Missoula County and the Missoula County Sheriff’s office was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the MacArther Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

"We're really excited about this, now we are able to partner with them [MacArthur Foundation] to start some new programing in our detention facility," said Undersheriff Jason Johnson. "This programming will specifically help the Native American population that find themselves in our facility. The first thing we will do is a research project, which will be conducted by Kevin Kicking Woman and Katherine Little Leaf."

The research will involve personal interviews with inmates to help discover some of the underlying reasons behind the high rate of incarceration among Missoula’s Native American population. Johnson says the high incarceration rate was highlighted during research of the county’s recently created jail diversion plan.

"What we found is that in our facility in Missoula County, that there's a fourteen percent, on average, population of Native American's in our custody. That is disproportionately high compared to the percentage of population of Native Americans in the community at large, which is roughly three percent of the population."

After the interview and data gathering process is finalized, grant money will then begin to fund specialized programs. One is called Many Broken Hearts, which helps deal with grief, loss and trauma, There’s also a program called Wellbriety, which takes on the issue of substance abuse, another is called Regaining the Warrior which focuses on family and social structure. All three programs will focus issues with a Native American focus.

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