ST. LOUIS — Legislators from across the political spectrum are coming together Friday evening to discuss possible alternatives to mass incarceration in Missouri that enhance safety and protect citizens’ rights.

Americans for Prosperity and ACLU of Missouri are playing host to the bipartisan panel. In the nation, Missouri ranks 8th in terms of the number of citizens that are behind bars. The state’s female prison population is the fastest growing in the nation.

Reps. Shamed Dogan, Jean Evans, Bruce Franks, Tracy McCreery, and Peter Merideth are will join the panel to dive into the topic and spend a couple hours on July 27, 2018.

Rep. Tracy McCreery

“What we are going to try and do, is come together with people from all sides of the aisle, all parts of the state and work towards finding a solution,” said McCreery.

This will not be the first meeting on the subject matter, nor is it likely to be the last. McCreery called criminal justice reform “not just a ‘one meeting and we are done’ kind of movement.”

“We are trying to be part of the conversation,” she said.

The issue is bipartisan with Republicans and Democrats recognizing the need improve the way Missouri’s criminal justice system works. During the 2018 legislative session, there were a multitude of bills filed that aimed at addressing specific problems within the system — alcohol testing standards for private probation, shackling of pregnant offenders, and such.

“When I talk my constituents, my neighbors, this is an area that is concerning to people,” McCreery said. “Personally, one of my focuses has always been women…and the female prison population in Missouri is the fastest growing in the nation.”

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.