Lewis & Clark County releases 5-year report on criminal justice reform

Posted at 7:48 PM, Sep 07, 2023

A 5-year report by the Department of Criminal Justice Services on the implemented services for the county jail was recently released. MTN sat down with the director of the department to find out the key details.

A 2017 voter-approved levy paid for operation and staffing for the expanded jail, but also for programs that help repeat offenders stay out of the criminal justice system. Kellie McBride, Director of the Criminal Justice Services Department, a department created because of this vote, says that this 5-year update shows that the voters made a wise decision for not only their bottom dollar but for their neighbors.

“But the bottom line is this report tells the community that they invested wisely in thoughtful criminal justice reform, and I can’t wait for everybody to sink their teeth into this,” says McBride.

For example, pretrial services helped those charged with a crime to do such things as stay at their jobs and continue to take care of their children, even if they can’t afford cash bond.

79% of those in pretrial services deemed safe to return to daily life while waiting for their court date, made all court appearances and remained law-abiding.

“Because they’re not waiting the nine months in the detention center for their trial. They’re waiting in the community. They’re going to their jobs. They’re getting connected with services. They’re, it saves the community money,” says McBride.

The criminal justice reform also includes such services as mental health services and the medication-assisted treatment bridges program. From 2020 through June 2023 there have been approximately 4,500 interventions. 64% of those were for therapeutic interventions and 36% were for case management services.

“But if we can get them into or continuing their mental health treatment, addiction services treatment, if we can do that, we’re helping the community more than that $700.00 would have helped,” says McBride.

There’s also the Post-Adjudication Supervision Services (PASS) Program which allows those who are found guilty of misdemeanor charge(s) to pay their fines to the state through hours rather than money. For every hour spent in behavioral health services, approximately $5-20 is reduced from their fine.

All of these services are meant to create a lifeline for those in the criminal justice system, a way for these folks to better navigate the ways in which they can get help and create a new life path.

“We’re here to ensure that the community is safe and that we’re thoughtful in the way we approach criminal justice reform. We can always do better. We need to keep our community safe, reduce recidivism, and save our taxpayers money. And we’re doing that across the board,” says McBride.