HELENA (AP) - A private company began transporting prisoners around the state this weekend, taking over the job from Montana's sheriffs under a $308,500 contract with the governor's office.
Until Friday, sheriffs had done the job with no state compensation.
TransCor of America is a division of Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the state's only private prison, the Crossroads Correctional Center at Shelby. The contract expires in June 2005.
Moving prisoners through the state had been the responsibility of Montana's 56 counties, but the task had become increasingly time-consuming and costly, said Kathy McGowan, one of the leaders of the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.
The state paid counties nothing for the service or for housing inmates, although 72 percent were not the legal responsibility of the counties. That 72 percent were merely passing through the state on their way to court dates in other places.
Counties assumed not only the cost of moving the inmates, but also of housing them in county jails for days and weeks if the inmates could not be moved through the state in one day.
McGowan said the Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association had hoped to get some state reimbursement for prisoner transportation without changing the system, but that proved impossible.
TransCor will not move all prisoners in Montana. Counties are still responsible for a few categories, such as moving recently convicted people to prison or moving people around for county arrest warrants.
The state prison will continue to run its own prisoner transportation program, but may use TransCor when it's convenient, Warden Mike Mahoney said. The prison moves only those inmates under its own custody, Mahoney said.