In the Media
Cascade County Detention Center population was at 143 percent of capacity as of Wednesday afternoon, higher than average, said Commander Dan O’Fallon, but becoming uncomfortably normal.
Department of Corrections officials announced Tuesday that 30 inmates are the first accepted into a new chemical dependency treatment program at the state prison in Deer Lodge.
The Department of Corrections said recently it opened a chemical dependency treatment program at Montana State Prison, a move that may bring change to a Great Falls facility that helps criminal offenders be returned to society with a new program that helps veterans who have had encounters with the law.
One in ten Montanans deal with substance abuse in some way and a shift in the way the country thinks about addiction is changing the way people get treatment.
A deal on fixing the state’s budget woes could materialize in coming days and a special session could follow shortly after, the governor’s budget director said Wednesday, however some Republicans are less certain something can be worked out.
Earlier this year, we worked across the aisle with colleagues in the Legislature and Gov. Steve Bullock to pass a series of bills to reform Montana’s criminal justice system. These reforms included bipartisan, data-driven approaches that save taxpayers money, improve outcomes for offenders, keep Montana communities safe, and provide more treatment options to address underlying mental health and substance abuse disorders.
The suite of bills that HB 133 was passed with were the product of a bipartisan legislative interim committee that spent 13 months studying Montana’s sentencing policies and practices, identifying strategies to reduce recidivism and coming up with legislation to help take the burden off the state’s prisons and jails.
A 15-member panel created by 2017 Legislature to ride herd over a slew of new bills targeted at changing Montana’s criminal justice system had its inaugural meeting Wednesday, with members hearing of the hurdles they face.
As Montana launches an ambitious push to reduce the number of criminal offenders in its correctional system, a key piece of the puzzle operates outside state government: Private contractors running community-based programs.
Ex-con Anthony Valderrama has his own business, a home and a family, and has been out of prison for three years – but still faces another 11 years of supervision by the state Department of Corrections, on a drunk-driving conviction.
Under sentencing reforms passed by the 2017 Montana Legislature, that time could be shortened to three or four years, or less.
For the first time in Montana’s history, the state board deciding parole for thousands of criminal offenders now has full-time members with a background in corrections – a key piece of sentencing reforms enacted by the 2017 Legislature.
From prisons to pre-release centers to probationary supervision, Montana has 15,000 criminal offenders on the books – an amount projected to grow in coming years, even though crime rates have been relatively stable or declining.
As part of a new initiative, eight governors agreed to meet with inmates, crime victims and corrections staff to better understand how their criminal justice policies impact people.
As part of a national initiative to spotlight successful correctional programs, Gov. Steve Bullock visited the Riverside Correctional Facility here – and heard nothing but praise from women in its re-entry program.
Gov. Steve Bullock held ceremonial signings Wednesday to spotlight legislation to reform Montana’s criminal justice system, calling the 10 bills an “important step.”
Ten bills were passed with bipartisan support during the 2017 Legislative Session and plan to use evidence based programs to help reduce the number of people incarcerated in Montana.
A study released by the Council of State Governments Justice Center this January found that the number of people imprisoned in Montana was expected to grow by 13 percent over the next six years, which could cost the state at least $50 million to manage.
The criminal reform bills might not have passed the Montana Legislature if the 2017 session was business as usual.
Montana has committed several million dollars to fund criminal justice reform measures passed by the 2017 Legislature, but federal government funding to aid future efforts is not yet a sure thing.
This year’s changes in state law and the Department of Corrections budget aim at reform, but may do little to lessen the addiction epidemic driving much of the crime in our state and keeping offenders in the system longer than they would be without their chemical dependencies.
Criminal justice reform advocates are urging lawmakers to repeal mandatory sentences for minor drug offenses, saying they disproportionately affect minorities and lead to prisons crowded with people in need treatment, not incarceration.
Massachusetts residents rallied at the State House Monday, fighting to end mandatory minimum sentences.
Both sides of the aisle came together in the 2017 Montana Legislature to save taxpayer dollars, reduce jail populations, and treat people with chemical dependency issues and mental health issues. Many of these bills came out of the Sentencing Commission, which brought together various groups to perform a comprehensive study of why more money was being spent with worse outcomes. They did an outstanding job. My hat is off to them. Sen. Cynthia Wolken, D-Missoula, chaired the commission, and carried these bills, all of which passed. A too-brief summary of each is as follows:
Dudik, a third-term legislator, was one of three women Democrats from Missoula who led bipartisan groups in the legislative off-season to craft massive reforms on criminal justice issues: updating criminal sentencing to reflect scientific research on recidivism, modernizing sexual assault definitions, restructuring the embattled public defender’s office and fixing a flaw in an anti-bullying law, among others.
Montana’s prison population is over capacity, growing and continuing to put pressure on local jails, but a package of bills before the Legislature this session aims to reverse that trend.
The House Judiciary Committee reviewed a six-pack of bills Thursday that supporters say are aimed at making the state’s justice system more efficient and save money.
The Montana Senate has endorsed three bills aimed at reducing the prison population and its related costs.
The Montana Senate on Wednesday endorsed three bills aimed at reducing the prison population, the number of people on parole and probation and related costs.
The bills that passed on second reading were among several supported by the legislature’s Commission on Sentencing after the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments evaluated Montana’s corrections system and made recommendations to reduce spending and recidivism and improve public safety.
A state Senate panel Wednesday advanced a half-dozen bills designed to reduce Montana’s prison population through sentencing and probation-and-parole reforms – and the primary sponsor told MTN News she won’t be surprised if they pass.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center reentry announced their findings at the State Capitol, after a nearly two-year study. Lawmakers from both parties joined representatives from the Justice Center to back their recommendations.
A series of public safety bills could help Montana avoid nearly $70 million in projected corrections costs and slow down further growth of prison populations by 2023, while enhancing public safety, a study said.
Lawmakers recently released a report that they said would help the state avoid nearly $70 million in estimated corrections costs, increase public safety and avert growth of its incarcerated population.
Last legislative session, we served on the budget subcommittee tasked with overseeing the budget of the Department of Corrections. We became concerned with significant growth in this agency’s budget and created a Sentencing Commission that, for the first time in more than 20 years, took an entry-to-exit look at our criminal justice system. Why the big growth in our inmate population when our crime rate has been stable and relatively low for years? Our goals were to improve public safety and service to victims, hold offenders accountable, and be better stewards of your tax dollars.
Improving Montana’s criminal justice system must be high on the priority list for the 2017 Legislature and governor. Whoever is elected must confront these challenges:
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito is working to launch a program that would give first-time, nonviolent drug offenders the opportunity to get into addiction treatment and out of the criminal justice system faster.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center recently completed a study of the Montana penal system and developed a set of recommendations for reducing the state’s prison population. They include expansion of deferred prosecution programs and drug courts that emphasize treatment over incarceration. A driving force behind the state’s surging prison population are drug arrests, which exploded by 62 percent between 2009 and 2015.
Montana’s jails and prisons are at capacity now. Drug cases and offenders committing new crimes or violating probation/parole conditions account for most of the increase in the number of arrests between 2009 and 2015. In 2015, there were 30,890 arrests in Montana, compared with 26,934 in 2009.
Cathy McVey of the Council of State Governments Justice Center told a state commission studying the prison system that parole boards no longer can just act in a vacuum, and should consider how their decisions impact prison overcrowding and the overall system.
Montana’s overcrowded jails and prisons are prompting state officials to take a serious look at the complex issues behind the rising number of arrests, recidivism and policies that may be responsible for a surge in incarcerations.
Montana could reduce its spending on jails and prisons if detention facilities and treatment programs focused their services on those most likely to re-offend while others could be supervised by an increased number of probation and parole officers, researchers said.
Montana is putting more people in prison than it releases–not necessarily because there are more criminals, but largely because the state keeps arresting the same people over and over. That’s according to a long-awaited report from The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a national nonprofit organization contracted by state legislators to help figure out how to reduce prison spending and jail crowding.
“Despite our state’s falling crime rates, Montana’s prison population continues to grow and our correctional facilities are over capacity,” Gov. Steve Bullock said during a press event to launch the Justice Reinvestment Initiative led by the Commission on Sentencing. “If we continue on the path we’re on now, we will be faced with a prison population that continues to increase along with increased state spending.”
State leaders will review Montana’s criminal justice system, from courts to prison and probation to addiction treatment, in an effort to reverse trends projected to cost taxpayers $82 million over the next nine years.
“A thorough examination of our criminal justice system is long overdue,” Gov. Steve Bullock said recently. “We must determine what is driving the growth in our prison population. We’re at a pivotal moment as our prison population nears capacity, and we must take a proactive and collaborative approach to establishing a more effective system that bolsters public safety.”
Governor Steve Bullock joined District Judge Ingrid Gustafson and leaders from both parties on Wednesday to launch a comprehensive examination of the state’s criminal justice system as Montana faces a growing prison population and costly projections to expand capacity.
Governor Steve Bullock will join District Judge Ingrid Gustafson and leaders from both parties to launch a comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system as Montana faces a growing prison population and costly projections to expand capacity.