Contributed by Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director

When ACLU of Montana staff toured the Lewis and Clark detention facility in September 2013 we expected to see poor conditions. We knew that the jail was overcrowded and unfit for the number of inmates housed there. But what we saw that day surprised even us. With people sleeping on hallway floors and little room to tend to inmates' medical needs, we knew immediately that our current jail had to be replaced.

The ACLU fights every day to end mass incarceration through smart reforms like treatment and diversion programs. So supporting a new, larger jail was not an easy decision for us. But after more than a year of stakeholders and community members studying and discussing options, we can't wait any longer to replace our jail and start investing in diversion programs.

That's why we support the two public safety proposals on Tuesday's ballot.

l and c county jail

Vote YES on the general obligation bond for a new public safety facility. The bond will allow us to replace the current jail with a new facility with greatly expanded medical and mental health spaces, adequate recreation areas, and rooms for classes, programs, and attorney visits.

Vote YES on the permanent levy for operation and maintenance of the county’s proposed public safety facility. This second measure is a mill levy to fund operating costs and diversion programs, like crisis mental health beds and staff to conduct pre-trial service programs. These investments will keep people out of the jail and safely in the community, on the job, and with their families.

The ACLU will continue to fight to end excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration. In the meantime, the current jail facility has to be replaced and the diversion programs included in the mill levy are smart solutions.

Return your ballot today and vote YES for the two public safety ballot measures.

REMEMBER: Drop-off your ballot to the county elections office, on the first floor of the City-County building at 316 N. Park, by 8 pm on Election Day.