Missouri Gives Judges Data On Cost Of Potential Sentences


Justice in Missouri now comes with a price tag, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It is the first state to provide judges with defendant-specific data on what particular sentences would cost the taxpayers, and on the likelihood that the person in the dock will reoffend. “I don’t think it has any purpose in a process of balancing justice,” complained Jack Banas, the St. Charles County prosecuting attorney. “Justice doesn’t come down to dollars and cents. You have to look at the system as a whole picture.” Kristy Ridings, a St. Louis defense attorney, said: “I think it’s fantastic. It gives us more argument to look at alternative sentences. There are resources in the community that are not only more effective, but cheaper.”

Using information provided online, judges across the state can consider the cost of any sentence – from prison time to probation. The information may soon be included in formal presentence reports. Experts say Missouri is the only state to distribute an invoice on a case-by-case basis. “We’re seeing a trend where judges are asking for more evidence about best practices,” said Greg Hurley, of the National Center for State Courts. “They are looking at an offender’s track record and other predictive data that may show which treatments or programs may work best to cut down on recidivism.” Barbara Tombs, of the Washington, D.C., Sentencing Commission, said many states require corrections officials to draw up “economic impact statements” whenever they plan to change a penalty or create a new criminal violation. Such reports include added costs of prison beds, corrections officers and probation workers.

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