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Support the reduction of mandatory minimum sentencing in the state of Missouri
Target: Dear Citizens of Missouri, Missouri Legislators, and Jay Nixon, Governor of the State of Missouri.
Sponsored by: Missouri Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) and NAACP Prison Branches of Missouri
Missouri CURE and NAACP Prison Branches of Missouri, along with the undersigned, would like to bring to light changes needed in Missouri’s sentencing guidelines. We want it to be taken into consideration that currently many offenders are subject to serving at least 85% of their sentences prior to parole consideration. Offenders under this category range from first-time adolescent offenders to seasoned criminals. This mandatory minimum, the so-called “85% law”, gives no consideration to a person’s actions or behavior within the prison setting.
There are many ongoing efforts to modify laws and reduce sentences for non-violent and/or drug offenders. This proposal specifically targets so-called violent and dangerous offenders subject to the 85% law. This proposal also is specific to those who maintain exemplary behavior and meet all program requirements while in the institution.
In the State of Missouri our prisons are called Correctional Facilities and are supposed to be geared toward helping individuals rehabilitate and become productive members of our society. Often, this is not the case. Prisons have become little more than warehouses of people with an expiration date. Forcing longer time within the institutional setting has the potential to estrange families and cause irreparable psychological damage to prisoners. It also makes it harder for individuals to readjust to society.
Mandatory minimum sentences give no consideration to individuals who have undergone positive change. During their incarceration many prisoners take steps to rehabilitate themselves, so that they no longer pose a threat to society. Continuing to house them within our prison system is a costly waste of our taxpayer dollars. Releasing rehabilitated individuals adds to Missouri’s tax revenue by placing people back in the work force and in a position of being able to care for themselves and their families. Since parole costs a fraction of the cost of imprisonment, some of the savings could be used to provide jobs and job training to help individuals keep from re-offending.
Missouri’s 85% law was enacted in 1994 as part of the Truth-in-Sentencing push by the federal government. Federal funds awarded for this purpose led to Missouri’s prison-building boom of the 1990s. Now the aging of the prisoner population is causing geriatric units to being established in Missouri prisons. This increases the cost for taxpayers.
We understand that there is no way in which to make up for the loss of a loved one, or serious harm brought upon one’s person by crime.
However, offenders are required to serve 85% of their sentence before they can even see the parole board, and then are often denied parole on the basis of the seriousness of their crime—something which will never change. The parole board has been stripped of its power to take into consideration all progress, good behavior and growth that has been achieved under the Department of Corrections’ intense institutional supervision. Allowing for a reduction in mandatory minimums will allow offenders to be assessed as the individuals that they are, rather than on any type of simplistic, generalized guideline.