Two Rivers rebuttal

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Big Horn County has been making certain statements recently about the Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in its campaign to gain voter approval to borrow money for the expansion of its own jail facility. Two Rivers Authority respectfully rebuts those statements below (in italics). Here are the facts:


Two Rivers was designed to house 464 inmates, nearly five times the necessary capacity for the county. Due to the Two Rivers facility’s large footprint and staff-intensive layout, safely operating a remodeled 100-bed portion of the facility would require a least 21 FTE vs. the 11 staff members needed for the more efficient, safetyconscious layout proposed by the county.

Two Rivers Authority has, in the past, attempted to explain to the county that it could run the facility and sublet the additional beds to other jurisdictions, which would pay for the whole operation. The county itself notes that closing the current jail and sending inmates to another jurisdiction is not an option because other Montana jails are running at or above capacity. Further, as the county points out, using the Two Rivers Facility would create additional jobs.


Two Rivers is not currently operational and, given the history behind Two Rivers, there is no assurance the facility will be available to serve the county in the future. Big Horn County needs a longterm detention solution that residents can count on, both now and for decades to come.

This rationale is nothing more than empty rhetoric on the part of the county. Big Horn County could have been using the facility for the last 11 years and we would most likely be significantly advanced in servicing the facility’s debt. The “history” of the facility has less to do with its intended use and more to do with a lot of obstructionist politics. Any assurance the county seeks for the long-term use of the facility can be addressed in a contract.


Additionally, Two Rivers’ layout is not secure. Both the Montana Department of Corrections and surrounding counties have declined to utilize the Two Rivers facility, due to its failure to meet minimum national and state jail safety standards.

The county, along with other entities and individuals, has been making the vague claim that the Two Rivers Facility “does not meet standards” for several years. The Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility was designed and built to American Correctional Association standards for an Adult Local Detention Facility. We ask the county to identify in writing a documentable instance of the facility failing to meet an ACA standard.


To purchase and bring the Two Rivers facility up to safety standards, the minimum total costs are estimated at $11 million. In addition, operational expenses for a remodeled 100 bed portion of the Two Rivers facility are estimated to be at least $580,000 more per year compared to expanding the existing county jail.

The Two Rivers Facility does not require remodeling, much less $11 million worth, to “bring it up to standards.” The county may have a preference as to a method of supervision, but that preference is not necessarily “the standard.” Again, Two Rivers Authority challenges the county to specify in writing what documentable safety standard with which the facility does not comply. Further, as has been noted above, the county could fund the entire operation with revenue from leasing surplus beds.

Thank you for the opportunity to present the facts about the Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility. Anyone with questions may contact Jon D. Matovich, Chairman, Two Rivers Authority, at (406) 679-7628, or Jeffrey S. McDowell, Executive Director, Two Rivers Authority, at (406) 529-0113.