Making Democracy Work


Consensus of Incarceration,updated 2005

In 1984, The League of Women Voters Billings studied jail expansion and reached consensus that a new jail facility was needed. It has since been built and then expanded.

After the LWVB 2000 study of the womenfs prison in Billings, it became apparent that it is not possible to build to overcome crowding problems. Studies show that alternatives are distinctly more effective with regard to recidivism and rehabilitation. Therefore alternatives are more cost effective for non-violent offenders, especially women. Our 2000 study resulted in serious concern about:

  • 1. The intergenerational aspects of incarceration. Children of incarcerated parents too often grow up to become incarcerated themselves.

  • 2. The numbers of women incarcerated in Montana are higher than other states relative to population.

  • 3. The disproportionate number of incarcerated Indian women.

In 2005, LWV advocates for measures which reunite mothers with their children, rehabilitation counseling, job training, work furloughs and alternatives to prison for care-giving parents.

Criteria for facilities, 1984:

  • 1. Facilities must be able to meet the requirements of federal law and the district court order, including the civil rights of all prisoners, the protection of the public, and the separation of classes of prisoners.

  • 2. There must be provision for long-range growth and flexibility to allow for the ability to respond to philosophical and law enforcement changes over time and to allow for changeover to a regional facility. The goal of a regional jail shall be aggressively pursued.

  • 3. It must be cost effective, now and into the future, utilizing all available resources to supplement property taxes.

  • 4. It must contain satisfactory facilities for women and equality of treatment while imprisoned.