Gov. Jay Nixon was joined today by leaders from other branches of state government in announcing a bipartisan effort to develop recommendations to protect public safety by holding offenders accountable, while also containing costs within the criminal justice system. Joining the Governor at the announcement in the Capitol were Supreme Court Judge William Ray Price Jr., Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, Attorney General Chris Koster and Director George Lombardi, of the Missouri Department of Corrections.
As part of this effort, the Governor, the Supreme Court, and the legislative leaders have appointed a 13-member Missouri Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections. The working group will be assisted by the Pew Center on the States, through a partnership with the Justice Reinvestment Initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. The group has begun its work already, and over the next several months will:
- Analyze the drivers of the prison population;
- Audit state sentencing and corrections policy;
- Consult criminal justice stakeholders; and
- Develop policy recommendations.
Members of the working group also were at today's announcement, including a bipartisan group of legislators from both bodies; and representatives of state prosecutors, public defenders and circuit courts. A local task force, including representatives of counties, local prosecutors, sheriffs, municipalities, and victims advocates, also are participating in the process and will have input at every stage of the discussion.
"Under George Lombardi's leadership, we have taken important steps over the past two years to reduce recidivism, promote successful re-entry into the community, and protect public safety, all while operating efficiently and effectively during challenging economic times," Gov. Nixon said. "Because of the outstanding work by our Department of Corrections, the Missouri Reentry Process, which is used to successfully transition offenders into the community as productive citizens, is recognized as a national model, and our drug courts and specialty courts have made a significant difference. We want to continue to build on this professional expertise and success as we protect public safety in Missouri. This initiative will help us do just that."
"This will be an unprecedented bipartisan, inter-branch and intergovernmental process," Senate President Pro Tem Mayer said. "We will seek input from all stakeholder groups, analyze all of our data, and consider every option. We must reform our public safety system in order to reduce taxpayer costs, while making sure we are effectively tough on crime to keep Missourians safe."
"The goals of this effort are improved government efficiency and effectiveness," Speaker Tilley said. "Fortunately, there are evidence-based practices and policies that have been shown to reduce recidivism at a lower cost to taxpayers. We must learn from other states and adopt those policies that achieve more public safety with fewer public resources. To do anything less is either wasteful, harmful, or both."
"Our state courts bear witness to a revolving door that wastes resources and damages lives," Judge Price said. "By taking a fresh look at the data and by learning from other states, we will deliver taxpayers a better return on their public safety investment."
"This Attorney General's Office is dedicated to strong law enforcement and the appropriate punishment of criminals as its driving principle, but utilizing Missouri's 30,000 incarceration beds in an intelligent and effective manner is unquestionably part of that goal," Attorney General Koster said. "I hope this project will lead us toward consensus solutions related to training, education, monitoring, and post-incarceration job placement that will use our resources effectively and will return offenders back into our communities in a productive and safe manner."
The Department of Corrections has over 30,000 incarcerated inmates, 97 percent of whom will return home to our communities throughout the state. Each year there are approximately 20,000 inmates released back into the community. The Missouri Reentry Process (MRP) is designed to prepare offenders to be successful, productive, taxpaying citizens upon their release from prison. Through the Missouri Reentry Process, the Department of Corrections works with partner agencies and community organizations to help inmates overcome challenges such as substance abuse, lack of family support, mental health or medical issues, lack of education or skills, and housing to rejoin society as productive and contributing citizens.
The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. The center has worked with several other states in the past to analyze corrections trends and make recommendations for legislation to protect public safety and reduce both the costs and the recidivism rates of those states' corrections systems.