DEER LODGE — Several complaints have been given to state lawmakers from relatives of inmates serving time in the Montana State Prison about the many changes in visiting hours.
They said the state's new policies on visitation at the prison are limiting vital time with their loved ones. The changes include requiring visitors to register and sign up on line to schedule meetings rather than coming to the prison on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“I have tried four times to get in to see my son,” says Edie Shreves, a mother from Helena. “I do not think it's fair … that I can't see him.”
While the prison has opened visiting days publicly from two days to four, the state is condensing each inmates time to one two-hour visits each week.
Inmate's relatives, and their advocates, told a legislative committee Monday that the prison also reduced the number of visiting tables for the 1,600 inmates at the State Prison in Deer Lodge.
Visits can also be canceled due to staffing shortages. State corrections officials say higher-security and other required duties must be present during visits, so visitor services may be cut.
“We need to get the inmates being able to talk to their families, says Edie Shreves. “and if it means back to having longer visitation, we go back to having longer visitations.”
Those speaking for inmates said visits not only help prisoners stay close to their family, but also get them ready to transition back to society. They said because of that, more visiting time is needed.