HELENA — The Montana Department of Corrections has pledged to strengthen its oversight of a private prison in Shelby after auditors recently found weaknesses in the agency’s monitoring of guard staffing levels, health care services and food service.
Department officials said checks have already been increased to ensure mandatory security staffing levels are being met, and they will build more comprehensive checks in the other areas.
The Legislative Audit Division did not find any major violations at the Crossroads Correctional Center when auditors conducted surprise visits, analyzed prison data and spoke to former inmates.
However, the auditors did report that the department’s on-site contractor assigned to monitor the prison’s health services does not verify that inmates receive timely access to medical care. The department also has not defined the level of review it expects from the contractor and conducts only limited reviews of health services data from the prison, the November report found.
The report also recommended the department strengthen its procedures for monitoring inmate food services, such as reviewing the nutritional content of food served.
The auditors found limitations in oversight that could lead to the department not knowing whether mandatory staffing levels are being met.
But DOC director Mike Batista said in his written response that the department has already set up reviews of shift rosters, payroll logs, video reviews of staff and other checks as a result of past violations discovered in audits.
Batista pledged to increase the review of shift rosters each month.
The department also “will build a more comprehensive reporting and compliance check for medical access and timeliness requirements” for its health care monitoring contractor, Batista said. He added that the department’s dietician will review the prison’s menu annually.
DOC spokeswoman Judy Beck said Wednesday she did not have further comment beyond Batista’s response to the audit.
The Shelby prison houses about 600 state inmates and is owned by Corrections Corporation of America.
The company has a 20-year contract with the state that is up in 2019, and lawmakers last year began studying whether to extend the contract for another five or 10 years.
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