During the “get tough on crime” 1990’s Missouri’s sentencing laws took a radical transformation. Our sentencing laws were greatly influenced by what is now “commonly” referred to as the 1994 Crime Bill. The purpose of this 1994 Crime Bill as endorsed by our then president, Bill Clinton, was to “ensure that violent offenders remained incarcerated for substantial periods of time.” (Truth in Sentencing Report of May 25, 1995 – U.S. Department of Justice). Two Incentive Grants were offered up to states for their support in pursuing increases in time served for violent felonies and for states to qualify to receive the additional federal grant money promised in the legislation through the “Truth in Sentencing Incentive Grant program”.
Each year Missouri locks-up more and more non-violent/first time offenders. This costs the tax-payers millions of dollars each year. Additionally) these non-violent/first time offenders are now being incarcerated in Level 5 (Maximum Security) prisons – these types of prisons do not have the Programs needed to return them to society Vocational Training} Computer Classes, etc. This makes it more likely for them to re-offend once they are released.
William Ray Price, former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, stated in his State of the Judiciary Address that we need to: “Rethink our strategies dealing with non-violent offenders} which includes crimes for alcohol and drug abuse.” He also said that harsh sentencing laws have cost the State billions of dollars in revenue, yet “We have just as much crime now as we did when we started. ” [We may even have more crime now.] [Read more…]