Whitefish woman takes up fight for prison reform

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A Whitefish woman has joined a national effort targeting prison reform and inmate rehabilitation.

Cassie Monaco, like many people, used to not have a personal stake in the criminal justice or prison systems. But that quickly changed when her then-boyfriend, Chris Camut, told her he had stolen $1.6 million from three companies where he served as chief financial officer. The three companies Camut stole from, including one nonprofit, are involved in the medical field in the Baltimore area.

According to a news release from the United States Department of Justice, Camut was sentenced in May 2016 to 80 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to commit wire fraud. Camut was also ordered to pay restitution of $1,618,951.

Monaco married Camut in 2016, three months before he went to a federal prison in Englewood, Colorado. She said he committed his crimes to help support the lifestyle of his family after he and his first wife divorced.

Monaco has now joined the ranks of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. The group is made up of people who have had family members sentenced for various crimes, typically other non-violent offenses, sometimes associated with illegal drugs.

“We do believe our loved ones should pay for their crimes, but too many overzealous federal prosecutors tack on as many charges as they can and it leads to these lengthy sentences that aren’t appropriate,” Monaco said.

The group is supporting House Resolution 5682, called the First Step Act. The bill’s goal is to give prisoners a motivation to take part in rehabilitation programs by giving them chances for earlier release, and is championed by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law.

The measure sailed through the House of Representatives in May by a 360-59 vote. But proponents of the legislation are concerned that it will never see a Senate vote.

“There is a ton of support for it, but Senator Mitch McConnell may not put it to a vote because it’s an election year,” Monaco said. “And some Democrats are not supporting it because there isn’t enough reform. So many families suffer and the taxpayers suffer with all the spending that goes into keeping these people in prison.”

Families Against Mandatory Minimums is holding a rally Tuesday, July 10 in Washington, D.C. to urge support for the measure. Monaco said she will be speaking there.

“If we can get a vote, it’ll pass, we’re confident of that,” Monaco said.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at (406) 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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