Citing its importance for public safety, lawmakers on Wednesday, Sept. 10, overwhelmingly overrode Governor Nixon’s veto of funds that help ex-offenders returning back into the community.
The $2 million for re-entry grants were part of 55 line-item vetoes that the general assembly overrode during the annual veto session this week. Funding for the re-entry grant program had been eliminated in June when Governor Nixon slashed $276 million in line-item vetoes amid claims of balancing the budget.
The Missouri Catholic Conference, along with Catholic Charities agencies, were part of an organized override effort to raise awareness with legislators about the importance of these grants that go to non-profit organizations in the community. Among the recipients of past grants are the Criminal Justice Ministry affiliated with the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the TurnAround Ex-offender Program affiliated with Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
“We are very grateful that lawmakers realized the importance of these grants and supported the override,” said Sr. Carleen Reck, Executive Director of Criminal Justice Ministry (CJM) in St. Louis. “When prisoners are released from correctional facilities in other states, they receive a few dollars so they can take a bus, buy a sandwich or get a new pair of socks. In Missouri they receive no start-up help and rely on non-profits like CJM to assist them. These grant monies support five programs in CJM that provide some modest help to ex-offenders.”
According to Jan Motl, Director of the TurnAround Ex-offender Program, 369 of their clients are able to receive basic services because of these grants. “These grants help ex-offenders become self-sufficient and successful when they return to the community,” Motl said. She indicated that the recidivism rate of their ex-offender clients is 12% compared to 41.8% statewide.
Over 40 community organizations across the state have received funding from the re-entry grants. These organizations have provided a variety of services including employment counseling, job training, case management services, substance abuse treatment, life skills and family mentoring, as well as housing and transportation assistance.
A 2012 study by the University of Missouri’s Institute of Public Policy showed that the re-entry program had a significant impact on reducing recidivism rates, even with high-risk offenders.
The Missouri Catholic Conference supported the re-entry grant override as a vital part of Catholic social teaching. The restorative justice approach to criminal justice calls for addressing victims’ needs, holding offenders accountable and involving the community in restoring the ex-offender back into the community upon release.
“Helping the ex-offender successfully return to society as a law-abiding citizen saves the state incarceration costs and makes our communities safer,” noted Sr. Reck. “This small investment of $2 million can reap huge benefits for the state in the future.”
The MCC wishes to thank all the Catholics across the state who contacted lawmakers in support of this program and the lawmakers who realized the significance of the re-entry grant program.