America, land of the free, has earned the disturbing distinction of being the world’s leading jailer. Representing just 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States now holds 25 percent of its inmates. The “tough on crime” politics of the 1980s and 1990s fueled an explosion in incarceration rates. Looking at punishment rates from 1983 to 2013, Missouri was the 17th-most punitive state in the nation, according to researchers from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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