Punished and not let out

Struggles with alcohol landed this Montana man in the justice system, but what kept him there?

Pete Leek from MT

[Pete’s wife interviewed him. This is a summary from the full audio that is available to listen below. Pete has been reluctant to share his story due to fear of retaliation through parole, but he is now sharing hoping that his story will encourage change.]

Pete Leek’s addiction to alcohol eventually landing him in Montana’s State Prison. He was convicted of aggravated assault after threatening his ex-girlfriend in a drunken altercation. He started drinking at a young age after his mom kicked him out. He drank to drown out the pain, “It drowned [out] all my pain and everything I had growing up as a child. So I just kept drinking.” It cost him relationships with loved ones and his children, and then sent him to prison. He felt like his defense lawyer was against him from the beginning, scaring him with a maximum sentence of 150 years if he did not plea despite him having a completely clean record - minus killing a gopher on a ranch as a minor which was thrown out only after he spent over two months in jail.

He received 20 years with ten suspended. “Prison sucked,” he said. “It’s nothing but kids.” He was sent to Montana’s sole private prison, a CoreCivic facility. He said the medical care and food was horrible – chicken with feathers in it.  “They’re just money swindlers,” he said of the private corporation.

Pete said there were financial inconsistencies with a dog program from the Montana Inmate Well fair Fund that he believes originated from prison officials stealing money from the fund.

He was assaulted while in prison – kicked in the head 15 times – but simply stayed in his cell for a month to recover so he could avoid being thrown in solitary. The prison put three bunks to one cell which made it so crammed some inmates would act out just to go to solitary to be alone.

After being denied parole twice, when Pete got out after ten years, he was shocked. The last time he saw people wearing yoga pants was when spandex raged in the eighties. “I almost passed out a couple times when I was in Walmart because my anxiety had me really freaked out.” He wants private prisons like the one in Montana where he experienced poor medical care and dental treatment to disappear.

“I wasn’t the monster they thought I was. It was just a bunch of alcohol,” he said.

Listen to the full interview here.

Pete with his granddaughter.

Read about the how some Houston judges are reforming their courtrooms. [The Marshall Project]


  • Reform: First supervised-injection facility announced in South Philadelphia. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

  • Indepth: Nicholas Sutton was executed last month, he saved lives while in prison. He made a statement with his execution by choosing the electric chair over newer lethal injections. [New York Times]

  • Death: Tyler Perry orders second autopsy of his nephew who was found dead of apparent suicide in a Louisiana prison. [USA Today]

  • Lawsuit: Families sue Alabama over inmate suicides. [Montgomery Advertiser]

  • Update: Jay-Z and Yo Gotti help inmates at 150 Parchman prison in Mississippi over “barbaric” conditions. [NBC]

  • Police shootings: Meth and aggressive tactics place Colorado with one of the highest police shooting rates. [CPR]

The Des drops into your inbox every Sunday with a collection of small and digestible snippets concerning the criminal justice system. It promises to be humanizing, spunky, and educational.
Our name: Des is short for Desmoterion, “place of chains”, used to describe prisons in ancient Athens. We like the idea of the chains because incarceration expands far beyond prisons to laws, policies, belief systems, and private industry.