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The latest Montana politics, elections and Legislature news.

Crime Down In Montana; Arrests, Incarceration Increasing

Missoula County Detention Center
Courtesy Missoula County Detention Center
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Missoula County Detention Center

Montana lawmakers are looking to other states for advice as they address concerns about overpopulated prisons and jails, and an overburdened justice system.

Montana’s crime rate is falling, but its jail incarceration rate is increasing and is the highest among neighboring states.

While the crime rate is down, the number of arrests are actually up 12 percent over the last six years.  Probation violations and "failure to appear" arrests account for 60 percent of the total increase.

During a Commission on Sentencing hearing Tuesday, Representative Eric Hutching from Utah spoke to commission members about what his state did when they saw a similar trend. He says two-thirds of the people who went to prison in 2013 had gone through the system before.

"And the thing we realized is that we built it. We built that environment. We built a system that puts people out with the deck stacked against them. So what we’ve tried to do is focus on the first 120 days out.”

Hutching says how someone behaves their first 120 days after being locked up is telling as to whether they will re-offend, and states need to have support programs in place.

Montana’s Commission on Sentencing will meet again Wednesday.  After that, the commission will have two more meetings before they propose legislation for the 2017 session.

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