The Missoula County Community Justice Department recently received a second two-year $700,000 grant through the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

The grant is to help support strategies to safely reduce the county detention facility population while addressing racial and ethnic disparities in Missoula’s justice system.

Shantelle Gaynor, Director of the Missoula County Community Justice Department has details.

“The reason for the funding is to implement strategies to reduce overcrowding in the jail,” said Gaynor. “This is the second cycle that Missoula County has received this grant. The first one ran for two years, and this one will run for an additional two years. The Safety and Justice Challenge focuses on how to safely reduce jail populations, as well as address racial and ethnic disparities within the justice system.”

The number of Native Americans in the jail is way out of proportion to the population.

Gaynor said the percentage of Native Americans currently incarcerated is way out of proportion to the general population.

“Missoula, like many, many other communities, if you look at the rate that Native American people are arrested and incarcerated compared to overall population, those numbers are really out of whack,” she said. “So it's roughly about 20 to 25 percent of our jail population are Native American people, and yet in our overall community, Native Americans only make up about six percent.”

The grant will also provide funding to help those with substance abuse issues.

Gaynor detailed the focus of the study.

“Part of our work is really being able to use data to analyze where in the system we need to be doing better, and then identify pathways to doing better,” she said. “Then the other component is additional strategies for direct service, so this grant will pay for some chemical dependency evaluation in a couple of different agencies who work directly with folks who are either on probation or parole to the Office of Public Defender, so if folks are involved with substance abuse issues, then being evaluated and getting into treatment is one of the things that really helps folks not be involved in the justice system.”

Gaynor said the grant will also fund a liaison with the Public Defender’s office.

The grant will fund a Native American liaison in the Missoula Public defender's Office.

“Additionally, we will be supporting a position also at the public defender's office,” she said. “A Native American liaison, that is somebody who can work with folks from that community in a meaningful way to identify barriers that they might be facing or support they need in order to be successfully in completing their sentence.”

The Missoula County Detention Facility will also gain a reentry coordinator to provide support for those leaving the facility for a successful return to the community.

 

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