Montana Politics Steve Bullock

BREAKING: In Huge Win for Criminal Justice Reform Governor Bullock Names Missoula State Senator Cynthia Wolken Hedges as Deputy Director of the Department of Corrections


With Cynthia Wolken Hedges fighting for all Montanans we can look forward to a 2018 where the criminal justice systems works better for ALL of us. Cynthia Wolken Hedges is a champion of criminal justice reform and is dedicated to ensuring that Montanan’s safety and the most up to date policies are in place to ensure that the criminal justice system is as efficient as possible, saves Montana money and makes safer and healthier Montana communities.

One of the biggest victories of 2017 for Montanans was sweeping criminal justice reform which was spearheaded by State Senator Cynthia Wolken Hedges of Missoula alongside the efforts of Governor Bullock’s administration to ensure a safer, healthier and less draconian criminal justice system for the state of Montana.

A statement from Cynthia Wolken Hedges personal Facebook page states:

I’m very excited to have accepted a position as Deputy Director of the Department of Corrections. I have had the privilege of working on local and state corrections policy, moving the ball forward on the use of evidence-based programming, increasing access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, and saving taxpayer dollars. I look forward to continuing this work with the DOC team. Director Michael and his staff are top-notch and are committed to maintaining and improving public safety – I could not ask for a better team to work with.

Senator Wolken had spoken about her work on criminal justice reform during the legislative session:

Carrying these bills has been the greatest privilege of my legislative career.

One bill I am most proud of is SJ 3, which will bring to bear all of our state resources to study the disproportionate incarceration of native americans.

We need to change the system to be more vested in helping people succeed rather than catch them when the fail.

This was not just one law either, it was a package of laws and it is true reform.

SB 65 provides funding for housing for felons so that they can safely re-enter communities and start rebuilding their lives.

SB 62 provides for peer support licensing so that we can help people stay healthy in their communities and get the support they need with any behavioral health issue.

SB 64 modernizes the board of pardons and parole.

HB 133 addresses disparities in the length of some of our criminal sentences.

Other bills address pre-trial supervision services and probation reforms so we can preserve limited jail beds for people who need to be there for our safety.

SB 67 strengthens batterer intervention programming to hold offenders accountable and reduce domestic violence, especially in rural communities.

The laws pushed some progressive reforms, such as this one: If you get caught for the first time with a marijuana joint, you get no jail time at all anywhere in Montana. via The Montana Standard

It is being hailed as a money saving and humane set of policies that will help reduce recidivism and reintegrate offenders back into society.

The Missoulian wroteGroup: Millions in criminal justice costs could be averted as soon as 2018


An analysis of Montana’s system revealed that without action, the state’s prison population was projected to increase 14 percent by 2023. This growth would have required spending tens of millions of dollars to cover the cost of additional contract beds and up to hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and operate new prison facilities. Total spending on corrections has already increased by 16 percent since 2008 and now tops $180 million annually.

Under the new policies, Montana will avoid spending an additional $69 million over the next six years to increase prison capacity.

Senator Wolken states:

The idea is to get people the behavioral health or other help they need early on so they do not continue to cycle through the criminal justice system.  It is also about reducing recidivism and making sure offenders are successful on community supervision.  The three main pressures are rising jail populations, the growing impact of substance abuse, and the increased number of people who are revoked to prison for violating conditions of their release.

Together, these bills represent the most comprehensive change to our justice system in Montana in decades.  Finally, there will be quality assurance mechanisms in place to ensure accountability and measure outcomes for Justice Reinvestment.

With Senator Wolken involved in the implementation of the policies she spearheaded we can be assured that the letter and spirit of these laws will be enacted and a more just criminal justice system for all Montanans can be created.

You can find Senator Wolken on Facebook here: Cynthia Wolken for Montana

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Nathan Kosted

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