Montana Department of Corrections still monitoring heating systems at its facilities

Montana State Prison
Posted at 4:36 PM, Jan 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-15 18:36:01-05

HELENA — Leaders with the Montana Department of Corrections said Monday that they plan to keep monitoring heating equipment at correctional faciliites across the state for one more day, as they continue to deal with sub-zero temperatures.

Department leaders said they set up an “Incident Command System” after a boiler malfunctioned at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge Friday night. In a news release Monday, DOC director Brian Gootkin said the group had been working night and day.

“We’re happy to report we have had no new major heating issues affecting inmates in the past 24 hours and we continue to troubleshoot as problems come up,” he said.

Leaders said one of two boilers at MSP’s Work Reentry Center malfunctioned, causing temperatures to drop in a building that houses about 180 of the more than 1,500 inmates at the prison. The department said a boiler failed Saturday night at the Pine Hills Correctional Facility in Miles City, which houses about 80 adult inmates and 30 juveniles.

In both cases, DOC leaders say they were able to repair the boilers within hours. They said they provided extra blankets to inmates who needed them and placed portable heaters in common areas.

“I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to members of the DOC team who have not only been managing these weather-related emergencies over the past few days, but performing their regular jobs in these conditions,” said Gootkin. “When temperatures become this extreme, it affects everyone in the state. We are fortunate to have our dedicated staff and community partners to help us keep everyone safe and secure.”

The department said, with temperatures expected to rise above zero on Tuesday, they plan to wind down the ICS then, unless other issues arise.

MTN was contacted by several people who said they had heard from family members at MSP that some areas of the prison had continued to experience heating issues after the boiler repair. A spokesperson for the department told MTN there was a minor issue with the heating system in one of the higher-security “High Side” units Monday morning, but it was easily fixed, and that they were continuing to respond to issues as they come up.