Missoula County – Montana’s second-most-populous county, encompassing an area equal to the size of Delaware – is in the western portion of the state surrounding the city of Missoula. The county has worked to address racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the local justice system, including the disproportionate number of Native Americans in the Missoula County Detention Facility (MCDF). As a result, local leaders and jail staff have expressed a commitment to providing culturally relevant programming in the Missoula County Detention Facility, namely by supporting wellbriety groups and special programs such as Regaining the Warrior.
To build on past efforts, Missoula County was awarded $700,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2018 to safely reduce its jail population with the goals of: reducing the number of short-term jail admissions; promoting social justice by addressing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities; and increasing behavioral health treatment services for justice-involved persons.
To continue safely reducing the jail population, the county plans to implement six key strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies and disparities, meeting the needs of those with behavioral health and substance abuse issues, and instituting non-jail options for lower-risk offenders. These strategies include diverting individuals to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, increasing use of public safety assessment, providing post-booking stabilization and services to low-income individuals, and providing outreach and education about indigenous cultures and racial disparities.