Montana State Prison vacant guard positions at 35% in August

Posted at 1:54 PM, Aug 25, 2022

HELENA — More than a third of Montana State Prison’s correctional officer positions were vacant in mid-August, according to the Montana Department of Corrections.

In a letter to an interim legislative committee, DOC Director Brian Gootkin said 90 of the 257 correctional officer positions at the Montana State Prison were vacant as of Aug. 12, which is about 35% Since May 10, the prison hired eight new correctional officers, but lost 22.

The Aug. 22 letter from Gootkin was sent to the Law and Justice Interim Committee in response to questions the committee asked Gootkin during a June meeting.

Last Friday, the Montana State Prison employee union picketed the prison and called out leadership for failing to retain employees.

In March, the DOC worked within its budget to increase wages for correctional officers by $2 an hour. However, DOC cannot increase it's own budget,said DOC spokesperson Alexandria Klapmeier, in an email Thursday.

DOC will work with the Governor's office and lawmakers in the next session "to attempt to increase officer wages," Klapmeier said.

The next Law and Justice Interim Committee meeting is Monday Aug. 29 and lawmakers are scheduled to discuss Gootkin's letter as part of their oversight of DOC.