Montana’s prisons are over capacity. The prison population increased 11 percent between FY2008 and FY2015 and is projected to continue to grow 13 percent by FY2023, requiring at least $51 million in new spending. Additionally, the statewide jail population rose 69 percent between 2011 and 2013 and many jails are over capacity.

To address these challenges, Governor Steve Bullock, Chief Justice Mike McGrath, Attorney General Tim Fox, Senate President Debby Barrett, Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, House Minority Leader and Legislative Council President Chuck Hunter, Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso, and Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Mike Batista requested intensive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to use a justice reinvestment approach to assist the state with developing data-driven policy options designed to reduce the prison population, contain corrections spending, and reinvest in strategies that can reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

The Montana Commission on Sentencing—which includes commissioners from all three branches of government, policymakers, and other stakeholders—worked with CSG Justice Center staff to review analyses and develop policy options that will ease capacity issues by focusing prison space and supervision resources on people who are most likely to reoffend, and reduce recidivism by improving access to treatment. By adopting these proposed policies, the state will avert at least $69 million in spending on contract beds and supervision staff and hundreds of millions more that would have been necessary to build new correctional facilities between FY2018 and FY2023 and will be able to reinvest those savings in strategies designed to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

In October 2016, the Commission on Sentencing voted to forward every policy but one as commission bills to the legislature.