department of Corrections (DOC) had the narrow statutory authority to house such contractual prisoner and only in specific circumstances provided for in Mont.CodeAnn. § 53 30 504. The DOC was allowed to determine the need for such action if overcrowding existed or when an inadequacy regarding certain custody needs could not be met pursuant to Title 50 and Mont.CodeAnn. § 46 19 402 (Interstate Compact). McGrath stated that "No other government entity is authorized to contract to bring prisoners into this State for any purpose" and hence were excluded from statutory listings allowing such placement. McGrath further stated "Moreover, if the facility enjoyed the level of autonomy you describe, it could feasibly fill to capacity with out of state offenders and no longer be liable to the Department for placement of Montana offenders." Source: District Attorney Opinion No. 52 AG. Op. 4 (Mont. 2007); Associated Press Helena, "Attorney General Opinion Kills Civigenics Prison," Dec. 3, 2007.

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