The Montana Department of Corrections has asked for more information from two competitors bidding to operate one of its programs. One of the competitors is a jail financed by revenue bonds that is sitting empty without inmates or revenue.

The 464-bed Two Rivers Detention Center in Hardin was financed with a $27 million tax-exempt revenue bond issue sold in 2006 through the Two Rivers Authority. It was built to generate jobs for the small town of Hardin, but was unable to land contracts for inmates after construction was finished in 2007.

It is one of two bidders for the Corrections Department’s sanction, treatment, assessment, revocation, and transition program.

The goal of the START program is to use short-term incarceration, coupled with assessment and treatment of offenders’ needs, to help them get back on track and return successfully to their communities.

The other bidder is Community, Counseling, and Correctional Services Inc. of Butte, which has operated the program since it was started on a trial basis in 2005.

The contract expires in December, and the Corrections Department issued an request for proposals to continue the program on a permanent basis.

Gary Willems, chief of the agency’s contracts management bureau, sent both parties letters asking them to elaborate on their initial proposals, according to a news release issued by the department.

In a letter to Two Rivers, the department required the organization to clarify or provide additional information in regard to its financial stability, rate estimate, and ability to accept inmates within two months of being awarded the contract.

The Corrections Department also asked for information concerning the Two Rivers Authority’s mission, goals, and site. The letter to CCCS required clarification on the daily rate the company would charge the state to house offenders.

Responses are due Monday.

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