Starting next week, Missouri judges will have new information to help them determine sentences, reports the Associated Press. The Sentencing Advisory Commission helped develop a new system, which will launch Nov. 1, to provide judges with not only a defendant’s criminal past but also the likelihood that the defendant will commit new crimes and what sentences other judges in the state are ordering in similar cases. Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Wolff hopes the new sentences will direct more people into community programs, rather than to a limited number of state prison beds. “If there is a community-based sentence that could be imposed that would be effective for this person, we ought to be using it,” Wolff said. “We ought to be saving our prison space for the truly violent offenders.”
The system measures a person’s risk of committing another criminal act using statistical models developed by parole officials that consider past crimes and lifestyle factors. The factors include such things as drug or alcohol abuse, the level of education, and employment history. The new system provides a Web site that judges, attorneys, or anyone else can use to see what a recommended sentence would be for an individual with a certain crime and a particular background. That could prove helpful when prosecutors and defendants are working out plea agreements. It also explains how long a person is likely to spend behind bars before being released on parole. See http://www.mosac.mo.gov/ for more information.