MO Passes Sentencing Reform Focused on Nonviolent Offenders


A bill designed to keep some nonviolent offenders out of prison by beefing up community supervision alternatives has been passed by the Missouri Legislature, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It keeps our beds available for the folks who truly need to be locked up,” said Rep. Gary Fuhr. The bill is projected to save the state an estimated $168,657 next year and potentially more in future years. While the bill is not so far-reaching as prison-closing measures in some states, its overwhelming, bipartisan approval stands out in a legislative session marked by gridlock and election-year politics.

It garnered support from prosecutors as well as public defenders, staunch law-and-order legislators as well as social welfare advocates, domestic violence workers as well as civil libertarians. “It is one of those rare times when we can come together and do something truly significant,” said co-sponsor Rep. Rory Ellinger. At the heart of the plan is more intensive community supervision. For example, probation officers could mete out immediate, 48-hour jail stays when an offender violates a rule of supervision, such as failing a drug test. Backers say swift punishment would get the message across better than the current system, in which minor violations pile up, get mired in court backlogs and then result in an offender being shipped to the penitentiary.

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