The case of a drug-addicted man accused of burglarizing the same Missoula pharmacy twice in less than two years raises questions about the level of state oversight that offenders receive.
Andrew H. Bagley, 26, has been under state supervision since November 2007, when a Missoula judge sentenced him to five years in the custody of the Department of Corrections, and 10 more on probation. The previous May, Bagley burglarized the SavMor Pharmacy, cleaning out the store's entire supply of oxycodone.
After spending more than a year in jail and at a halfway house in Butte - time spent sober, according to his counselors - Bagley returned to Missoula to live on "conditional release," working as a cook outside of town.
Two weeks ago, police again arrested Bagley outside the same SavMor Pharmacy. He now faces being labeled a persistent felony offender and a hefty prison term.
But Bagley's former case manager said the situation begs the question: How closely was he monitored?
"Andrew obviously failed himself, but I think the system also failed him to a degree," said Steve Gallus, who co-chairs the state's Corrections Advisory Council, along with Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger. "I think it also points to how addictive these opiates are, and how few treatment opportunities are available to addicts."
Gallus, of Butte, has represented District 37 in the Montana Senate since 2004, and before that served as a member of the Montana House of Representatives. Last week, Gallus said Corrections officials met to discuss whether the department could increase its drug testing and overall supervision of probationers.
But it has always boiled down to a matter of balancing resources.
"Under the current system, there's just not enough troops in the field to make sure that people like Andrew don't fall through the cracks," Gallus said. "Basically, it would be too costly to administer enough tests to everyone on probation and parole. To test everyone three to five times a week would be extremely costly."
Now, 143 officers shoulder responsibility for supervising approximately 8,900 offenders in communities throughout Montana - roughly two-thirds of all offenders managed by the department. An officer typically maintains between 75 and 100 offenders on his or her individual caseload.
In fiscal year 2008, the Division of Probation and Parole supervised about 81 percent of the nearly 13,000 offenders under the Department of Corrections' jurisdiction, a population larger than all but seven of the state's 129 cities and towns, according to the department's biennial report.
In an interview last week at the Missoula County Detention Facility, Bagley said he won't blame anyone but himself for his current situation. He could have told his probation officer that he was using dope, he said, and saved himself a lot of trouble.
Still, Bagley said he was never tested for drugs after returning to Missoula, and no probation officer ever came knocking at his door, even though he was living just one block away from the pharmacy he'd burglarized before.
In the two weeks before his arrest, Bagley said, he cut himself off from friends and family and did nothing but shoot prescription opiates at his house.
Bagley had addressed his chemical dependency, to an extent, in group sessions while at the Butte Pre-release Center - where he was frequently tested for drugs - and even attended Narcotics Anonymous classes after returning to Missoula. But he never got the kind of in-patient treatment that experts say is necessary to kick an opiate habit.
"I've been using dope for 10 years," Bagley said. "You can't just wash that out with two months of treatment."
Many of the newly developed Corrections-based addiction programs focus on methamphetamine, and there is no clearly designed treatment protocol for opiate addicts. Meanwhile, most state addiction services available to the public are either harried by waiting lists or are unaffordable to most addicts. Others are so underfunded they offer only standard treatment, which barely gets addicts past the withdrawal stage. If addicts cannot afford private treatment, they find that public beds across the state are full.
In Gallus' view, state policymakers still haven't grasped Montana's opiate problem, and said Bagley's story is a perfect example of the addictive potential of pharmaceuticals.
"I really thought Andrew was going to be one of the few success stories that I would be able to tell about my time working with offenders. And I think if he had had closer supervision and more testing that he would have had a better chance to succeed," said Gallus, who no longer works for the Department of Corrections. "I think Andrew wanted more than anything to succeed, and if we can get more supervision for people like Andrew, it will hopefully give them more incentive to stay clean."