Hardin-area residents tour new jail 8-07

HARDIN, Mont. (AP) – Area residents toured a new, $27 million, 464-bed private jail here about a month before the facility is expected to accept its first inmates.

“It’s going to provide a lot of jobs. Hardin needs this,” John Sight said Wednesday while touring the facility owned by Two Rivers Authority – the city’s economic development arm.

Warden Larry Johns said nine people are on staff and 49 – all from Big Horn County – have been offered commitments for employment. Once contracts to hold inmates are in place, the staff will be brought in for five weeks of training, Johns said. The facility eventually expects to have a staff of about 105 and a $2.5 million annual payroll.

Hardin Mayor Ron Adams stressed that the facility is not a prison, but a regional detention center. He said the facility will hold people convicted of misdemeanors and some people waiting to go to trial or be sentenced on federal charges. Some felons may rotate through the facility but won’t serve their sentences there.

Two Rivers Authority is negotiating contracts with the U.S. Marshals Service in Wyoming and the Bureau of Indian Affairs corrections division, said James Klessens, head of the Two Rivers Authority. Both applications are in Washington, D.C., for review by federal officials. The BIA has suggested that 50 to 80 inmates could be held, he said.

The facility will charge $58.50 a day per inmate, which will cover housing and some basic programming, Klessens said.

CiviGenics, which is contracted to operate the facility for two years, is paying for its operations. CiviGenics has 14 similar facilities in five states and provides detention and treatment programs in 22 states.

At the longest, a federal inmate could stay about two years. Those convicted of state misdemeanors would have a maximum one-year jail sentence. When people complete their sentence at the center, they will be returned to the arresting agency to complete paperwork before being released, Klessens said.