Missouri Criminal Sentencing
10:15 am
Wed August 24, 2011

Mo. sentencing project gets backing from officials

Here's an update to a story we shared with you this morning:

Top officials from Missouri's legislative, executive and judicial branches are joining forces in an effort to revamp Missouri's criminal sentencing practices.

Missouri officials are working with the Pew Center on the States to analyze current sentencing laws, prison and probation programs and recidivism rates. Other states that have done similar studies have enacted laws directing more nonviolent offenders to enhanced probation and drug treatment programs. That generally saves prison beds for the most serious and violent offenses.

Governor Jay Nixon says he wants to draw on the successful use of alcohol and drug courts to divert nonviolent offenders away from doing hard time.

“We’re making great strides, but we want to do better," Nixon told reporters today at his State Capitol office.  "It is vital to insure that we not only continue to keep Missourians safe by holding offenders accountable, but also that taxpayers continue to get a good public safety return on their investment.”

Supreme Court Judge William Ray Price, Jr., said many nonviolent offenders can be dealt with more effectively by other means.

“To reduce crime, we must do more than punish offenders; we must break the cycle of drug addiction and criminal behavior," Price said.  "We need to help them turn their lives around to become productive, working, tax-paying members of our society.”

A group of lawmakers working with the Pew Center is expected to present Governor Nixon with a report later this year, recommending new bills on sentencing practices for next year’s legislative session.