Among the legislative priorities this session is a bipartisan effort to pass corrections reform legislation. Spurred on by the continuing state budget crisis and the realization that Missouri’s prison population has doubled and corrections spending has tripled during the past 20 years, state leaders this summer created the Missouri Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections.
Composed of legislative leaders from both political parties as well as members of various government departments, the working group conducted extensive analysis of state data trends and reached consensus on a package of reforms they think will improve public safety, hold offenders accountable and contain corrections costs by strengthening community supervision. The Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice provided technical assistance and research for the working group.
Among the recommendations put forth by the working group in December are 1) creating a system of earned discharge from probation and parole; 2) giving probation and parole officers the authority to send offenders who have technical violations (i.e. a failed drug test) to short jail stints rather than returning them to prison; 3) using 120-day shock prison incarceration for the first technical revocation; 4) encouraging legislation to rewrite Missouri’s Criminal Code; and 5) strengthening and centralizing the process of collecting restitution for crime victims.
This corrections reform package is estimated to reduce the prison population by between 245 to 677 people by fiscal year 2017 and save between $7.7 and 16.6 million.
The MCC thinks this corrections reform package is a step in the right direction.
Catholic teaching has long supported a restorative justice approach to crime and punishment in which the injury to victims is repaired, offenders are held accountable, and the community is part of the healing and restoration. This reform package promotes restorative justice principles by ensuring limited use of imprisonment, utilizing community alternatives and addressing the needs of victims.
In their 2000 statement, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice,” the U.S. bishops note that restorative justice is not “soft on crime,” but reflects our values and tradition. “Our faith calls us to hold people accountable, to forgive and to heal.”
The bishops continue, “We seek justice, not vengeance. We believe punishment must have clear purposes: protecting society and rehabilitating those who violate the law.”
Legislation containing these corrections reform measures will soon be filed in both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly.
Click here to download the report from the Missouri Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections.