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Missoula Measures - Incarceration


Why this topic?

Prison and jail inmates are an often-overlooked, but very “needy”, segment of the population. In addition to multiple social, educational and economic disadvantages, they also face the stigma of their criminal record which may exacerbate trouble finding work or housing, making friends or establishing healthy relationships with those on the “outside”. This is a population that needs lots of help to stay outside the prison system and have a decent chance of building productive lives.

Related data

The Missoula County Detention Facility, built in 2000, is divided into 2 sections:

About 89% of the county jail inmates are from Missoula.

The State Prison in Deer Lodge houses 1500 male inmates; the Women’s Prison in Billings houses 194 females. The private prison in Shelby (Crossroads) houses 664 male inmates, with a capacity of 550. The State Prison has a 3-month reintegration program that teaches job and life skills, and health, but does not include birth control or nutrition. They also offer a wellness program for inmates over 40.

MT Bureau of Justice 2013 Biennial Report

MT Dept of Corrections, 2015 Biennial Report

1 Felony DUI Possession of drugs
2 Possession of drugs Theft
3 Criminal endangerment Criminal endangerment
4 Theft Distribution of drugs
5 Burglary Felony DUI
6 Distribution of Drugs Issuing a bad check
7 Partner/Family assault Fraudently obtaining drugs
8 Assault with a weapon Forgery
9 Possession of drugs with intent to distribute Burglary
10 Criminal mischief Possession of drugs with intent to distribute


Ethnicity of Montana prison inmates:


Race Males Females
White 77% 64%
American Indian 20% 33%
Black 3% 2%
Other 0% 1%

One out of every five incarcerated male offenders is American Indian. That is almost three times higher than the rate at which American Indians are represented in the general Montana population. The proportion of the prison population that is native has changed little since it increased to 20 percent in 1997.  MT Dept. of Corrections 2014 Biennial Report

Percent of Montana inmates who are from various counties:

   Missoula – 13.7%       Lewis/Clark – 7%
   Cascade – 10.9          Gallatin – 4.6
   Yellowstone – 15.7     Flathead – 8.8


graph incarceration rates per 100,000 US, Montana and neighboring states, 2014 



Other crime-related Measures

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Brief background

Release from jail or prison

Felons released from prison on conditional release, probation or parole are managed by the Dept. of Corrections.  Some offenders are placed a pre-release center. 
The Missoula Pre-Release Center is operated by Missoula Correctional Services, Inc, and non-profit organization that contracts services with the Dept. of Corrections. They have a 5-member Board of Directors comprised of individuals from Mental Health Care, Criminology, Public Assistance, Police Dept, County Attorney’s Office and an at-large person. The majority of those released from prison go into the Probation & Parole system.

Probation & Parole

Inmates who have a suspended sentence to serve after completing prison time or are paroled after serving their minimum sentence are released under supervision and live in the community. Inmates are eligible for aprol after sercing 25% of their sentence.  Offenders are expected to find work and must check in with a probation or parole officer on a regular basis until their entire sentence, including suspended time, is completed.

Conditional release

After conviction, some offenders are sentenced to the Dept. of Corrections for determination of placement.  These "DOC commits" can be placed in a pre-release center, treatment program or assessment center.  After completing the program an This is not a parole and inmates are not eligible for parole consideration while on conditional release.  These offenders are supervised by probation and parole officers.  Offenders violating conditions of their release and sent to prison are eligiblle for parole when the have served their minimum sentence.


Inmates may complete the last portion of a prison sentence in a pre-release facility with a very structured and strictly supervised environment to help them transition to the community.  These offenders must find employment in the community, attend therapy  sessions and education programs.  When their pre-release time is complete, offenders are supervised by probation and parole officers.  Inmates  must apply for a pre-release program and are comprehensively screened.  Local screening committees determine which offenders to accept.  The typical stay in a pre-release center is 200 days.

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The Missoula Pre-Release Center is located next door to the Missoula County Detention Facility and was built in 2002. It has a capacity for 90 males and 20 females. There are 11-13 inmates per counselor. Inmates may have spent anywhere from 6 months to 30 years in prison, either Deer Lodge (70%) or the Missoula County Detention Facility (30%), and will spend 6 months to 2 years in Pre-Release. There are 6 Pre-Release Centers in Montana (Bozeman, Helena, Billings, Great Falls, Butte, Missoula) They are non-profit corporations under contract with the Dept. of Corrections.  They have a combined capacity of 809 offenders and serve about 1700 annually.

Finishing a sentence in the Missoula Pre-Release Center (as opposed to prison) is a privilege, not a right. Inmates must apply for the program, and are screened by Pre-Release for acceptance.

Pre-Release is a very structured environment that provides a secure place for an inmate to prepare for his/her return to society. Based upon individual needs, treatment may be mandated for specific problems (anger management, drug addiction, parenting, etc).  These programs are often conducted outside the facility.  On-premises education includes life skills training, including housekeeping and budgeting.  Requirements of pre-release also include cleaning duties, paying victim restitution, establishing a savings account and paying room/board.  There is also education regarding personal grooming, healthy relationships, birth control, criminal thinking patterns, etc.  Inmates meet weekly with their counselors who help them evaluate their progress, work through problems, and address other concerns. 

Many other states have pre-release programs, but often do not provide the security, structure or extensive services that Montana programs offer.  They may be merely half-way houses that provide a night-time housing for recently-released inmates, or only provide job counseling and services.

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How is Pre-release working?

Perhaps as many as 70% of pre-release inmates think it is definitely a worthwhile program. Only about 20% of pre-release inmates fail to meet the terms of their agreed-upon contract and are returned to prison.

Increasing the number of Pre-Release Centers in the state could improve inmate integration into their home communities by providing support, encouragement, and job training in the area where they plan to live.


Recidivism is defined in Montana as returning to prison for any reason within 3 years of release.  Not all states have the same definition of redidivism.

Many other states have pre-release programs, but often do not provide the security, structure or extensive services that Montana’s programs offer. They may be merely half-way houses that provide a night-time housing for recently-released inmates, or only provide job counseling and services.

Who is in US prisons?

Percent of inmates who: US Montana
Have high school diploma 56% 23%
Have been treated for a mental or emotional disorder prior to arrest 25% 30%
Had been drinking at the time of the offense 36% na
Women inmates who suffered physical or sexual abuse prior to arrest 48% na
Women inmates who had been victims of rape at some point in their lives 27% na

The number of Montana inmates at least 60 years old nearly doubled from 2008 - 2012.

MT Dept. of Corrections 2013 Biennial Report
Percent of inmates incarcerated in state prisons for:

  US Montana
  Men Women Men Women
Violent Crimes     50 23
Property Crimes     21 24
Drug Crimes     6 23




Related websites

Mt. Dept of Corrections

 Montana Dept of Corrections Biennial Report 2015

U.S. Bureau of Justice - Statistics

Links to health data, statistics and information from many national sources.


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