In July 2012, Missouri enacted the Justice Reinvestment Act, a data-driven package of reforms to community supervision that will improve public safety, hold offenders accountable, and contain prison spending.
Despite the Department of Corrections recent success at reducing recidivism rates, Missouri's prisons hold twice as many people and cost three times as much as they did in 1990. With a prison population of more than 30,000 inmates, and a budget of more than $660 million, corrections consumes an increasingly large share of the state budget.
“Modern research shows that for many non-violent offenders, prison, the most expensive response is not always the best response. Many non-violent and low risk offenders could be treated more effectively at a lower cost with other evidence-based strategies.”Judge William Ray Price, Jr.
Seeking a better public safety return on its corrections dollars, Missouri's state leaders reached across party lines and the three branches of government to form the Missouri Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections in 2011. The Working Group analyzed Missouri's sentencing and corrections data, researched evidence-based practices in community supervision, and developed recommendations to address the leading driver of Missouri's prison admissions: failures on probation and parole supervision.
The Justice Reinvestment Act, sponsored by Representative Gary Fuhr and Senator Jack Goodman, passed with near-unanimous support and was signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon on July 6, 2012. The legislation, based on the recommendations of the Working Group, seeks to reduce recidivism and strengthen community supervision by:
- Providing incentives for offenders to comply with the rules of supervision;
- Allowing probation and parole officers to impose swift and certain jail sanctions when violations do occur;
- Ensuring that punishments are proportional to violations by capping the amount of time that nonviolent offenders can serve for breaking the rules of probation; and
- Creating an oversight body responsible for monitoring implementation and certifying fiscal savings for reinvestment.
The Justice Reinvestment Act is expected to reduce the number of people under correctional control and save taxpayers several million dollars.