For almost 30 years “get tough on crime” has been the mantra in America. Politicians have run successful campaigns on law and order platforms. Stiffer sentencing laws resulted in over 2 million Americans being incarcerated. But the tide is turning. Across the country there is growing bi-partisan support to reduce sentences for non-violent offenders, to increase efforts to help ex-offenders successfully re-enter society and to reform mandatory-minimum laws. This movement is being fueled by an increasing awareness of the high cost of incarceration and the tragic toll it takes on families and communities. To read a thoughtful article about the need for responsible prison reform, click here.
Criminal justice reform measures are also being introduced in the Missouri General Assembly. This year the MCC will be working on legislation that promotes better hiring practices to give ex-offenders a second chance at employment. Too many times ex-offenders are eliminated by the application form that asks if they have a criminal record. Another area of interest for the MCC will be to support expungement legislation that allows ex-offenders who have committed certain crimes and have been law-abiding for a period of years to have their criminal records closed to public viewing. The MCC will also be advocating for juvenile justice reforms, including keeping youth out of adult jails and advocating for a sentencing policy that would give youth who commit murder and are rehabilitated a chance at release.
The importance of criminal justice issues was highlighted by Pope Francis when he visited a prison in Philadelphia on his historic visit to the U.S. in 2015. Pope Francis said the faithful should commit to helping the prisoners in their time of “rehabilitation” because no one is perfect. “All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from,” the pontiff noted.