Bills Relating to Administration of Criminal Justice Heard

This week, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees heard two bills relating to the administration of criminal justice. Relying heavily on the findings of the Justice Reinvestment Task Force called by the governor, SB 966, sponsored by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), and HB 2397, sponsored by Shamed Dogan (R-St. Louis), laid out numerous changes to how justice is carried out in Missouri. Among the provisions of the bills are easier access to crime victim funds, establishment of community behavioral health centers, adoption of a streamlined, validated assessment for parole purposes, and a new jail payments structure.

Numerous members of the Justice Reinvestment Task Force spoke in favor of the bill, including the Director of the Department of Corrections, the head of the Parole Board, the head of the Public Defenders and the head of the Department of Mental Health. All the witnesses spoke of the underlying need to make changes in the justice system, most noting that without changes, Missouri will be faced with building two new prisons by 2020. The MCC testified that the components in the bill embodied restorative justice principles advocated by the Catholic Church.