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Prison Reform Would Save Missouri Taxpayers Millions, Bipartisan Report Says

Categories: Crime, Politics
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Is prison reform in Missouri's future?
Since 1990, Missouri's spending on inmates has tripled to more than $660 million, and the state's prison population has doubled. While the state's overall general fund has grown by 14 percent over the last decade, the Department of Corrections' budget has grown by 39 percent.

For all the spending, the state hasn't seen much return on its investment. Between 1999 and 2009, violent crime in America dropped 18 percent while the nation's imprisonment rate increased by two percent. Over that same period, though, Missouri's violent crime rate dropped by just two percent and its imprisonment rate rose by seven percent.

Those stats come courtesy of a new report from the Missouri Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections, a bipartisan, fifteen-member committee made up of appointments from all three branches of government and co-chaired by state Sen. Jack Goodman (R) and state Rep. Chris Kelly (D). The report concludes that reforming the state's probation and parole policies, shifting more drug offenders toward rehabilitation, and reducing the state's highest-in-the-nation sentencing disparity for crack cocaine would allow the Department of Corrections to focus more on serious offenders and save Missouri tax-payers millions of dollars.

A good-size chunk of the state's incarceration rate increase, the report found, stemmed from probation and parole violations. Currently, these revocations account for 71 percent of prison admissions, which is a 16 percent increase since 1990. Around 40 percent of inmates released from prison return within two years. Nearly two-thirds of parole and probation revocations, though, come from non-violent violations, including drug offenses.

"Of the prison admissions for drug possession between 2000 and 2010, 81 percent resulted from a revocation," the report stated. "Put another way, a significant number of the inmates convicted of a drug offense entered prison not because of the seriousness of the underlying offense but because they violated the rules of community supervision."

Accordingly, the report recommends alternatives to the straight-to-prison model. Those suggestions include: incentivizing good behavior by reducing the term of supervision by 30 days for every 30 days of compliance; using short, one- or two-day stints in jail as punishment for certain violations; requiring drug treatment programs for first-time violators who catch a drug charge.

Reforming the "War on Drugs," of course, ties into any discussion of prison reform. In Missouri, one out of every five inmates is serving time for a drug offense, which is just about the national average among state prisoners. While the federal government last year reduced its crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity from a 100-1 ratio to an 18-1 ratio, Missouri's remains at 75-1, which is the highest in the nation (the next closest is New Hampshire's 28-1 ratio). This means a person in Missouri caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine receives the same penalty as a person in Missouri caught with 375 grams of powder cocaine. The report recommends that this disparity be reduced.

With belts tightening in statehouses across the nation, prison reform has gained more and more support from people other than sociology professors and New York Times editorial board members. This tide was perhaps most famously seen in Indiana Republican governor Mitch Daniels' widely popular but still-stalled effort to enact sweeping changes in his state's corrections policies earlier this year.

Missouri Working Group estimates that its prison reform package would reduce the state's prison population by 245 to 677 inmates within six years and reduce costs by $7.7 million to $16.6 million.

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4 comments
Metobie2
Metobie2

If they would let the first time offenders out on probation or parole, the prisons wouldn't be overcrowded and the taxpayers wouldn't have to foot the bill. Maybe we could get some roads fixed in this state if we weren't supporting first timers. My son just got 10 years for stealing 2 pizzas and $20. That's a CRIME for ruining someone's life for one stupid moment. He's a first time offender. 5 years probation would have helped him more than sitting behind bars. Even on probation you have to pay the state, so what are they losing?

jlo1965
jlo1965

I don't know about Missouri but prisons in general are big business. From outsourcing to private prisons companies, to contracts with corporations for supplies, food and for free prison labor. It is the biggest growth industry. With 1 out of every 100 Americans in prison at this rate of growth it will be 1 in 15 in no time. Either we breed the most evil people on the planet or something else is going on !

Jojo
Jojo

P.S. - You will also find by gleaning through actual history and not the weepy holohoax history that jews carried on the exact same pogroms in their Boshevik Conversion in Russia as they're doing now in AmeriKwa

Jojo
Jojo

I would consider since Americans are taught that other nations are theirs to invade on behalf of, and for the benefit of, their jewish masters and that America has a population of 14% poorly or completely uneducated negros, porous borders that allows anyone in to the country and no accountability for the mestizos that have already poured in seeking free social services and those that will continue to pour in, regards sodomy and other deviant behaviour as a birthright and not as immorality, that "Yes" America does breed the most evil people.

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