Montana Examines Potential Probation and Parole Changes
Montana’s prisons are significantly overcrowded due to high recidivism rates. As a result, state resources have become significantly strained, according to a recent report by The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a nonprofit enlisted by Montana’s Commission on Sentencing to assist with researching the issue. The report estimated that Montana could save nearly $70 million by 2023 with probation and parole reform.
The Montana legislature is making progress toward reforming their probation and parole system in an effort to reduce overcrowding and cost. Between 2011 and 2013, statewide jail population rose 69% in jails that were previously already over capacity. Additionally, Montana’s state prison population rose 11% from 2008 to 2015 and is expected to rise an additional 13% by 2023. The overcrowding in prisons forces jails to house inmates despite not having adequate space or resources to do so. The $70 million jump in cost would be attributed to the criminal justice system housing excess inmates in private facilities or from the cost to build new prisons.
Overall, the Commission on Sentencing proposed 12 bills in an effort to reform the system. The goal is to reduce recidivism rates, give tools to counties, and prevent growth in prison and jail populations. The overall goal of the bills was to invest in programs to supervise potential nonviolent re-offenders and to treat those who suffer from substance abuse. By providing treatment to offenders, particularly first-time offenders, Senate Bill 63 and Senate Bill 64 aim to mend the terms of probation and parole so that fewer people return to prison for minor and technical infractions and parole violations. Reducing revocations for mere technical violations of probation and parole can help reduce the 74% of people in Montana’s correctional system due to revocation of their probation or parole.