In this file photo from 2011, Jan Begger stands in front of the Passages women’s correctional facility.
Women at the Passages correctional facility in Billings have complained about intermittent periods without hot water for about three months.
About nine state and federal inmates registered their complaints with their case manager in the past two weeks, said Jan Begger, chief operating officer at Alternatives Inc., which oversees the Passages program.
Passages on the Billings South Side occupies a refurbished hotel. Rather than buy additional water heaters, which cost about $2,000 each, excluding labor, the program is hiring another contractor to reprogram existing units and link their circuits together, said Art Aue, who works in maintenance. The goal is to solve existing problems with the complex water heating system rather than buy more units, he said.
Passages’ usual contractor has taken measures to make the heaters more efficient and has replaced them as needed, but the pandemic’s grip on shipping, and staff shortages among contractors has slowed the process of repair. Maintenance workers waited for six weeks for one replacement heater to arrive in late November, they said.
Begger said the issue is a now a priority.
“Every time I go to take a shower, it’s touch and go,” said Melanie Evans, a resident who hasn’t taken a shower in two days because of the discomfort of the cold water.