BOZEMAN — The Director of the Montana Department of Corrections says it’s time to open doors back up to visitors, volunteers and family.
Director Brian Gootkin said he toured the Women’s Prison in Billings last month and that’s when he said it became evident.
“They haven’t seen their kids face-to-face in over a year, and I think that’s what really hit me thinking as a parent. And these poor kids that haven’t seen their parents,” said Gootkin.
“So that’s when I started to meet with our command staff and said what do we need to do to get this reopened”.
Gootkin says the Women’s Prison is the first to reopen to visitors on April 24th, the Men’s Prison in Deer Lodge on April 29th and the Pine Hills Correctional Facility will also reopen to visitors this month on the 29th.
“We’re paying attention and we’re looking at the COVID, we’re looking at those numbers we’re working really closely with not only DPHHS but also the local health departments because every one of our facilities is in a different health department,” Gootkin added.
And Gootkin says the COVID-19 vaccine availability helps, reporting around half of the inmates are opting to take the vaccine.
“Any inmate that wants to be vaccinated has the opportunity to be vaccinated right now. This month has been the deal breaker as far as being able to get the vaccines and having the availability.”
In the meantime, at Gallatin County at the Detention Center, visitation has been running normally for the last nine months. And inmates will soon have a chance to get the vaccine if they choose to.
“So we’ve just started that conversation because we wanted to make sure that the population had the opportunity to get the vaccines that they wanted,” said Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer.
“With that being said, that the demand is low in the general public, and so whatever vaccines are left we are talking about bringing them and doing vaccines within the facility.”
Sheriff Springer says the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and Community Health Partners are working to set up a clinic in the detention center in the near future.
He also reports 11 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Detention Center since the start of the pandemic.