Weekly Update 1/18/219

This week, ACLU of Montana staff testified on multiple bills to ensure that past progress on criminal justice reform isn’t undone.  We also showed our support for the renewal of Medicaid Expansion. 
HB 134 & 138: These bills as presented seek to criminalize sex workers. Sex workers are frequently victims of sex trafficking. When sex workers are criminalized, it increases the likelihood of violence against them, and sets up a system where they can’t go to authorities for help because they fear arrest. We are working with the bill sponsor, Rep. Dudik, to amend the bill language to ensure that the law punishes sex traffickers, not the victims of sex trafficking.
HB 116:  We oppose this bill because it would require individuals to continue paying their public defender fees during the time they are incarcerated. If passed, this bill would harm prisoners and create serious challenges upon release because of financial debt accrued from unpaid fees. Low income individuals are disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system. In jail and prison, people have little to no opportunities for regular income. Subjecting people to debt collection when imprisoned is both cruel and futile. In a win, this bill was tabled by the House Judiciary Committee on Friday. We will keep an eye on it, but hopefully it won’t rear its head again.  
LC 1088: On Thursday evening, more than 50 community members showed up to the Capitol for a Medicaid Listening Session. People shared their stories with legislators and the press about how Medicaid Expansion has impacted their lives and the lives of those they care about. ACLU of Montana staff shared the negative consequences that the loss of Medicaid Expansion will have on the criminal justice system. Medicaid Expansion covers mental health and substance use treatment, increases public safety, and decreases recidivism. Call your legislator and urge them to support Keep Montana Healthy Act, LC 1088. #liftthesunset
Stay tuned next week for more calls to action and volunteer opportunities.

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