Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Missoula County has a relatively new program that is assisting misdemeanor violators in successfully making their court appearances, to avoid being arrested and jailed.

KGVO spoke to Reentry Coordinator Kimberly White to describe the program.

They Miss their Civil Court Dates and End up in Jail

“It's called the Pretrial Assistance to Support Success Program, and defendants are assessed a ‘tier’ and depending on the tier level that they're assessed in to one through three care level, they receive a very light support service from the pretrial support specialists in an effort to assist them through the process.”

White further described the assistance program that will help these individuals avoid being sent to jail, which can cost the taxpayers over $120 per day.

“Research shows that these are best practices implemented by making these notifications to ensure that they make it to their next court appearances by providing those reminders,” she said. “One of the things that is kind of unique is that the reminders will even make suggestions as to how they can address obstacles to getting to court, such as working through explaining the public transportation system, or even identifying ways of finding success and possibly establishing childcare. These are just ways to discuss how the defendant can find some success in getting to court to overcome those obstacles. Those reminders do come on a regular basis from the Pretrial Support Specialists via text messaging.”

Jail is too Expensive for Misdemeanor Violators

White said the point of the program is to keep these misdemeanor violators from being arrested and jailed for missing multiple court dates.

“The City-County Jail Diversion Master Plan was adopted in 2016,” she said. “It aims to safely decrease the jail population and reduce the costs associated with that incarceration, which right now is around $120 per day per person. So the Pretrial Assistance to Support Success program will also help efficiently allocate staff needs and resources within the courts.”

All of these Offenders are Managed by just Two Very Busy Staffers

White was highly complimentary to the two full-time staffers who handle all the communications with the violators.

“They're full-time, and I will say that giving a shout-out to the individuals that we have working with us,” she said. “They're fantastic and they have met the challenge of standing up this new program, and I have no doubt that they will continue to offer a huge amount of support to the folks that they make contact with on a daily basis.”

The program will focus on Native American adults, female adults, and individuals that have established a pattern of frequent interaction with the criminal justice system.

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