A diverse group of public interest and grassroots organizations including the ACLU of Montana has formed the Montana Coalition for Public Safety. The group’s goal is to work with lawmakers, political leaders, and community leaders, to build a just, fair, and accurate justice system that makes Montana safer for everyone.
The coalition’s members include the ACLU of Montana, Americans for Prosperity-Montana, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Innocence Project, Western Native Voice, Frontier Institute, Montana Budget & Policy Center, the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Women Vote, and Disability Rights Montana.
“Public safety is about investing in people," said SK Rossi, Advocacy and Policy Director with the ACLU of Montana. "Poverty, mental illness, and substance use disorders are not crimes, and our society must move away from treating them as such. Too many people, disproportionately Indigenous people, are trapped in Montana’s criminal legal system, at a large expense to taxpayers. We need change. With more accountability and transparency, the state has numerous opportunities to make investment in the lives of Montanans, which will in turn create vibrant and safe communities. Through this coalition of diverse groups, we are challenging Montana to do better.”
The Montana Coalition for Public Safety announced a set of principles that will guide the organization as it works to make Montana’s justice system more just:
- Focus on Public Safety
- Protect Taxpayers
- Eliminate Racial and Geographical Disparities
- Require Transparency and Accountability
- Prioritize Accuracy to Ensure Innocent People Are Not Incarcerated
- End the Criminalization of Poverty
"This coalition demonstrates that although we may have our differences, there is common ground to be found to address the toughest issues facing Montana," said David Herbst, Americans for Prosperity-Montana State Director. "Our criminal justice system should keep our communities safe while recognizing the ability in every person to improve their life. We’re proud to join this diverse group to secure reforms that move Montana’s justice system closer to that ideal.”
The coalition will work to move Montana forward in a number of areas, including expanding mental health and substance use disorder treatment, rethinking pre-trial detention and decreasing the use of money bail, ensuring uniform data gathering and transparency, and reforming the re-entry system for people returning to work and their communities after being incarcerated.
“Workforce development is a top priority for Montana businesses," said Bridger Mahlum, Montana Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Director. "And as a member of the Montana Coalition for Public Safety, we are excited to work with this diverse group of stakeholders to address employment issues for those who are impacted by the criminal justice system.”
Learn more about the Montana Coalition for Public Safety.