The National District Attorneys Association has named Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst to its board of directors as a vice president and member of its executive committee.
“Pabst was chosen because of her leadership and long-standing commitment to criminal justice reforms and prosecutor well-being initiatives,” said NDAA President Nancy Parr. “We welcome her expertise and look forward to working with her.”
“It’s an honor to be chosen to work with such dedicated leaders,” Pabst said. “Criminal justice is at a crossroads on so many levels — racial inequality, gender inequality, mass incarceration – and it is exciting to be in a position to effect positive policy changes, not just at the local and state level, but nationally.”
Pabst has served as county attorney since 2015. She started her career as a prosecutor 25 years ago and has worked with the NDAA as a trial instructor for the past 20 years.
Formed in 1950, NDAA is the oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors in the country. With more than 5,000 members representing more than two-thirds of the state and local prosecutors’ offices, NDAA is recognized as the leading source of national expertise on the prosecution function and is a valuable resource for the media, academia, government and community leaders. NDAA’s mission is to provide state and local prosecutors with the knowledge, skills and support they need to ensure that justice is done and that public safety rights are protected.
Pabst will also chair NDAA’s new Prosecutor Wellbeing Task Force, designed to develop and disseminate resources, training and peer-to-peer exchanges for prosecutors around the country to promote their health and well-being.
The next meeting of the Missoula County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council will take place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday, June 26, via Microsoft Teams. Members of the public and media are invited to attend the meeting, which will feature discussion on efforts to reform the criminal justice system locally.
Agenda items include discussing proposals for future criminal justice reforms in Missoula County, such as increased funding for crisis intervention, implicit bias, LGBTQ+ and trauma-informed trainings, as well as a jail diversion initiative specific to Native American populations, who are disproportionately represented in the Missoula County Detention Facility. Currently, 17 % of MCDF inmates identify as Native American, compared with 4 % of county residents who identify as Native American.
District Court Judge Leslie Halligan, who serves as the current chair of the CJCC, will lead the meeting. There will be opportunity for public comment and questions from the news media at the end.
The media and public can join the meeting via Teams using the information below:
The CJCC is a multi-agency collaboration that uses a data-driven approach to reforming the local criminal justice system, which includes reducing the jail population, addressing ethnic and racial disparities, and more effectively responding to mental health issues. It was established and is primarily funded through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, a nationwide effort to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. Three county staff members in the CJCC Department directly support the council’s work.
“In light of renewed calls for criminal justice reform from the national to local levels, we want to make sure the public knows what the CJCC in Missoula County is doing and how they can get involved,” said Kristen Jordan, CJCC manager. “Our team is doing great work, though we know there’s still much to do to ensure an equitable justice system for all in Missoula County.”
Current CJCC initiatives include:
Applying for a $125,000 grant through the state Department of Health and Human Services to fund a mobile crisis team that would respond to a call for someone in mental health crisis instead of law enforcement or other first responders. This team would include two mental health professionals to assess and assist the person in crisis and a peer-support specialist and/or case manager to ensure the person receives follow-up treatment and mental health services. Using a mobile crisis team would reduce jail bookings and emergency room visits, decrease arrests and prosecutions, and allow for more appropriate use of law enforcement and first responder time. If awarded, the county and City of Missoula will provide matching funding, which, coupled with grant funds received earlier this year, would total $380,000 to get a mobile crisis team up and running. Research shows that every dollar spent on mobile crisis saves $5 to $7 elsewhere in the criminal justice system.
An effort to analyze the result of releasing pre-trial inmates accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes from Missoula County Detention Facility amid COVID-19 concerns. MCDF reduced their population by approximately 50% by releasing inmates who met these criteria in March and have not rebooked the majority of them as they await trial. CJCC staff are collecting data to determine the rate at which they were re-arrested and/or missed court dates. While releasing inmates accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes was already taking place at a slower, more methodical pace before the pandemic, the data gathered from releasing a large number of inmates at once will prove invaluable to the CJCC as it develops and implements more programs to address the root causes of crime, including poverty, addiction and mental health issues.
Implementation of Calibrate, a prosecution-led pre-trial diversion program housed in the County Attorney’s Office. This voluntary program offers some criminal defendants an opportunity to have their criminal charges dismissed if they successfully complete a treatment plan specific to their needs. Treatment plans may include financial counseling, inpatient treatment for addictions and restitution.
Increased use of the Public Safety Assessment, a risk assessment tool that uses nine factors to predict whether an individual will commit a new crime or fail to return to a scheduled court hearing if released before trial.
Development of the Jail Data Dashboard, which is available online. It depicts several key data points that are essential in understanding the jail population and helps to identify, analyze, solve and manage systems issues in the criminal justice process, such as reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.
To learn more about the CJCC, view the Jail Data Dashboard, and review meeting minutes and agendas, head to missoula.co/cjcc.
On May 25, 2020, our nation witnessed the horror of George Floyd dying with a police officer’s knee pressed into his neck. Mothers everywhere, from Minneapolis to Maine to Missoula, winced hearing a dying man call to his own.
This act is but a snapshot of hundreds of years of oppression. Much of the United States was built on stolen land with stolen labor, and these centuries old crimes still echo today, across generations. As your Missoula County elected officials, we share a vision of a just future, yet do not pretend to know the exact path forward. Though some of us have faced discrimination, we have all benefited from structural racism. Much of our knowledge of racial injustice comes from shared stories rather than personal experiences. Nonetheless, we are committed to amplifying and including the voices of those who do understand.
We embrace the right to peacefully protest, encourage our citizens to exercise their right to peacefully assemble and speak their minds, without violence. Across the country people from every walk of life are saying — loud and clear — ENOUGH. We hear you and agree with you.
We are willing to listen and to take further action. Some of the steps we’ve made to examine and address inequality in our local criminal justice system include rolling out our comprehensive jail diversion plan, launching our prosecution-led diversion program and reforming our pre-trial system. We’ve invited the National Native Children’s Trauma Center to inform criminal justice employees of the devastating impacts of historical trauma of Native people and teach us the practice of cultural humility. As a county government, we’re proud of our relationship with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. We are committed to understanding why American Indians are disproportionately represented in detention and what additional steps we can take to address historical injustices.
We have people working exclusively on equity issues in our public health department and at the Partnership Health Center clinic. And we understand all our work must be considered through an equity lens. Even so, inequality persists and we must address it now.
There is a lot of work to be done and, as your elected officials, we shoulder the burden of change. This work must be perpetual, so we are making a sustained commitment. We expect that you will hold us to account and appreciate your involvement. Please join us in this effort.
Over the course of the past two weeks, in the midst of violence and devastation, we also saw unlikely alliances and witnessed acts of unprecedented solidarity and kindness: the organizer of a conservative rally invited a Black Lives Matter activist to the stage; law enforcement professionals denounced the actions of racist officers; a sheriff and his deputies responding to a call for security, instead joined the march with protesters; a stalwart row of blue uniforms in Texas took a knee in honor of those who’ve been slain and those who marched.
Robert Kennedy said each time a person “stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Let’s keep working together — starting with ripple — so that the tragic events of last month mark the end of the long night of injustice for people of color in our community and signal a new day, one that honors the legacy of George Floyd, and all who came before him, by implementing — not just promising — justice for all.
Alex Beal, Missoula County Justice of the Peace Dave Strohmaier, Missoula County Commissioner David Wall, Missoula County Auditor Erin Lipkind, Missoula County Superintendent of Schools Josh Slotnick, Missoula County Commissioner Juanita Vero, Missoula County Commissioner Kirsten Pabst, Missoula County Attorney Landee Holloway, Missoula County Justice of the Peace Shirley Faust, Missoula County Clerk of Court TJ McDermott, Missoula County Sheriff Tyler Gernant, Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer
*A version of this post was also submitted to several area news organizations
Missoula County offices will begin to reopen to the public on Monday, June 1, with precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Precautions will look different in various buildings depending on the volume of foot traffic and interaction with the public. In general, facilities will have floor markings to indicate 6-foot spacing, plexiglass or other barriers between staff and the public, and hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes available for use. Staff and members of the public will be strongly encouraged or, in some offices, required to wear cloth face coverings in situations where social distancing is difficult.
Buildings also will have self-check stations set up for employees designed to review potential symptoms of COVID-19 and reminders to not report to work if they have symptoms. To facilitate this, employees will use designated entrances and exits that are separate from those the public use.
Reopening information for public-facing Missoula County departments is listed below. Guidelines and protocols are subject to change as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.
Clerk and Treasurer’s Office, Missoula County Courthouse First Floor, 200 W. Broadway
The office will open to the public Monday, June 1, with limited staff.
In-person services will be by appointment only. This includes motor vehicle registration, renewals and transfers, property tax payments or changes, and requests for birth certificates and other records.
Residents can call 406-258-4847 to make an appointment. Customers are encouraged to complete services online at missoulaclerk.us whenever possible.
The office encourages no more than one person to attend an appointment but will make accommodations for parties of two, such as a buyer and seller.
A maximum of four customers will be allowed in the office at one time: two at the open appointment windows and two in the waiting area.
Customers will be required to wear a cloth face covering to enter the office.
Hand sanitizer will be available for customers, and staff will wipe down pens and other items between customers.
Clerk of Court’s Office, Courthouse Second Floor
The office will open to the public Monday, June 1, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with limited staff.
In-person services will be by appointment-only by calling 406-258-4780.
The office requests no more than one person to attend an appointment but will make accommodations for marriage license applicants to appear together.
A maximum of three people will be allowed in the customer service area at a time.
Those with appointments should wait in their vehicle until called to limit congestion and must maintain physical distancing of 6 feet in the customer service area. Tape markings on the floor will indicate 6-foot distancing.
A cloth face covering is strongly encouraged for all customers. Disposable masks available upon request.
Hand sanitizer will be available for customers, and staff will wipe down pens, counters and other items between customers.
Only one person will be allowed in the public search area at a time. Customers should call 406-258-4780 to request admittance.
Marriage applicants may continue to apply for marriage licenses online, without an in-person visit.
Self-represented litigants are encouraged to continue to submit paperwork by email, fax, mail or drop box. The regular fee for email/fax will be waived.
Attorneys in cases not yet available for e-filing are encouraged to continue to submit pleadings by email, fax, mail or drop box. The regular fee for email/fax will be waived.
Commissioners will continue to hold their public meetings virtually via Teams through June.
The public can check the commissioners’ schedule for information ahead of each upcoming public meeting.
Staff check email, mail and voicemail each day.
Community and Planning Services, 127 E. Main St.
Staff will begin transitioning to work at the office on June 1, though the office will remain closed to the public through that week and no in-person services will be offered.
Starting June 29, the office will open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Members of the public are strongly encouraged to wear masks when visiting the office, and disposable masks are available if needed.
Guests will need to use the self-check station and sign in (including date and contact info) to assist with contact tracing, if necessary.
The info desk will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily to field questions from the public about zoning, permits, land use, projects or plans and can be reached by phone at 406-258-4642 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The department encourages the continued submission of documents and forms electronically when possible.
County Attorney’s Office, Courthouse Fourth Floor
The office will open to the public on June 1, with the majority of employees working in the building.
Hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Staff may work staggered schedules to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Social distancing and other measures will be in place, and the office will modify its lobby and conference rooms to accommodate 6-foot distancing.
Staff and visitors are strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings. The office will have disposable face masks for those who need them.
Crime Victim Advocate Program, 317 Woody St.
The office will open to the public Monday, June 8, with limited staff.
Telephone-based services are strongly encouraged.
In-person services will be by appointment, except in cases of an emergency. This includes applications for orders of protection and other advocacy services.
People can call 406-258-3830 to make an appointment.
The office encourages no more than one person to attend an appointment but will make accommodations for parties of two.
A maximum of two clients will be allowed in the office at one time.
Clients will be required to wear a face covering to enter the office. We will provide you with a paper mask if you do not have your own.
Plan to maintain a 6′ distance from staff when visiting the office and/or when attending court with an advocate.
Hand sanitizer will be available for clients, and staff will wipe down pens and other items between customers.
District Court, Courthouse Second and Third Floors
District Court, which is a function of the state, will begin conducting in-person hearings throughout June. Those with questions should contact their attorney or the courts for additional information.
Elections Center, 140 N. Russell St.
The Elections Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and providing voter services with social distancing and sanitation measures in place. Voters should expect longer wait times for voter registration, ballot replacement and other services.
The Elections Office must receive ballots by 8 p.m. Election Day; postmarks are not sufficient. Elections staff encourages voters who have not yet mailed their ballots to drop them at the Elections Office through June 1 or at a drive-thru ballot drop-off on Election Day.
On Election Day, voter registration and other services will be in the large green building on the east side of the lot, with voter parking and drop-off at the same end of the lot. The west end of the lot, closest to Russell Street, is exit-only and right-turn-only on to Wyoming Street.
All voters in line at 8 p.m. on Election Day will be served.
Drive-by ballot drop-off will be available at five locations across the county from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day:
Missoula County Fairgrounds
Lolo Elementary School
Seeley Lake Elementary
Frenchtown Fire Station
Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, 3400 Captain Rawn Way
Museum will open to the public on June 1 with the reduced summer hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with the 10 a.m. to noon reserved for vulnerable populations. The museum will also be open from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Only 10 visitors will be allowed inside the museum at any given time.
Signs and floor markings will indicate 6-foot distancing where necessary, and a plexiglass barrier will be installed at the front desk.
Visitors will follow a one-way traffic pattern while viewing exhibits.
Museum will close an hour earlier than normal for cleaning and sanitizing.
Visitors are strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings, and staff and volunteers will wear them when in public areas of the museum.
The museum will provide a sign-in sheet for visitors to assist with contract tracing, if necessary.
Starting Monday, June 15, small groups of 25 people or fewer will be allowed for programs outside on the grounds with proper social distancing. The number of visitors inside the museum will continue to be limited to 10. Social distancing is strongly encouraged.
HMFM will start accepting book and artifact donations by appointment only on June 15.
Volunteers can resume activities on Wednesday, July 13.
Groups of up to 50 can gather on the grounds with social distancing starting July 13.
The museum plans to resume all normal activities when the state enters Phase Three.
Justice Court, Courthouse, First Floor
All court hearings other than trials, order of protection hearings, and landlord/tenant possession hearings will be held by conference call or video. Parties should not appear in court unless a judge or clerk instructs them to.
Anyone who receives a ticket should contact the clerk of court at 406-258-3470 to schedule an initial appearance.
Anyone physically appearing in a courtroom must use cloth face coverings. The court will provide disposable masks for those unable to provide their own.
The court will not begin conducting criminal jury trials again until July, at the earliest. Civil jury trials will not resume until September, at the earliest.
The court is officiating weddings again under limited circumstances.
Upon request, initial appearances, trials and other proceedings will be available to the public via Zoom.
Public Works, 6089 Training Drive
The main office in Missoula will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays starting Monday, June 1.
No more than two customers at a time will be allowed in the lobby. The department asks that when visitors see more than one customer inside that they wait in their vehicles until a customer leaves.
Signage will be in place to help customers adhere to social distancing while inside. Public Works recommends that customers wear masks, and a limited number of disposable masks will be available upon entry.
The Seeley Lake satellite office also will open to the public June 1, but by appointment only. Please call 406-396-8148 to make an appointment.
Public Works inspectors will resume all inspections, including interior inspections, starting June 1. The department encourages on-site customers and contractors to wear appropriate PPE during the inspection and follow social distancing guidelines.
Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy issued an order Friday providing additional guidance and restrictions to accompany the statewide Reopening the Big Sky plan Gov. Steve Bullock outlined earlier this week.
The order enhances sections of the governor’s plan and provides for a more gradual reopening process. It intends to protect public health and Missoula’s healthcare hub, our communities, and our essential businesses, services and workers. It will also allow local public health to develop guidance for businesses during this transition.
The key components of the order include:
Events are limited to 25 people. During Phase One, which begins Monday, April 27, events and gatherings such as, but not limited to, fairs, festivals, markets (including farmers’ markets), concerts, sporting events, races and private parties outside the home must be limited to 25 people during Phase One. A 6-foot physical distance between participants must be maintained. If this distancing cannot be maintained, then these gathers are limited to 10 people, per the governor’s directive.
Salons, spas, body art, grooming and similar services must remain closed. Hair and nail salons, barbershops, spas, tattoo parlors, massage parlors and other businesses and individuals providing grooming, beauty, body art, piercing, massage and similar services will remain closed until Phase Two. Massage therapy affiliated with licensed physical therapy and chiropractor services is exempt from this requirement.
Retail businesses must take additional measures to reopen. Retail business, formerly deemed “non-essential” and required to be closed during the stay-at-home directive, may reopen to only curbside pick-up and delivery on Monday, April 27. These businesses may resume in-store services on Friday, May 1, if all the requirements below are met. The following requirements also apply to essential retail businesses that continued operations under the statewide stay-at-home directive:
At any given time, the maximum number of customers must be 50% of usual business capacity
Measures to protect customers and staff waiting in line at checkout counters, such as visible markers or signs denoting six-foot separation or temporary barriers, are in place
Staff have received training on practicing good hygiene, maintaining physical distancing, recognizing symptoms of COVID-19, and not reporting to work or remaining at work if experiencing symptoms;
Businesses must develop and implement an individualized plan addressing the requirements in the governor’s re-opening directive and this order. Businesses must keep the completed plan on-site and make it available to the Missoula City-County Health Department upon request.
Eating and drinking establishments must adhere to requirements to reopen. Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos may reopen on Monday, May 4, as long as all the guidelines outlined in the governor’s directive can be met. The main difference here between the state plan and the Missoula County approach is that the guidelinesoutlined in the governor’s plan will be requirements in Missoula County. If establishments cannot meet these requirements, they must remain closed during Phase One. In addition, these establishments also must provide for at least 6 feet of separation between diners and groups of diners, including those sitting in booths.
These measures will remain in effect until the governor moves the state to Phase Two re-opening (the date for which has not been determined) or until this order is revoked or revised based on review of epidemiological data, testing availability and public health and medical capacity to control the spread of the virus and treat COVID-19.
To read the full order and access additional guidance, head to missoula.co/cvirus. If you have questions about how the local orders affect your business or organization, you can call 406-258-4755.
“We know that there are cases in our county that have not been identified and are concerned that we could see a spike in cases if we loosen restrictions too quickly and without a plan,” said Cindy Farr, incident commander with the Missoula City-County Health Department’s COVID-19 response. “We need to take a measured approach to reopening in Missoula for the sake of the public’s health.”
Farr also added that the measures, while delaying some openings, will help minimize the chances of future closures or workforce impacts if cases increase.
“What we don’t want is for businesses to invest in getting back on track, only to be affected again,” Farr said. “Taking the time, providing guidance and moving methodically is important.”
The health department recognizes that loosening any restriction is likely to contribute to case numbers but knows restrictions long-term are not practical. Working with businesses and the community to create a “new normal” in the era of the pandemic is essential.
Since Wednesday, the health department received more than 200 comments from community members, business owners and essential workers. About 90% of the comments asked for additional local measures, particularly to slow the reopening of the businesses that are covered in the order.
Under the governor’s directive, public schools in Montana will have the option to reopen starting Thursday, May 7. The decision to reopen will be up to individual school districts, including Missoula County Public Schools and other districts in the county. The Board of Trustees for MCPS, the largest district in the county, plans to make that decision on Friday, May 1.
Along with these measures, the department encourages community members to practice personal and community protective measures. Monitoring for symptoms, staying home when sick, washing hands, social distancing, and staying home as much as possible are still prevention measures that matter. Additionally, the Health Board’s recommendation for wearing cloth face coverings in public spaces where social distancing is hard may decrease community spread.
“Keeping cases down at this point comes down to behavior and contact tracing,” Farr said. “We can do the contact tracing and provide guidance to our community, but we still need the community’s help. It is going to take all of us supporting each other to keep COVID-19 down. We’ve weathered this storm as well as we have because of community thinking, and that’s what’s going to continue to matter.”