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MISSOURI GOVERNOR NIXON SIGNS HB1525, Prosecutors Applaud Decision

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The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (MAPA) applauds Governor Nixon’s decision to sign HB1525 into law. Known as the Justice Reinvestment Act, it is comprised of common-sense reforms to the corrections system, centering on effective management of probationers as opposed to needless release of vast numbers of violent criminals. Missouri’s Prosecutors supported this legislation and urged the Governor to sign it.


The Pew Center on the States recently released a national study entitled The High Cost of Long Prison Terms. This study, by the very group that was instrumental in guiding discussion relating to sentencing reform in Missouri, shows that Missouri's practices over the past two decades have resulted in savings to Missouri to the tune of $83 million.
By reducing the average time spent in prison prior to parole by a mere four months, Missouri has affirmed a commitment to public safety that withstands any calls to close prisons or engage in the release of inmates that would jeopardize the security of its citizens. “Missouri's Prosecutors remain confident that any common-sense, rational dialogue will lead to the irrefutable conclusion that this report now confirms -- that there is no crisis in Missouri's prison system that demands the wholesale release of inmates,” said Bob McCulloch, president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
 

“Claims of a prison overcrowding crisis have now been shown to be as equally misguided as previous claims of a public defender caseload crisis. While the budget as a whole is lean, savings in corrections have and will continue to come about through the natural course of events such as common-sense sentencing and parole practices. To engage in cost cutting exercises for the primary, if not sole, purpose of closing a prison is both dangerous and wrong.
 

“Now that the Justice Reinvestment Act has been passed, and the myth of a Missouri prison overcrowding crisis has been debunked by Pew itself, we should turn our attention to real ways the criminal justice system in Missouri can be improved without being weighed down by a false sense of urgency to sacrifice public safety for budgetary savings.”

Missouri's Prosecutors have long led efforts to ensure that violent offenders are given lengthy prison sentences, but that non-violent, true first-time offenders are afforded common-sense opportunities for treatment and rehabilitation while on probation and do not add to criminal justice system costs.

In the same spirit, Missouri’s Prosecutors urge interim committee on the Criminal Code, their fellow legislators, and policy makers to address funding inadequacies and also improve the criminal justice system in the following ways:

Pass the Criminal Code Revision endorsed by MAPA and The Missouri Bar. This product updates, harmonizes and streamlines Missouri's criminal laws for the twenty-first century. It does not decriminalize existing crimes, nor does it create new crimes. Instead, it consolidates duplicitous and boutique statutes into a rational, stair-stepped approach to crime and punishment similar to the original Code enacted in 1979.

By creating a fifth felony class and re-classifying offenses, we place the emphasis on a graduated spectrum of punishment.  

Under the revision, low-level, truly non-violent offenders will receive reasonable, but meaningful punishment and violent, heinous offenders will be dealt with appropriately.

Enact legislation that allows prosecutors to enforce the constitutional right of crime victims to restitution.

 

The legislation also places an emphasis on attracting and retaining a corps of professional, career prosecutors. Address funding needs in prosecutors' offices relating to staff and automation, and inefficiencies such as rules relating to change of venue and depositions. Fund law enforcement agencies and crime labs to allow them to produce high-quality professional investigations that can lead to effective prosecutions. Ensure that the public defender system appropriately and effectively expends the taxpayer funds given to their system.