Broken Windows Policing in Missoula May Require a Bigger Jail

by lizard

Missoula is looking at the possibility of spending 12 million dollars to increase the holding capacity of our county jail.

Jason Kowalski, the Sheriff’s Captain who oversees the jail, and Fred Van Valkenburg, our worthless head of the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, have conflicting perceptions on the non-violent residents of the jail:

Sheriff’s Capt. Jason Kowalski explained that inmates with mental health and addiction issues are consistently placed in cells where they shouldn’t be housed, and maximum security is full all the time. He said one day in September, the jail was 15 women over the 45-bed limit.

“It’s stressing me out beyond belief,” Kowalski said.

In the past, Missoula County relied on other counties to house the overflow, but that’s not an option now. According to Kowalski and other jail officials, overcrowding conditions are the norm in every county in Montana, and at state facilities too. Montana’s jails are packed to the limit and simply too full to handle Missoula’s consistent overflow, they said.

But there’s also a question of nonviolent criminals getting jail time for minor crimes like a probation violation or driving on a suspended license. Kowalski said that’s a big problem, and both city and county courts are incarcerating petty criminals.

“Those cases are there where a transient has a $50 fine and can’t pay it,” Curtiss said.

Not so, said Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg.

“Ninety-eight percent of the people who are in jail are there because they need to be,” he said.

If people are going to jail for nonviolent, minor crimes, the city – not the county – is sending them there, he said.

While Jason is acknowledging the real scope of the problem, Fred the windbag is doing what he does best: avoiding any responsibility by pointing fingers. He is also acknowledging that 2% of the jail population doesn’t need to be there. I’m not sure where Fred gets his figures, but there are clearly people in jail who are there because they are poor, mentally ill, and/or addicts. And why are they there? Because of a failed approach of policing petty crimes called Broken Windows.

Broken Windows was first established in New York and received undue credit for a drop in crime rates. Broken Windows is also credited with creating the conditions possible for the gentrification of Times Square, and now Los Angeles wants a piece. In a Truth Out article titled Policing for Wealth, some familiar sounding aspirations are articulated by the business interests:

Downtown Los Angeles, once dilapidated and almost totally neglected by the city, has been gentrifying rapidly since the late 1990s, when the city passed an adaptive-reuse ordinance that encouraged developers to transform old buildings into lofts and boutique shops.

Developers are consciously following a precedent set by New York. “Right now, Downtown [Los Angeles] is like Brooklyn, but that’s going to change. This is going to be Manhattan,” said one prominent developer to GQ.

Leading the Manhattanization of Downtown is the area’s main business lobby, the Central City Association (CCA), which sees broken windows-style policing as an essential component of development – especially in “cleaning up” Skid Row, a gritty 50-square block area that is home to thousands of homeless people.

“Downtown’s continued revitalization requires consistent enforcement and prevention of low-level crimes that breed both negative perceptions and actual incidence of larger crimes,” reads a CCA manifesto called “Downtown 2020: Roadmap to LA’s Future.” It goes on to declare that the CCA will “lobby for . . . reinforcing the broken windows approach to policing.”

The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) first full-scale implementation of broken windows policing happened in 2006, when Bill Bratton was serving as its police chief. That year, the CCA, in concert with another business lobby in the downtown area, the Central City East Association, successfully lobbied City Hall to send a 50-officer task force into Skid Row. According to reports, most apprehended under the campaign were taken in on drug charges and minor offenses like sitting on the sidewalk. The vast majority arrested were homeless people, many of whom suffered from drug addiction and mental illness.

While a subsequent lawsuit countered the overt police aggression, broken windows continued to guide the LAPD under Bratton until he left in 2009. The strategy’s ghost lives on under the reign of Bratton’s successor, current LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Sound familiar Missoula?

So instead of funding treatment options, or looking at actual humane, cost-saving approaches, like housing first, some people want a bigger jail to absorb the costly consequences of broken windows policing. I say costly because the nightly rate to detain an individual is around $110 dollars.

So as some businesses downtown sell single cans of malt liquor to homeless people, then complain about public intoxication and aggressive panhandling, the cost of trying to insulate downtown from societal failures to address mental illness and addiction will continue ballooning.

Who is going to pay for all this?


  1. evdebs

    This is a problem around the country. Obviously, building more jails in a country with 2.5 million prisoners is lunacy.

    There are many municipalities that have aggressively sought ways to reduce jail populations and there are consultants with a good record, and those with a lousy record. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out which is which.

    While solutions are being discussed, citizens should be on guard regarding privatization initiatives, whether it’s for-profit jail scamsters or for-profit monitoring of probationers. Putting in a financial incentive to pay lobbyists and keep more prisoners is a certain formula for disaster.

    • lizard19

      yes, we should always be on guard for corruption, even if it’s Elizabeth Warren:

      Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts rode to Washington—and progressive icon status—by promising “to work for the middle class and working families every chance I get” and, unlike Mitt Romney and other Republican corporate lackeys, ensure that “we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.” So one would think that she would be the one leading the charge against the government-funded Export-Import bank that even President Obama once described as “little more than…corporate welfare.”

      In fact, it was Tea Party Republicans who fought to scrap this relic of the Great Depression when its term was set to expire at the end of this month—and Warren who said she was on the side of the bank’s corporate beneficiaries.

      Her office recently released a statement noting not that the bank is a hotbed of corruption (given that four of its employees were recently removed for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks), misgovernance (the bank has numerous times doled out financial assistance to companies filing fraudulent applications) and a taxpayer rip off whose time is up. Rather, it said that Warren “looks forward to reviewing the reauthorization” of the bank because it “helps create American jobs and spur economic growth.”

      Earlier this month, she ended up voting against the bank not because she had a change of heart about its value. Rather, its funding until 2015 was attached to Senate legislation to help arm moderate Syrian rebel, which she didn’t support. (Ironically, some opponents of corporate welfare, such Republican Sen. Marco Rubio ended up voting to keep the bank alive because they supported the broader bill.)

      Be that as it may, Warren must know that the bank does not live up to her rosy claims. In fact, it is the very essence of what she despises: crony capitalism or what she condemns as socialism “for rich people.”

      • petetalbot

        Thought for a moment I had stumbled on the Heritage Foundation website. Instead, turns out the above block quote comes from the Reason website, a site with similar libertarian leanings and, according to Source Watch: “Its largest donors are the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation ($1,522,212) and the Sarah Scaife Foundation ($2,016,000).” Two foundations that really take the interests of the disenfranchised in our society to heart.

        • lizard19

          I was waiting for someone to take issue with the source.

        • Interesting phenomenon, to refuse to look at information unless the source is vetted. It is a way of quarantining them.

          • Steve W

            Hey mark, hola, for some reason I can’t respond to your blog, piece of mind, What’s up?

            • JC

              He’s hiking to Machu Picchu, and will be off grid for the next 4 days. My bet is he turned off comments to keep the trolls from burying the site in comments.

            • Spammers have penetrated the WordPress filters. Things will be back to normal when we return stateside.

          • petetalbot

            Hey shit-for-brains (Tokarski), I obviously did look at the information and then went a little farther and checked out the source. It’s called research. You should try it.

            • Pete, I’ve noticed that you, Pogie and Conner, professional Democrats all, lack guile. You are easy to fool and manipulate. I’ve seen you played like children by the Democrats for years now.

              Your refusal to use your brains, to go all knee-jerk based on what you assume are reliable and unreliable sources, is a sign of laziness if nothing else, but worse, just low ability to process complex information as our world presents.

              So I suggest you back off, SFB, as you ain’t winning any Mensa awards, but the Darwin people are watching you closely.

      • Just a guy

        One of our finest champions of left wing populism supports one of our finest emblems of crony capitalism? The horror… the horror. Not all that surprising when one considers the left’s predilection for picking winners and losers. Government as Santa Claus and policy as legal plunder aren’t quite as fun when the spoils go to people we don’t like.

  2. One word comes to mind, corruption. Either I have simply become aware of the depth of its penetration of government down to the lowest levels, or it has grown exponentially alongside tax cuts. I think the latter.

    Also, two names who bear responsibility for the way people think about their fellow humans: Darwin, on whom was built the idea that weaker humans must perish, and Malthus, who said they’ll die anyway, so either let it happen or help them along. Those two inadvertently created the meme that has infected us, and are the reason why we commit genocide on other countries and don’t offer help to those who need it most.

  3. JC

    And it’s crazy that they would even consider hitting up county taxpayers for a new jail when they are still renting out 144 beds to the state. They made the statement somewhere (too lazy right now to look up the link) that they’d have to forgo all that revenue from the state if they cleared out those beds. In other words, the county has been lulled into the incarceration business and willing to think they can dupe taxpayers into expanding the business. Corruption indeed!

    I wonder if these idiots remember the fate of the 911 facility bond failure at the polls a while back? The city/county tried to hide a bunch of unrelated facility construction desires behind the patriotism of our 911 call center responders. It’s the same mentality that thinks they can push a 12 million dollar bond while we rent out space to the state for profit.

  4. The Sheriff Arpaio solution has had great success.

    http://www.mcso.org/jailinformation/tentcity.aspx

    Bring on the Tents.

    • JC

      Nice to know you and Joe don’t believe in the Constitution’s 8th Amendment provisions against cruel and unusual punishment, anarchist you are.

      Why don’t you just come right out and state you don’t believe in constitutional governance?

      • Swede is not an anarchist. He’s just hateful and deeply ignorant.

        • Mark I was thinking you’d save a lot of money if you switched to Liberian Air for the return trip home.

          • Liberian probably better that Frontier. I feel obligated to tell you, without even looking at a map, that I am in South America, and Liberia is in Africa. They are not the same.

            • Ebola joke, McFly.

              • Steve W

                Inane drivel, dude.

            • You and I both know you don’t know where Liberia is. I’m not sure you know where Africa is.

      • Yeah, I’m thinking the whole county that Joe runs are full of anarchists.

        Just re-elected with 83% of the vote.

        • JC

          Even anarchists will vote. Your variety just doesn’t believe in the rule of law. It’s vigilantism all the way. And in my book, vigilantism is anarchism of the worst sort.

          • Thought you were a big OWS supporter.

            “Several commentators have stated that the Occupy Wall Street movement has roots in the philosophy of anarchism.[1][2][3][4] David Graeber, an early organizer of the movement, is a self-proclaimed anarchist.[5] Graeber, writing for The Guardian, has argued that anarchist principles of direct action, direct democracy and rejection of existing political institutions are the foundations of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Graeber also believes that radical segments of the civil rights movement, the anti-nuclear movement and the global justice movement have been based on the same principles.[6]”-Wiki.

            • JC

              Note I said “anarchism of the worst sort.” As with “democracy”, there are many forms of anarchism. Vigilantism occurs when unreasoned anarchism results from a breakdown or lack of social order.

              I might more accurately describe you as an anarcho-capitalist or a minarchist, neither of which bear any resemblance to Graeber’s vision of anarchy.

              • So believing in “constitutional governance” applies only if you participate in the correct form of anarchism?

              • JC

                If you agree with Joe, then you don’t believe in constitutional government, as his actions run counter to it. Don’t get all twisted up about this. It’s confusing to you, I know, to think you might at heart be an anarchist.

        • It’s pretty redneck down there, low IQ white slinging guns around harassing Hispanics, whose people were there before the US stole the place from Mexico. You’d fit right in.

          You don’t know that before the Southwest became part of the U.S. (after a war started by a false flag event) that all of that land was occupied by Mexicans and Indians and Spanish people, and that whites were interlopers. Right? Please note I’ve stopped giving you credit for knowing anything, so I am pretty sure I am right about that.,

          • So it’s all about property rights?

            • No. I just like pointing out to passerby that in addition to everything else, you’re also ignorant of American history.

              • So by responding to my comments numerous times by questioning my intelligence makes you look superior?

                Are you so self absorbed that you can’t sense the laughter behind your back?

              • I just exist, do my best. give and take, and on the days that I take it have a good dose of humility. I’ve made a measure of everyone I deal with based on the words they write, and have seen some real talent about, often taking it in the shorts, seeing my ideas upended and undone. The people that I deal with are vulnerable, like me, and humble too, that is, they realize that we can all be wrong about everything and need to listen and learn constantly, Blog exchanges need not be polite, but even at their most harsh can lead to new insight, better, smarter ideas. (No sooner did I put up a post on the Hong Kong uprising than two gentlemen showed me that AID, NED and CIA were behind it, as in Ukraine.)

                That’s what it’s like on the blogs, why they are fun.

                In your case, you are made of brittle glass, are invulnerable, and have not had a new idea or insight in the eight years I’ve known you. You’ve never once changed your mind in anything. You’ve never given evidence if having read a book. You lack concentration, can’t read or think in depth, and rarely read anything, at best skimming, looking for an entry point to drop one of your links.

                Your brain, your cerebral cortex, has obviously been destroyed by agitprop over these many decades. The word “superior” has no more use in that situation than a healthy person walking through a cancer ward. I’ve been lucky so far, avoided the damage, you have not.

                This was too long, I realize, so up you just skimmed it, jumped to this sentence. This is the problem with you.

              • 8 “I”‘s or “my” in the first paragraph.

                Checkmate on the self absorbed observation.

              • We’ve learned, Swede, that your wife has built up quite a sizable rainy day fund over the years, and this is not the old “every time a got a dozen eggs I sold them” joke. She has been able to take a little money each week and hide it in a place she knew you would never look: a book.

        • Keep forgetting to hit notify button.

  1. 1 Missoula County Attorney’s Office Punts Fox Club Shooting Case | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] out of thin air, like he did in the recent article about overcrowding in the county jail, which I wrote about here, but I don’t think anyone takes Fred seriously […]

  2. 2 Applying “Broken Windows” Theory to Wall Street | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] 4&20 regulars are probably familiar with Broken Windows Theory as it relates to policing because I’ve put out posts like this one and this one. […]




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