Missouri state Sen. Matt Bartle, a law-and-order Republican, has won Senate approval for a plan he hopes will reduce the state’s prison population by 2,000, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Barttle was influenced by state Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr., who had told legislators that the state couldn’t afford to keep warehousing nonviolent prisoners rather than treating the reason many of them are locked up: alcohol and drug problems.
The bill would not actually release anybody from prison, but it would keep those convicted of the lowest felonies out of state prisons. Instead, counties would keep such inmates in county jails or divert them to drug courts. Half of the savings from the bill would be used to reduce the state’s budget crisis, while the rest of the money would be split for various purposes, including more funding for drug courts and providing a source of jail funding for counties.