MISSOULA (Mark R Thorsell) — MISSOULA – The MacArthur Foundation will be giving $700,000 to help reform Missoula County justice system and to try and reduce Missoula County jail population.
Leaders from different agencies inside the criminal justice system gathered Wednesday at the Missoula County Courthouse and discussed why the grant is needed.
“It’s no longer enough to be tough on crime and tough on every criminal and use incarceration as the only mechanism to punish offenders and scare them out of criminal patterns of behavior,” Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst said. “That simply isn’t working.”
Some agencies already have ideas on where the grant money can go
“A program that is near and dear to my heart is Calibrate, and it is a prosecution led pre-trial diversion program that I’ve been working on with my staff in collaboration with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Center for Court Innovation for several years,” Pabst said. “We are really hoping to roll it out in the very near future with some assistance and under the umbrella of the Criminal Justice Coordination Council.”
Some criminal justice reform efforts have already started.
“When I began my law enforcement career, these types of programs were not available and mental health services were non-existent in our facility,” said Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott. “So, as sheriff, I’ve worked very hard to expand the mental health services in our county jail. We’ve added social workers. We added a case or care manager, as well as an addiction counselor, and as a result the last couple of years we have been able to provide mental health and substance abuse services to a higher number of our inmates.”
The first step to implementing this new grant money will be to form the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which will be an umbrella agency that will oversee criminal justice reform efforts in Missoula and a paid position has been created by the county to lead the CJCC.
Missoula County has interacted with the MacArthur Foundation before.
In 2017 the county received $50,000 to fund the Native Outreach Project in an attempt to help curb high Native American incarceration rates.
The new grant money received this year will allow the project to hire on a cultural liaison to help advance and grow the program.
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Mark R Thorsell