Responding to a request from the Montana Department of Corrections, Governor Steve Bullock and Major General Matthew Quinn have activated the Montana Army National Guard to provide operational assistance at Montana State Prison, where staff and inmates have been impacted by COVID-19.
The facility saw its first positive cases among staff and inmates earlier in October. Since then, 61 staff members and 166 inmates have tested positive for the virus. The facility has a total of 701 staff members and an inmate population of 1,407.
“We’re extremely grateful to Governor Bullock and Major General Quinn for providing us the help we need during this difficult time,” DOC Director Reginald D. Michael said Monday. “Similar to other prisons across the country, we are in need additional staffing support at MSP. This scenario is a part of our COVID-19 response plan, and this measure will allow our staff members to continue to do their important public safety work with aid from the MTARNG.”
Volunteer soldiers from the 1-163rd Combined Arms Battalion, 190th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and the 484th Military Police Company arrived in Helena on Sunday to participate in training for their assignment at MSP. The group of 67 soldiers are scheduled to begin their orientation at the prison Monday afternoon and assume their duties Tuesday.
The soldiers will be assisting with duties including distribution of mail, laundry, inmate counts, and delivering meals, ensuring that MSP staff is available to manage the additional tasks presented by COVID-19 at the facility.
Soldiers will not be armed, and their direct contact with inmates will be minimized. The MTARNG team will be split into two groups, each working 12-hour shifts.
The DOC continues to screen its employees, and now the MTARNG soldiers, every day when they report for work at the prison. MSP staff and the soldiers also wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
The team’s mission at MSP is anticipated to be completed by Nov. 8, 2020.