Montana is joining the long roster of states looking to cut costs with criminal justice reforms, reports the Helena Independent Record. Crime is down in the state, but its prison population continues to grow, Gov. Steve Bullock said as he launched a Justice Reinvestment Initiative. Montana's prison population grew 7 percent from 2008 to 2014. Over the same period, state spending on corrections rose 16 percent to $182 million in 2014.
The state Commission on Sentencing spent two days this week hearing testimony about district court caseloads, offender risk assessments, substance abuse treatment, mental health diversion programs, parole and probation, specialty courts and county jails. The commission will make reform recommendations to the 2017 Legislature. The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a national nonprofit, will provide technical support and expertise during the commission's study, as it has done in 21 other states. Montana also will receive support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance.