Federal grant to bolster Missoula program aimed at helping drug offenders

Zoe Buchli

Missoula County recently received $600,000 in federal grant money to bolster a new program aimed at providing alternatives to incarceration for drug-related offenses.

Calibrate launched in 2019, and is the first prosecution-led pretrial diversion program in Montana. It’s a voluntary program that is part of a larger criminal justice reform effort offering first-time drug offenders an alternate path toward rehabilitation.

Since its inception, 56 individuals have passed through the program, with about 30 to 35 enrolled at any given time. Twenty-three have completed the program successfully with three people returning to court to face charges, a news release from Missoula County said.

“The whole idea of diversion is that one size does not fit all when you’re looking at criminal justice solutions,” Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst said in an interview. “The push behind criminal justice reform is to look at each individual’s risk and needs and address those rather than having a blanket punitive goal of putting people in jail.”

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Diversion seeks to identify low-risk people early in the process and take them off the criminal justice track altogether to reduce recidivism rates, she

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