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Montana Department of Corrections Invests $3 Million for Tech Upgrades

Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
Montana Department of Corrections
Montana Department of Corrections
Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.

The Montana Department of Corrections announced Monday it’s upgrading technology at its facilities using funds from its annual budget and COVID relief money.

The DOC spent nearly $1.8 million of its $225 million budget for fiscal year 2020 to upgrade radios at facilities. The DOC says the radios they’ve been using for the past 12 years sometimes didn’t transmit through the buildings’ walls.

Director of the DOC Brian Gootkin says the upgrades will improve safety and health at detention facilities.

“We’re so far behind as far as technology,” Gootkin says.

The new radios have a life expectancy of 10 years.

According to a press release from the DOC, more than $1.5 million of federal CARES Act funds will pay for new tech, including body scanners, cameras and a digital fingerprinting machine.

Last month Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge started using body scanners, similar to those in airports, for inmates returning from work and reentry centers. Scanners will also be installed at Montana Women’s Prison in Billings and Pine Hills Correctional Facility in Miles City.

Gootkin says the body scanners ensure nothing illegal enters facilities and minimize physical contact between staff, inmates and visitors.

“These body scanners are very thorough so you can see if someone has something inside them or on them that they shouldn’t have,” Gootkin says.