Missouri Toughens Sentencing; Is Tide Turning?


A Missouri experiment with easing prison terms has come to an end as Gov. Matt Blunt signed a repeal of a two-year-old law that had allowed some drug offenders, burglars, and drunken drivers to get out of prison early, reports the Associated Press. Instead, more than three dozen new or enhanced crimes could result in more Missourians being sent to prison and kept there longer. “For public safety, people need to serve as much of their sentence as they can,” said Blunt, a Republican, undoing a law signed in 2003 by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden.

Passed when prison populations were soaring and state revenues were shrinking, the law allowed certain nonviolent felons with no prior prison time to seek release after serving 120 days behind bars – even though their sentences might have called for up to seven years. As of yesterday, judges had granted early release to just 44 of the 1,011 prisoners requesting it. Prosecutors, who fought the law two years ago, contended “that it was a pointless paperwork producer,” AP said. “We worked a long time to get truth in sentencing in position” under a 1994 state law, said St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, board chairman of the National District Attorneys Association. The early release law “was beginning to whittle away at truth in sentencing.” As finances have improved for states, the trend toward alternative sentencing laws has slackened, said Ryan King of The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C.

Link: http://newstribune.com/articles/2005/07/14/news_state/0071405031.txt

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