Montana Women's Prison warden Jo Acton to retire

2013-03-20T09:00:00Z 2013-06-21T09:45:05Z Montana Women's Prison warden Jo Acton to retireBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Jo Acton, the longtime warden of the Montana Women's Prison, on Monday announced that she will retire.

On March 13, the Department of Human Resources Bureau placed Acton, who was hired as warden in October 1995, on paid administrative leave pending a review of prison operations as a result of a personnel matter, said Bob Anez, Montana Department of Corrections spokesman.

Acton formally announced her intention to retire in a brief, two-sentence letter sent to Department of Correction Director Mike Batista. She did not state a reason for her retirement.

"I have appreciated the opportunity to work with the talented people in the department and know that many accomplishments will be made in the upcoming years," she wrote in the letter.

Anez did not know if Acton's retirement is related to the review, but he did say that her announcement effectively ends it.

"The leave, of course, ended with her announcement and so did the administrative review that was under way," he said.

He added that the DOC did not ask or force Acton to retire and that it was her own decision.

Acton will be on vacation until April 1, when she will return and spend nearly three weeks helping with transition planning until April 19. At that point, she'll use up unused leave until her July 1 retirement, Anez said.

Deputy wardens Bob Paul and Joan Daly took over prison operations and management when Acton was placed on leave and will continue to do so in her absence. Paul is warden of security, and Daly is warden of treatment.

Before taking over the women's prison at age 43 as Montana's first female prison warden, Acton served as administrator of the Yellowstone County Youth Services Program.

The prison, at 701 S. 27th St. in Billings, houses about 195 inmates.

The process of hiring a new warden has not started. Anez said it wasn't clear if that process would be the same as in the hiring of Leroy Kirkegard, who took over as warden of the state men's prison in 2011.

"It was a national pool of applicants that was sought, and whether that's going to be done at this time or not, I don't know," Anez said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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