Although Montana’s crime rate has been leveling off or decreasing, there were nearly 20,000 thefts (excluding vehicles) reported in 2010 along with over 3,600 burglaries. As of June 30, 2012, 12,759 offenders were under some form of punitive restriction with the Montana Department of Corrections (MDOC).
Twenty percent, or 2,545, of these individuals were in prison, providing jobs for correctional officers in the state. In 2012, 1140 correctional officers in Montana supervised incarcerated individuals. The prison population in Montana is expected to slowly increase over the next several years, and nationally the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for correctional officers will increase 5%.
Becoming a Correctional Officer in Montana
The requirements for those who seek careers as correction officers with the state of Montana include having at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Most of the six state-run correctional facilities in Montana require that the applicants are capable of lifting at least 20 pounds. Before selection, a background check is required.
New employees of the MDOC learn how to become correctional officers through taking the four week Correction/Detention Officer Basic Course that is offered several times a year. Corrections officers must obtain this training with the first year after being hired. A substantial amount of online training is also provided.
This training entails learning about human behavior, along with corrections/detentions operations and skills. Although they are not routinely armed, corrections officials in Montana are also required to receive training in handling firearms. They must qualify annually on their ability to use these weapons.
The Montana Reentry Initiative
The MDOC spends about 44% of its $177 million plus budget on secure custody: taking care of incarcerated offenders. Correctional officers ensure that the institutions are run safely for the prisoners and the public. They help inmates receive treatment and work towards rehabilitation.
Each year about 1,200 inmates are released from prison in Montana. The goal of the MDOC is for these offenders to return to society as productive members who are no longer involved in crime. In 2009, nearly 40% of the men released from prison in Montana had returned to prison over the course of three years following their release. This figure was slightly under 35% for females in the state.
With the goal of creating a safer Montana, the MDOC launched an effort to expand its offering of programs and services designed to improve the likelihood of success for inmates to renter society. The Montana Reentry Initiative was launched with a task force in 2011 to increase the coordination of efforts of correctional officers with those of community partners and other government agencies.
These efforts are focused on the inmates most likely to return to prison. As soon as they enter prison, correctional officers focus on ensuring that the inmates are taking part in the programs designed to help prevent them from reoffending. This includes educational programs and learning job skills.
Correctional Enterprises in Montana
To provide offenders with the skills needed to succeed when they return to society, the Montana Correctional Enterprises (MCE) operates 22 business operations. They do so within six programs that are mostly headquartered near the prison at Deer Lodge. They include:
- Food factory
- License plate production
- Vocational education
The benefits of this program include helping the inmates to develop a strong work ethic and marketable skills.