Criminal Justice Reform on Sentencing and Parole in Missouri
Recent changes have been made to Missouri’s criminal justice system in order to address important issues such as the high number of people in prison, an increase in violent crimes, and outdated parole rules.
Missouri’s new approach focuses on two main matters: how long people are kept in prison and when they can be released on parole. The state is trying to find a balance between being fair to people who did something wrong and making sure communities are safe.
These changes can affect people who are currently dealing with criminal charges. For those who are already in prison, there’s a chance they could be considered for parole sooner than expected. This shift in the system could mean a lot for the future of how justice is served in Missouri.
Learn more about Missouri’s criminal justice system and how criminal defense lawyers can help you fight a felony in Missouri.
What Were the Main Objectives of Missouri’s Criminal Justice Reform?
The main objectives of Missouri’s criminal justice reform were to:
Reduce recidivism rates
Improve public safety
The EOC wanted to achieve that through:
- Supporting local law enforcement to deal with violent crimes
- Using evidence-based practices and rules that work for women in their custody
- Helping parolees stay on track
- Making it easier to make decisions about parole
- Providing substance abuse treatment for people in the criminal justice system
- Removing roadblocks that stop victims of crime from getting help
The state has invested in treatment programs for substance abuse and mental health disorders. Moreover, they expanded alternative sentencing options. They have also provided better job training and educational opportunities for inmates.
How Have Sentencing Guidelines Changed Post-Reform?
Following the JRI program, Missouri Legislature approved HB 192. This is a Missouri state law that reforms “minimum prison terms” for habitual offenders.
Minimum prison terms refer to the number of years an individual must spend in prison for a crime. Those convicted of crimes with minimum sentencing typically have to serve at least a percentage of their mandatory prison term before they can become eligible for parole.
The law specifically lists which offenses trigger minimum prison terms. These are usually types of crimes that aren’t eligible for expungement in Missouri. These crimes include:
- Drug crimes
- Crimes against children
- Sex crimes
The law doesn’t change the minimum prison term for people who committed “dangerous felonies.” It also doesn’t release anyone from prison automatically. Instead, it limits which crimes trigger longer minimum prison terms.
Additionally, mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenses have been eliminated. Prosecutors are now encouraged to focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration. This change was made in order to decrease the number of non-violent offenders in prison and increase the availability of alternative sentencing options.
Furthermore, HB 192 prohibits courts from threatening jail time if a defendant does not pay “board bills,” fees associated with incarceration in county jails.
Changes in Parole Procedures
Under the JRI program, Missouri has made several changes to parole procedures. As a result of HB 192, certain Missouri state prisoners can apply for parole earlier. To be eligible, prisoners have to:
- Have served a minimum prison term for a crime that no longer requires it
- Currently, be in prison for a crime that is not considered a “dangerous felony”
- Have been sentenced before August 28, 2019
Parole eligibility in Missouri has also been expanded for non-violent offenders. Bear in mind that this law is retroactive. The Missouri Parole Board has to evaluate those currently serving mandatory minimums. If they meet the required conditions, they may be able to be released.
If you’re seeking a better understanding of the implications of Missouri’s criminal justice reform, the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center is here to help. Our experienced attorneys can provide you with valuable information during a free consultation, allowing you to make informed decisions about your legal matters.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have the Reforms Led to a Decrease in Crime Rates?
The implementation of the JRI program seemed to decrease Missouri’s prison population. According to The Council of State Governments Justice Center, that decline can be partly attributed to sentencing changes. However, the impact of Missouri’s reform on crime rates is still under study.