TRA: County lacks ‘factual evidence’ of detention facility deficiencies

Letter to the Editor
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Big Horn County, in its response to the challenge by Two Rivers Authority to document alleged deficiencies in the Two Rivers Detention Facility (published in the Big Horn County News and the Billings Gazette), offers no factual evidence. Instead, it repeats vague allegations regarding the unsuitability of the Two Rivers Facility and adds some new misleading allegations.

First, Two Rivers Authority has never requested a “bail out.” We have repeatedly tried to engage various jurisdictions regarding the use of the facility, only to be rebuffed with the claim that it “does not meet standards.” This became the ingrained “history” repeated by persons who have never set foot in the facility and especially by the media.

At the Oct. 11 community meeting, Commissioner Fitzpatrick revealed the real obstruction to bringing the facility into operation: political meddling by the State of Montana. Jurisdictions in Montana parroted the vague “standards” line; other out-ofstate jurisdictions and the federal government (BIA and ICE) have indeed expressed interest, the primary obstacle – then and now – being a lack of an operational entity.

The county again cites a “2014 report produced by the National Institute of Corrections” that “documents” deficiencies. The public should be advised that NIC disclaims authorship of this report. It was produced by a consultant who was paid with a Technical Assistance grant from NIC, but who was working for the county. The county also cites a “lack of certification by the American Correction Association.”

At the Oct. 11 public meeting, Commissioner Real Bird acknowledged the county’s ignorance of the ACA accreditation process: this process requires a minimum three-year operating history, which the facility has been unable to achieve because of factors beyond the control of Two Rivers Authority.

It should further be noted that while the county cites the lack of ACA accreditation as an excuse to not use the Two Rivers Facility, Commissioner Real Bird conveniently forgot to tell the audience that not a single county detention facility in Montana, and not even the Montana State Prison, is ACA accredited.

Jeffrey S. McDowell

Executive Director

Two Rivers Authority

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