By Corin Cates-Carney
Governor Steve Bullock formally signed a slate of bills today aiming to address the state’s problem of overcrowded prisons.
A study released by the Council of State Governments Justice Center this January found that the number of people imprisoned in Montana was expected to grow by 13 percent over the next six years, which could cost the state at least $50 million to manage.
Lawmakers passed more than a half dozen bills this legislative session to address the issue.
In a ceremony held at the Governor’s office Wednesday, Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott praised that work.
“An issue that I deal with as Sheriff is overcrowding,” McDermott said. “I’m so proud to be here today and recognize the hard work to bring forward results that will free up bed spaces in our facilities for the people who commit serious crimes. And take a look at other alternatives for people with substance abuse issues and mental health issues and relieve the burden on the county jails.”
The Governor’s office says under the new laws, the state saves tens of million in prison costs by revising penalties for certain drug charges, reducing the number of people awaiting trial who are in jail, and increasing mental health treatment options for people who’ve been released.