By CSG Justice Center Staff
On June 1, HB 1355—comprehensive criminal justice legislation that includes Justice Reinvestment policies—was signed into law in Missouri. These policies aim to expand community-based treatment for people in the criminal justice system who have substance addictions and mental illnesses, increase support for victims, and provide resources to local law enforcement to help reduce violent crime, among other measures.
What does this legislation mean for Missouri residents?
- People on probation or parole supervision who have behavioral health needs will receive better treatment and services in the community. The Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) and Missouri Department of Mental Health will work together to form a community behavioral health program to provide comprehensive services to people on probation or parole who have substance addictions or mental illnesses. This is intended to reduce admissions to prison solely for treatment purposes and improve recovery and recidivism outcomes.
- Decisions about treatment, programming, supervision strategies, and parole release will be driven by risk and needs assessment results. MDOC will adopt a validated risk and needs assessment tool, the results of which will be integrated into various components of supervision, including admission criteria for programs, sanction and incentive guides for people’s behavior on supervision, case management practices, and supervision levels. Staff will receive regular training on how to use the tool and apply the results, and MDOC will measure staff performance against best practices. Further, the state parole board will use the results of risk and needs assessments as a tool to help determine whether someone is ready to be released to parole.
- Counties will be able to use existing jail reimbursement funds from the state to implement new programs designed to improve public safety at the local level. Previously, this money was intended to cover only the county’s jail costs for people who were eventually sentenced to prison or who received suspended execution of sentences, but the new statutory language allows counties to use this money for diversion programs in the community, electronic monitoring, and other practices proven to increase public safety.
- Victims will have greater access to compensation. Under the new law, eligibility for the Missouri Crime Victims Compensation program will be expanded, and various cumbersome administrative requirements that effectively restricted access will be removed.
- A state-run grant program will help local law enforcement combat violent crime. Once it is funded by the state, the Missouri Law Enforcement Assistance Program will support local law enforcement pilot programs that may include specialized training, data analysis to determine what factors are driving violent crime, and community policing efforts.
Why is this legislation needed?
Violent crime in Missouri has risen in recent years, while arrests for these crimes have declined. At the same time, Missouri’s prison population continues to swell, driven mostly by admissions for supervision violations, many of which are technical violations, and admissions for prison-based behavioral health treatment, which research shows is less effective than community-based treatment. If the current rate of growth in Missouri’s prison population is not slowed, the state will need to build two new prison facilities by FY2021, which will cost nearly half a billion dollars in combined construction and operating costs.
How was the legislation developed?
In May 2017, Missouri leaders embarked on a data-driven Justice Reinvestment approach to address challenges within the state’s criminal justice system. A bipartisan, interbranch task force was established to support this work. This group met multiple times between July and December 2017 to develop policies to prevent violent crime, enhance support for victims, increase the availability and effectiveness of community-based behavioral health treatment, reduce recidivism, and invest in strategies to increase public safety. Many of these policies are reflected in HB 1355.
Read the report issued by the CSG Justice Center as well as criminal justice system analysis presentations that were delivered to the task force.