Today, Governor Parson signed into law measures that will decrease Missouri’s jail and prison population and allow more Missourians to overcome the collateral costs of incarceration.
“Governor Parson’s decision to sign bills reforming debtor’s prisons, mandatory minimum sentences, and eligibility for expungement is a landmark step forward on Missouri’s path to criminal justice reform,” affirms Sara Baker, legislative and policy director for the ACLU of Missouri. “For far too long Missouri’s criminal justice system has failed Missourians, fracturing families, impoverishing residents, and filling prisons beyond capacity. Today’s efforts show a willingness to give Missourians a second chance and consider alternatives to incarceration. We look forward to continued reforms in this area including ending racial profiling in our state, decriminalizing marijuana, decriminalizing HIV, upholding the right to counsel for those who cannot pay, and ensuring that those incarcerated are treated humanely.”
HB 192 prohibits the incarceration of individuals solely for failure to pay their board bills, the fees charged to individuals who have been held in jail to pay for the cost of their stay. Estimates hold that, within the first 10 months of Missouri’s mandatory minimum reforms, almost 200 individuals will be released from prison. After four years, this win is projected to decrease the Missouri prison population by 925 individuals.
SB 1 expands the list of offenses for which expungement can be sought to include: property damage in the first degree, stealing, possession of a forging instrumentality, and fraudulent use of a credit device or debit device. A criminal record can negatively impact employment prospects and housing, leaving individuals with criminal records more likely to face poverty. The United States now houses roughly the same number of people with criminal records as it does four-year college graduates.
These landmark criminal justice reforms were passed with bipartisan support. Politicians on both sides of the aisle understand that over incarcerating Missourians is not worth the economic and social cost.
There is more to do. The Missouri Legislature must halt racial profiling, decriminalize HIV, and decriminalize marijuana. We look forward to continuing robust work on criminal justice reform next legislative session.