A few years ago, Missouri was on track to need two new prisons, potentially costing the state hundreds of millions in tax dollars. But not any longer. From 2017 to 2018, Missouri’s incarceration rate decreased by 7.1 percent, the largest drop in the country according to the Vera Institute for Justice.
This decrease follows some recent reforms, including improving parole and probation practices, expanding community-based treatment for mental health and substance abuse, and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18 years. Now, the legislature is considering other reforms. One would amend sentencing guidelines to allow judges the discretion to give an alternative sentence to imprisonment for certain non-violent crimes when appropriate. Additionally, lawmakers are examining regulations regarding occupational licenses for ex-offenders that can shut them out of jobs and increase the likelihood they return to prison. Reforms like these can provide taxpayers with the best public safety return on their investment make a lot of sense.