Corrections Bills Make Progress

This week, two corrections bills made progress in the Capitol.  SB 966, sponsored by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), passed the House Judiciary Committee. This bill contains many of the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force convened by Gov. Greitens last summer. One change the bill calls for is a community behavioral health program to help offenders with mental and substance abuse problems so that their chances of being re-incarcerated are reduced. One purpose of the Task Force was to find ways to reduce the number of inmates in prison to prevent the need to build two new prisons in 2020. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for debate.

The House of Representatives also perfected HB 1739, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage). This bill would allow judges the discretion to depart from minimum sentencing for certain convictions.  Statistics show that 80 percent of people incarcerated are convicted on nonviolent offenses and drug charges.  Allowing the judge to depart from minimum sentences has the potential of freeing up bed space for more serious offenders. The bill has one more House vote before it is sent to the Senate.