Corrections reform proposal a start, but not enough (MO)
The 2012 legislative session is scheduled to begin today. Missouri lawmakers soon will begin debating a series of bipartisan reforms endorsed by a working group of lawmakers and legal experts — including prosecutors, public defenders, judges and county sheriffs — that will seek to spend the state’s resources more effectively.
The reforms are quite obvious and based on hard data: Put away really bad guys. Reduce recidivism by treating the root causes of crime, such as drug and alcohol abuse. Give local officials the tools to discourage bad behavior.
Unfortunately, Missouri’s goals are less ambitious than many of the states that have benefited from the Pew Center’s data-driven study. In part, that’s because of the divided political climate that makes progress so difficult. As a result, the modest, if not underwhelming, package of reforms might save only $16 million a year by 2017, with a reduction of about 670 inmates.
This is not exactly what Missouri Supreme Court Judge William Ray Price Jr. had in mind each of the last few years as he urged lawmakers to reset priorities. Education funding was drying up while hundreds of millions of dollars were being wasted on corrections policies that don’t actually reduce crime.
"I would have liked to have seen more," Mr. Price told us about the working group’s report. "But you have to get the ball rolling in a way that’s possible."