Lewis and Clark County Releases Five-Year Report to the Community
Published on September 06, 2023
Voter mandated criminal justice reform realized
Helena, MT – Lewis and Clark County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) releases their Five-Year Report to the Community; a summary of work led by the CJCC and implemented by the Department of Criminal of Justice Services (CJS).
The Five-Year Report highlights accomplishments and provides a greater understanding of how the CJCC and CJS serve the community. The report also explains how programs and services are managed by CJS through the Court Services Team and the Behavioral Health Services Team to meet strategic plan priorities. Additionally, the report outlines next steps in providing effective community alternatives, solutions, and services to further improve community safety, reduce crime, and assist defendants and their families in addressing underlying determinants of criminal justice involvement.
Comprised of 15 key leaders across the criminal justice system, Lewis and Clark County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is proud to release the accomplishments realized over the past five years due to their leadership and guidance of the County’s Department of Criminal Justice Services.
“The CJCC is a unique and very valuable resource in Lewis & Clark County” shares Justice of the Peace and CJCC member, Mark Piskolich. “The participation of law enforcement, the Courts, the Detention Center, County Commission, treatment providers, the Citizens’ Advisory Council and Criminal Justice Services allows those stakeholders the opportunity for a panoramic view of our needs, and of our strengths and weaknesses in addressing them. There’s a respectful ‘no holds barred’ atmosphere that allows representatives to both voice and respond to the most pressing issues we face in Lewis & Clark County.”
The report details the many research-based and proven-effective diversionary programs implemented to reduce jail overcrowding and recidivism while addressing community safety. While the CJCC was formed in 2012, the Department was created as part of the voter-approved 2017 Detention Center Operations Levy. The Levy funded the renovation and expansion of the Detention Center to address overcrowding issues provided that funds also be used to support programs aimed at reducing the number of individuals detained, including behavioral health, early intervention, and pretrial services.
“I don’t think any of us could have imagined the breadth of positive change we would realize in five short years” said Kellie McBride, Director of the Department created to implement thoughtful criminal justice reform measures. “What started as one staff person in December 2017, has become six voter-mandated programs, support for community programming, and several initiatives aimed at community safety, reduction of recidivism, and addressing behavioral health needs in our community.”
Starting with a Pretrial Services program to reduce the number of defendants languishing in the Detention Center until their trial date, programs that followed include a case manager, therapists and Education and Transition program in the Detention Center as well as a Medication Assisted Treatment program for system-involved individuals with opioid misuse disorders, and a program focusing on parents of children charged with crimes and the childrens’ caretakers. These programs reduce incarceration rates, jail population, and dependency on other stakeholders, such as emergency and other healthcare services.
Lewis and Clark County’s CJCC is one of 40 nationally recognized CJCCs across the United States and was appointed to the National Network of CJCCs as a high functioning council in 2019. The Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), which performs background research to make recommendations to advise the CJCC in shaping initiatives and decision-making, stood out as an example of Lewis and Clark County’s far-reaching commitment to involving the whole community in improving justice system outcomes. Committee members include former offenders, family members of system involved individuals, businesspeople, and representatives from services providers who advocate for justice-affected individuals. The CAC Chair also serves as a member of the CJCC, providing a built-in platform for community voices.
Tom Cordingley has been a member of the CAC since inception, and Chair since 2020. “As the chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, I work with the members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Without exception, these higher-level officials do not disappoint; in fact they inspire. They are thoughtful and very dedicated to make the right decisions for all of us. They can be trusted to do well”
Launched in December 2017 at the insistence of the citizens of Lewis and Clark County, the CJCC has focused on implementing thoughtful criminal justice reform in collaboration with criminal justice partners and community providers. Beyond collaboration with service providers, there is a focus on data expansion efforts. The CJCC supports the integration of a jail management and case management data system to track individuals’ point of contact for behavioral health information and pretrial services involvement for more comprehensive support. Data on pretrial resources and behavioral health management will allow case management to draw from the strengths of multiple organizations and create a more holistic and individualistic approach to justice-involved persons.
Suzanne Seburn, Managing Attorney for the Office of the State Public Defender, and CJCC Co-Chair, adds “I am proud of our local CJCC because its members work collaboratively on agreed upon initiatives to benefit everyone involved in and affected by the criminal justice system.”
As Chair of the CJCC, Judge Mike Menahan’s words characterize the Councils’ collaborative approach as a long-term commitment; “I think that the longer you are involved in this kind of thing and develop working relationships with all the different players, it demonstrates your commitment to solving a problem or addressing a problem. Some of these problems are never solved, but it just doesn't happen overnight. It takes a long time.”
Lewis and Clark County’s work serves as an exemplification to the impact of longstanding commitment from stakeholders, as well as the sheer range of those willing to make that commitment.
To view the Five-Year Report or find more information about Criminal Justice Services visit: https://www.lccountymt.gov/Government/Criminal-Justice-Services