The 2013 Montana Legislature passed House Bill 68, which created the interim Reentry Task Force to investigate ways to lower the state's recidivism rate: the number of Montana prisoners that end up back in prison after being released. Billings area legislator Margie MacDonald was the sponsor of HB 68, and she said there are many simple changes to the current system that could lower Montana's recidivism rate.

"For instance, the large numbers of people who are in prison, who are incarcerated with current or recurring mental illness issues," MacDonald said. "We must insure that they are coming out into the community with at least the medical support they need, so that they don't re-offend, so they don't slip through the cracks, so that they can hold down a job and get established in the community."

MacDonald said the task force will investigate successful techniques in other states, and that most of the changes can be done internally, without a lot of expense.

"That will save the state considerably," MacDonald said. "It's a lot less expensive than the $50,000 or so a year it costs to keep someone in the Montana State Prison System."

The reentry task force met for the first time yesterday, August 28. Proposals for changes are expected in the coming months.

Margie Macdonald: