Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Missoula County Attorney’s Office filed 16 new criminal complaints this week, which is two less than last week and less than the weekly average. Chief Deputy County Attorney Matt Jennings said there were eight drug crimes, which is the most so far this year. 

“One of the violent crimes this week was a robbery that involved two defendants,” Jennings said. “I wanted to highlight that because statistically, Missoula has been really interesting in that we have really low rates of robbery compared to other jurisdictions. So when we do, it's something I take really seriously because that can really contribute to people feeling unsafe.” 

Jennings is hopeful that this case was just a one-off and not the start of a trend, but he said they plan to track robberies really closely.

READ MORE: Missoula News - Crime Reports

Jennings spent the rest of his report talking about the overcrowding of our jail. 

“When people are sentenced on a criminal offense, the responsibility of their incarceration gets turned over to the state, Jennings said. “The county basically holds somebody before a trial or before a plea agreement when we charge them locally, but once they're sentenced, it's the state's responsibility.” 

According to Jennings, they are having a really hard time getting the state to come pick those folks up. They have people who are waiting to either go to the prison or to a Department of Corrections program.  

Specifically, people who are sentenced to the forensic unit in the Montana State Hospital are now sitting in our jail for months. Jennings added that they are sometimes there for six months or more. He said these individuals are really violent offenders and have deep mental illness issues. 

Burden Shifts to Taxpayers

“We have limited abilities to deal with that in a jail setting when they need to be in a hospital,” Jennings said. “We don't get paid for that. That's a burden and a cost that gets shifted onto Missoula taxpayers and it's really contributing to overcrowding. I don't know why this is growing so much.” 

Jennings believes that the Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Gianforte Administration are making efforts to improve this in the medium and long term.  

“I think they really are operating in good faith trying to come up with solutions,” Jennings said. “However, sometimes it feels like the house is on fire, and rather than bringing a bunch of firemen with hoses, we're talking about installing sprinklers in the future. We need the hoses and we need to put out the fire.” 

Until we can get a handle on some of this, Jennings says Missoula is going to keep suffering these overcrowding issues. 

The Missoula County Attorney’s Office provides a weekly crime report every Friday morning at 9:00 on Talk Back. You can listen to Bloom’s full report below:   

On March 14, 2024, the Missoula County commissioners appointed Matt Jennings to serve as interim county attorney. Jennings will begin this new role on April 1 following the retirement of Kirsten Pabst, who announced her retirement in February after serving as county attorney for nearly a decade. 

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Gallery Credit: KC

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