Montana’s budget crisis offered state legislators the opportunity to set aside politics and create budget solutions for Montana. Unfortunately, at a time when the needs of vulnerable Montanans should have created consensus, our elected officials targeted the transgender community for discrimination and kowtowed to the for-profit prison industry.

A Tennessee-based private prison corporation dictated the special session’s budget process. CoreCivic, whose name is synonymous across the nation and in Montana with civil and human rights violations, hamstrung the governor’s office with the help of Republican leaders, forcing through legislation that would easily allow the state to accept a $30 million dollar inducement in return for an extended contract on Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby – the state’s last remaining private prison.

CoreCivic’s business model requires Montanans remain behind bars in order to increase its profit margins and shareholders’ investments. This is in direct conflict with the package of criminal justice reform laws passed by a bipartisan coalition of legislators this spring. These laws were meant to decrease Montana’s prison population and recidivism rates.

As if funneling taxpayer dollars into private prisons wasn’t enough, anti-LGBTQ extremists hijacked the special session to target transgender Montanans. Senate Bill 10 would have rescinded rules that make it easier for trans Montanans to change gender markers on birth certificates. Just before midnight on Tuesday night, opponents filled the committee room and hallway to testify that SB 10 had no fiscal impact and was harmful for Montana. By Wednesday, the bill died without ever being brought to the House floor.

Thank you to everyone who showed up, sent emails, called, and spoke with legislators. Time and time again, Montanans have shown their commitment to human and civil rights and that, when needed, we show up and speak out.

The ACLU of Montana will continue to keep a close watch on any action taken by the governor’s office regarding the contract with CoreCivic and will remain a dedicated participant in the movement for trans lives. 

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