The Missoula County Detention Facility was built back in the 1990's with a capacity of 400 inmates, but for quite some time, the jail population has been overcrowded, many times with men and women suffering from mental health and other problems that might not require incarceration.

Since taking office in 2015, Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott has been working with various city and county officials on a Jail Diversion Plan, drafted by State Senator Cynthia Wolken, which was presented to a Missoula City Council committee this week.

"We wanted to study the problem, and in the course of that, identify a population in the jail that is non-violent, non-dangerous, and those specifically suffering from addiction issues," McDermott said. "We want to try to find a way, rather than building a new jail, to divert those folks from jail into treatment centers and hospitalization."

McDermott said he is now in the process of presenting the diversion plan to various officials, and then to the public, so that work can begin to actually bring positive changes about.

"We will make a presentation to the entire city council at a meeting, and there'll be a 30-day comment period after that," he said. "Then, we'll present the plan to the Board of County Commissioners, and there will be some public comment as well, there."

McDermott proposes to then meet with other stakeholders, including attorneys, judges, and the medical community.

"We want to come up with a solution or an alternative to free up beds that are being occupied by low-level, non-violent offenders to make sure we have a safe place to lock them up and still get the care they need," he said. "

McDermott said the master plan is available in the city's website, and has an email address attached for the public to weigh in on the proposal.