Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hard Luck, Montana

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The 3,600 residents of Hardin, Montana, thought they had come up with a sure-fire way to stimulate the local economy a couple of years ago when they floated a $27 million bond issue to build a state-of-the-art prison that would hold 464 inmates. The facility would be leased to a private prison company, and up to one hundred locals would be hired to work there. Those technical or licensed positions that could not be filled by Hardin residents would attract high-salaried individuals from the outside who would, of course, purchase local goods and services - and homes. Although the good people of Hardin had no contracts to fill the prison with inmates, their politicians felt that the state was implicitly implying that it would support the facility.


Hardin sued the state for the political equivalent of breach-of-promise, and won the case. But still the prisoners did not come. Montana has a law on the books that prohibits the importation of prisoners from other states, and there was apparently no pressing need for more prison space. (Although the closest county jail has to turn away minor offenders because their prisoners are already stacked too high.) The $27 millions dollars in bonds went into default last year.

So, there is a new prison - a high quality prison - sitting vacant on forty acres near Hardin, Montana. When President Obama announced that Gitmo would be closed and its prisoners moved, the folks in Hardin sensed that Christmas might be about to happen. Their city council voted unanimously to offer up the empty prison for any or all of Gitmo's 240 "detainees." Yup, the people that nobody wanted had a safe lock-up waiting in Hardin, Montana. Bring 'em on!

But once again Hardin was foiled by its state politicians. Senator Max Baucus, who can be semi-intelligent if it suits him, said that he feels for the poor folks of Hardin, but..."we're not going to bring al-Qaeda to Big Sky Country - no way, not on my watch!" So much for being supportive of community development.

It can hardly be a safety issue, because if there is any state in the union that is better armed than Arizona, it has to be Montana. Any prisoner who managed to escape this maximum security facility would step into a frenzy of flying lead. It would be a bigger deal than elk season!

And water-boarding could be retired for good. One bitch of a Montana winter would have those terrorists spilling their guts about everything!

Hardin is missing the economic gravy train due to the political cowardice of its entire (3-person) Congressional delegation. The good folks of Hardin can kiss their $27 million good-bye thanks to the NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitude of a pack of dumbass political yahoos.

I am not a fan of privately run prisons, feeling they could easily become breeding grounds for all manner of abuse. But, they seem to be working in Arizona. So, if the people of Hardin have a prison waiting, and want the Gitmo prisoners - let's get it going!

And if that doesn't work out - McDonald County, Missouri, is still available. I will personally buy some of those bonds!


Anonymous said...

Private prisons aren't "working" in Arizona or anywhere else unless you cound frequent escapes and murders as "working." They have all sorts of problems. In Eloy's CCA-owned La Palma, there's hardly a day goes by without an assault on staff.

Hardin Montana has a vastly overpriced miimum security facility that should never have been built. Texas hucksters made off with millions in investor money.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Hey Anonymous,

I'm not doubting what you say about private prisons, because you obviously seem to be plugged into the system. I know that anytime something that should be handled by the government is given over to contractors, employees often get screwed - long hours, low pay, and few rights. I also know that in any type of prison system prisoners are open to abuse.

Unfortunately, we do not hear much about Arizona private prison abuse here in Arizona. I would be very interested in learning more.

I am concerned about your reference to escapes. I've been here a year and a half and have not heard of any prison escapes in this state. Our county sheriff lost a high profile prisoner recently, but that is the only escape that I have seen reported in the local press.

I would also be very interested in learning more about the scam by the Texas hucksters that you mentioned.

I'm going to research your allegations and would welcome sources or other information. What you have presented is very interesting. If these local private prisons are as awful as you claim, we need to start making some noise about it.

Many thanks.

Rocky Macy
Litchfield Park, AZ