Corrections Dept. accountability bill rolling through Legislature | 406 Politics

“There’s been kind of a lack of communication,” Lynch said Thursday. 

Proponents say Lynch’s bill, one of several to come out of the Criminal Justice Oversight Council, would give them better data to work with on how sentencing terms play out. Committee Chair Barry Usher, a Republican who represents rural Yellowstone and Musselshell counties and is also a member of the oversight council, endorsed Lynch’s bill Thursday. There were no opponents.

The Senate turned out a version of the bill that included the requirement for the Department of Corrections to report its reasoning for not following the judge’s recommendation, rather than simply reporting that the sentence recommendation wasn’t followed. 

“In the event (the judge’s recommendation isn’t followed), we don’t want to tie the DOC’s hands as they gather more information about the offender and the particular needs they may have,” Lynch told the committee. “Maybe something else came to light, maybe new crimes or maybe success within the system. The reality is that there was not a two-way conversation happening.”

Brian Gootkin, who was confirmed Thursday as the new director of the Department of Corrections, appeared at Thursday’s hearing as an informational witness, but said the department is already working to bridge the information gap. 

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