Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Missouri looks to trim prison population through law making

The Missouri Legislature recently passed a bill that aims to gradually reduce the state's prison population by strengthening community supervision for nonviolent offenders, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The bill sets up a system of carrots and sticks for people on probation for certain nonviolent felonies, such as drug possession. Offenders could receive points for following court-imposed conditions of their release, shortening their probation by 30 days for each month of compliance.

If they violated the rules of probation--for example, by testing positive for drugs--the probation officer could impose an immediate 48-hour jail term. Counties would receive $30 a day to pay for inmates serving such sentences.  More serious violations could result in a 120-day "shock" sentence in a state prison.

The state Department of Corrections spends more than $660 million and incarcerates more than 30,700 people. By keeping some nonviolent offenders out of prison, the bill could save the state $168,657 next year and possibly more in future years, according to the Post-Dispatch.

The changes were recommended by a working group that studied Missouri prison data. That study, by the Pew Center on the States, found that nearly three-fourths of new admissions to state prisons stemmed from probation violations--many of them "technical" violations.

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