Missouri plans to add five community supervision centers for inmates to the two already operating, in hopes of keeping offenders away from prison’s revolving door, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Thanks to such alternatives, officials say, Missouri is leading the nation in reducing its inmate population. In the year that ended June 30, 2006, the number behind bars in Missouri declined by nearly 3 percent, the largest percentage in any state. “For the best public safety, you need to reserve the beds for the most dangerous and violent,” said Larry Crawford, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections. The state provides a special “re-entry” program for inmates leaving prison. They live in transitional housing units, learn how to write a résumé, and get a state-issued nondrivers identification card needed for everything from applying for jobs to renting a movie.
The state prison system costs $624 million annually to operate and holds 29,901 inmates. Each prisoner costs the state $39.43 a day or $14,392 a year. Since probation officers began issuing reports in November 2005 on whether defendants should be considered for community, supervision centers, the prison population has dropped by nearly 700 inmates. The number of inmates grew by 850 in the preceding fiscal year. David Valentine of the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri-Columbia, called the turnaround “dramatic.” Missouri is on the beginning edge of what should be a long-term, downward trend,” he said. The state’s approach has been crafted the past two years by a team led by Supreme Court Judge Mike Wolff. He heads the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission, which developed the format for the “sentencing assessment reports.” The commission developed a simple-to-use application on its website – www.mosac.mo.gov – that allows judges to get suggested sentences from their computers.