Grant-funded project seeks to examine Missoula jail overcrowding (KPAX)

By Don Fisher

MISSOULA -

Missoula County commissioners are continuing to find ways to reduce Missoula's Jail Population by using the "Pay For Success Project,"  which is funded by a grant from the University of Utah. 

It uses data and analysis to find ways to solve social issues, in Missoula's case, jail overcrowding. The system is yet to be used in a city as small as Missoula's, with the smallest so far being Salt Lake City. 

A team of commissioners have been analyzing jail population data from the past two years and creating a "target population" to try and eventually narrow down. 

The target population for now is is offenders who have been booked in the jail three or more times a year.  Organizers say this "target" could change and will continue to explore all options in thinning the population. 

"We are actually analyzing the data of the detention center, so looking at actual numbers of the population: Who's in there? Why are they in there? How long are they sitting? And that helps us to better identify a target population that we can positively affect," said Missoula County Project Analyst Rachelle Whitfield.

The study must be completed before next May. The next update will be announced in September.