COVID-19 Assistance for the Justice Community
The ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic requires policymakers and criminal justice practitioners to rapidly adapt their day-to-day operations to the situation at hand. While the pace and scale of the crisis can be overwhelming, the CSG Justice Center is committed more than ever to supporting its members—state and local officials working in all three branches of government in criminal and juvenile justice, behavioral health, housing, and labor.
In partnership with Montana state leaders, the CSG Justice Center is working on several key criminal justice initiatives to increase public safety, including Stepping Up, Face to Face, and Justice Reinvestment.
Justice Reinvestment in Montana
In June 2015, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Montana to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice system challenges.
Montana’s prisons are at capacity due to an 11-percent increase in the prison population between FY2008 and FY2015. The prison population 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—met multiple times between September 2015 and October 2016 to review analyses and develop policy options that will ease capacity issues and reduce recidivism. Of 12 bills recommended by the Commission on Sentencing, Montana enacted nine pieces of legislation. Senate Bills 59, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67, and Senate Resolution 3, sponsored by Senator Cynthia Wolken, and House Bill 133, sponsored by Representative Nate McConnell, codify the justice reinvestment policy framework developed by the Commission on Sentencing.
Signed into law in the spring of 2017 by Governor Steve Bullock, these policies limit the period of incarceration for people sanctioned for low-level violations of the terms of their supervision, prioritize supervision resources for people who are most likely to reoffend, and help counties reduce jail populations. By adopting these 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. Montana will be able to reinvest those savings in strategies designed to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
The legislature appropriated $2.97 million dollars as an up-front reinvestment to develop a pretrial grant program, hire additional supervision officers to conduct presentence investigations, transition the parole board to full-time members, and develop a supportive housing grant program. The CSG Justice Center provided implementation assistance by offering guidance and training to transition the parole board from a part-time volunteer board to a full-time professional board. Additionally, CSG Justice Center staff provided the DOC with guidance and training to incorporate a risk and need assessment into presentence investigations, develop a behavior management system to address incentives and sanctions, and create a program evaluation process. As of February 2019, revocations to prison have fallen 18 percent, while the supervision population grew almost 7 percent during the same year, and an increasing number of people are completing supervision successfully.
- Justice Reinvestment in Montana: Overview (November 17, 2015): This overview highlights recent criminal justice trends in the state.
- Justice Reinvestment in Montana: First Presentation (September 2, 2015): The first presentation to the Montana Commission on Sentencing introduces the justice reinvestment process and provides an overview of recent criminal justice trends in Montana.
- Justice Reinvestment in Montana: Second Presentation (November 17, 2015): This presentation to the Montana Commission on Sentencing introduces the justice reinvestment process and covers information on risk and needs assessments, behavioral health, supervision, and win-wins for local and state governments in other justice reinvestment states.
- Justice Reinvestment in Montana: Third Presentation (March 2, 2016): This presentation to the Montana Commission on Sentencing introduces quantitative analyses on front-end justice system pressures and the Department of Corrections secure, alternative secure, and probation and parole populations in addition to qualitative assessments of the state’s criminal justice system.
- Justice Reinvestment in Montana: Fourth Presentation (June 22, 2016): This presentation to the Montana Commission on Sentencing focuses on evidence-based practices in behavioral health treatment and programming.
- Justice Reinvestment in Montana: Parole Decision-Making in Montana (June 22, 2016): This presentation to the Montana Commission on Sentencing focuses on parole best practices and recommendations on parole decision making, the parole board, and supervision.
- Montana Commission on Sentencing: People in the Criminal Justice System and Community Advocates (June 22, 2016): This presentation to the Montana Commission on Sentencing by community advocates focuses on the experiences of people in Montana’s criminal justice system.
- Montana Commission on Sentencing: Summary of Analyses and Policy Options (June 23, 2016): The fourth presentation to the Montana Commission on Sentencing focuses on a review of data analyses and proposed policy options.
- Justice Reinvestment in Montana: Report to the Montana Commission on Sentencing (January 16, 2017): This report outlines a comprehensive series of policy recommendations developed in collaboration with the Montana Commission on Sentencing.
- Montana’s Justice Reinvestment approach: Curbing State Prison Population Growth and Reinvestment in Local Public Safety Challenges (June 6 , 2017): This publication presents a full summary of the justice reinvestment process and legislation.
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