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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Budget Cuts Could Add To Montana Jail, Prison Overcrowding Problems

State budgets.
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Proposed budget cuts could make the overcrowding at Montana’s jails and prisons worse. Groups supporting local law enforcement warned lawmakers of potential consequences of the coming cuts during the Law and Justice Interim Committee this afternoon.

The Department of Corrections is facing one of the largest cuts to state agencies because of Montana’s revenue shortfall. Ten percent budget cuts submitted to the governor earlier this month outlined a $40 million funding reduction to the agency. 

Nanette Gilbertson with the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association says many of those cuts will impact local jails.

"This is not creating a new problem, this is exacerbating an existing problem. Overcrowding in jails has been something sheriffs have been working on and trying to find a solution to for four or five years," Gilberson says.

During the legislative session, lawmakers passed a package of bills aimed at reforming the state’s criminal justice system and lowering Montana’s incarceration rate. Lawmakers were told Thursday that the pending cuts could make it hard for law enforcement and corrections officers to work within, and comply with those new laws.

Early next week, lawmakers will make recommendations to Governor Steve Bullock about proposed reductions to the state’s budget. The governor will begin is agency-by-agency review of proposed  cuts shortly after.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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