Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

Long-discussed changes materializing re Missouri criminal policies

Missouri garnered top-10 placement nationally in a recent year concerning a significant criminal law category.

State lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle weren’t too enthused about that.

It’s not hard to see why. Although it might have been a badge of honor to many during the 1980s high point of the so-called War on Crime that Missouri harbored an exceedingly high inmate population rate, that is no longer the case. Increasingly, criminal law pundits and commentators these days equate a hard-core lock-up philosophy with a broken system that badly begs material reform.

Objective accomplished, with a strong bipartisan focus on further adjustments in the state’s criminal justice system.

Gov. Mike Parson signed into law a number of legislative bills last week that spotlight reform measures. The state’s chief executive, who was once a high-ranking Missouri law enforcement official, told reporters that his long-time system tenure heavily drives his pro-reform views.

“The system needed to change over the years,” the governor stated in his office last Tuesday, “because just locking people up was not always the answer.”

Indeed, a broad-based reform coalition believes that quick recourse to incarceration is almost never the answer. That philosophy is increasingly lambasted for the high system costs it entails and the corresponding harms – often material and enduring – it visits on select individuals.

That demographic is a vast low-level offender population that evidence shows optimally benefits from rehabilitation and a second chance at social assimilation. Several of the bills enacted into law last week focus on reducing harsh penal outcomes for that group via the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and related measures.

It is estimated that Missouri could save nearly $6 billion from announced reforms once they formally take effect.

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