County diversion program looks to expand after receiving national recognition

MISSOULA, Mont. - Being recognized as one of the country's most innovative new programs, Missoula County's Calibrate program received a $600,000 grant award from the federal Department of Justice. 

This prosecution-led diversion program differs from treatment courts in the area. Treatment courts are programs that take place after convictions, where participants of Calibrate are enrolled earlier on, prior to convictions and can avoid them completely.

This grant will be used to hire more staff, get more resources for chemical dependency evaluations, and ultimately create room for more participants. 

The program began in 2019 and has had 56 total participants with 30 to 35 people enrolled at a time.

Participants get an individualized treatment plan that addresses the root cause of their crimes, things like chemical dependency assessments, anger management help and GED courses. 

The program vets potential participants through a screening tool, interviews and perspectives from victims and law enforcement. 

Calibrate currently serves low-risk offenders, meaning people who commit things like property crimes, misdemeanor assault and drug possessions. 

Kirsten Pabst, Missoula County attorney, explained how a $600,000 grant will help to expand their client load.

“Throughout the pandemic, there’s been this certain group in the middle there that have actually been responsible for the most number of crimes," Pabst said. "Those tend to be drug driven, methamphetamine addiction related crimes. We’re really trying to look at the lower-risk level of that group, which is higher risk level than our original group.” 

Over the last year, 32 people entered the program with a 91% success rate. 

The county attorney reported participants paid over $25,000 in restitution that goes directly to victims, completed 140 hours of community service and totaled 10,982 days of diversion, meaning not being in jail, on probation or under pretrial supervision. 

Pabst emphasized through this diversion, more criminal justice resources are available for higher risk, more violent criminals who are in the system, helping reduce those recidivism rates as well. 

Wake Up Montana is working towards getting the perspective of someone who's gone through this program themselves. If interested, email reporter Maria Anderson at maria.anderson@wakeupmt.com

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