March 2014 Update

marchConnections Update

March 2014

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Hope this finds all of you well and looking forward to spring. This is the last chance to get your Board survey’s turned in, we will be turning them over to the committee at the April meeting. So I would like to encourage you to get as many as we can sent in by the middle of April. You can do a survey if you choose even if you haven’t seen the board lately or even for many years. We still want to hear your experience when you did see them. Thank all of you so much for your help and support with this project. I am putting an article from the Legislative news on the back of this update so you know where we are at so far with the committee. Also here is the update of the survey’s sent in so far.

Beds Surveys Beds Beds Surveys

  • Gt. Falls 150 16 MSP 1457 184 Shelby 537 38
  • Glendive 141 27 MWP 194 20

I have had a few conversations with the Disability Rights of MT. people and they have asked if I would have any of you with mental health issues or medical issues of any kind to write and let them know. They are working with the ACLU on putting together a case concerning these issues. So here is the address and I hope if this applies to you that you will write and let them know the problems or concerns that you have encountered.

Disability Rights of MT.

1022 Chestnut St.

Helena, MT. 59601

In regards to the supervision fee forms, we will continue to collect them but we are turning what we have over to the Coalition so they can file the case and get it going. I am happy to send out forms if any of you need them. If you were sanctioned, jailed or even threatened because you could not pay you need to put on the form because that is another part of the case and worth $1000.00 a day.

Please help us build up our Advisory Board at all facilities. Some of our members have moved on and have left a lot of vacancies. Advisory Board members have two jobs 1) let the population know about us and what we are working on. Share your updates with the population, sometimes we have survey’s and other things to spread around. 2) let us know what the issues are in there that we need to address from out here. In exchange I will send all members the newsletter and updates as they come out for FREE.

As a reminder all of you that have done our survey will receive the newsletter and updates for the rest of this year for FREE as a thank you for helping us help all of you. We appreciate your help and support and pray for all of you daily. I am still working on the newsletter and it hopefully will go out this week.

Many blessings to you,


Connections Box 4142 Bozeman, MT 59772

LJIC Looks at Parole Board Practices, Gun Ownership for Mentally Ill

The Law and Justice Interim Committee dedicated two days in February to deliberate on Montana’s parole system, opportunities for mediation in family law cases, and how Montana’s laws would need to be amended for the state to report to a federal database the names of people who have been involuntarily committed to the Montana State Hospital and are prohibited by federal law from owning firearms.

Ten panelists spent the morning of Feb. 13 discussing and answering questions about mental health and gun ownership. Federal and state government officials explained how the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) works, how law enforcement agencies and licensed firearms dealers use NICS, the records Montana currently makes avail- able to NICS, the information the state does not provide, and how federal grant funding for the state could be affected by continued failure to provide those records to NICS.

Other panelists discussed whether the Legislature should create an appeal process to restore gun ownership rights
to a person who has been disqualified from gun ownership by federal law because of certain mental health conditions, including an involuntary commitment to the state hospital. Speakers and legislators both focused comments and questions on privacy rights, mental health care funding, and the potential impact on veterans. Numerous individuals also testified during the public comment period.

Committee members subsequently requested more information about appeals mechanisms created in other states, particularly focusing on states that created or used an existing board or commission to hear those appeals.

Court System Review

On Thursday afternoon, the committee heard from Montana Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin about the structure and funding of Montana’s court system. She noted workload increases in certain judicial districts, particularly Yellowstone County and eastern Montana districts near the Bakken oil- fields. McLaughlin also highlighted the Golden Triangle area, which has a single judge for a four-county district.

Joined by District Court Judge Mike Salvagni from Gallatin County, McLaughlin discussed how some judicial districts use standing masters in family law cases, as well as the differences between the caseloads, authority, and funding for standing

masters and judges. She noted that the District Court Council will be continuing its study of the funding and court work- load issues in the spring with the goal of arriving at a long- range, strategic plan for how to address those challenges.

McLaughlin and Brian Muldoon, chairman of the Mediation Subcommittee of the State Bar of Montana’s Justice Initiatives Committee also presented information on how North Dakota and Washington state have used mediation in family law cases. McLaughlin discussed a pilot project initiated by the North Dakota judicial branch to provide family law litigants with several hours of paid mediation for divorce and parenting cases. Muldoon discussed how judicial districts in Montana could each develop local rules to require mediation. He also presented ideas for legislation to implement this change, including establishing qualifications for family law mediators. More information on these two topics will be presented at the April meeting.

After commenting on family law and mediation issues, Judge Salvagni shared his perspectives on sentencing laws in criminal cases, how he approaches his work in those cases, and on the role of the Board of Pardons and Parole, which is the focus of the committee’s Senate Joint Resolution 3 interim study.

Parole Board Study Continues

On Feb. 14, the committee heard updates from the director of the Department of Corrections and the executive director of the parole board. Department and board staff also de- tailed their work to develop a set of evidence-based risk and needs assessments to use with Montana’s male and female offenders. The assessment tools are based on an Ohio risk as- sessment tool and are being tailored to fit Montana’s offender populations.

These statistical tools measure the probability that an of- fender might commit a new offense when the offender is released. They also can help corrections officials determine the amount and types of treatment or programming to help an offender address any mental health, substance abuse, or criminal thinking issues. The risk and needs assessment tools are used for a wide variety of criminal justice purposes, from sentencing in the courts to determining placement and programming needs in a correctional setting to making release and post-prison supervision decisions.

When completed, the Montana tools will provide information to guide corrections staff, parole board members and staff, and other people working with criminal offenders when making decisions about supervision or programming.

To round out their SJR 3 work, committee members learned about the way in which potential residents for the Helena Pre-Release Center are screened by a local committee. They also discussed conditions of parole that are placed on offenders released from custody.

Committee staff presented follow up reports on several topics of interest from the December meeting, including the possibility of requiring audio or visual recording of parole board hearings, the work of a criminal justice advisory committee that met in 1990, certificates of rehabilitation, the repeal of so-called “good time” in the mid-1990s, and the parole board’s exemption from most of requirements of the Montana Administrative Procedure Act.

After two full days of careful listening, committee members directed staff to provide information and, in some cases, draft bill language for future meetings on the following topics:

  • the various fees that parolees pay for parole supervision, treatment, and other programs required as a condition of their release;
  • audio or visual recording of all parole hearings conducted by the board;
  • South Dakota’s work with the Pew Center for the States to identify and implement changes to the state’s corrections and criminal justice systems;
  • administrative rules of the parole board, including legislative oversight;
  • restricting the board’s ability to set conditions of parole; and
  • the criteria used by the board when making parole decisions, including that the detailed criteria used by the board are located in rule. 
The committee also will take a closer look at the parole process used in South Dakota.

Next Meeting 
The committee meets next on April 28, rather than on April 25 as originally scheduled. For more information about the committee’s activities and upcoming meeting, visit the committee’s website or contact Rachel Weiss, committee staff. 
Committee Website: Committee Staff: or 406-444-5367 

Committee Reviews Variety of Audits 
At a Feb. 13 meeting, the Legislative Audit Committee re- viewed more than a dozen audits of state agencies, programs, and services. The audit findings are summarized below.

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