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Bipartisan group of lawmakers band together to push for parole changes for minors

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A group of bipartisan lawmakers came together Tuesday afternoon to tout a recently-filed bill that would grant prisoners sentenced to over 15 years as a minor greater opportunity for parole. 

HB 2201, sponsored by GOP state Rep. Nick Schroer and co-sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Barbara Washington is a bipartisan effort to give reformed inmates the chance to appeal their cases. The bill was inspired by the case of Bobby Bostic, who was sentenced to 241 years for a brief crime spree in 1995 involving an armed robbery and carjacking. Bostic, who was 16 at the time, was tried as an adult. 

Among the support for this proposed legislation is former Judge Evelyn Baker, who handed down the sentence in 1995. Baker told reporters Tuesday she has seen a change in Bostic since his sentence began. 

“He’s not a little child anymore,” Baker said. “Now he’s a 40-year-old man. He’s written books, he writes poetry, he has tried to help as many people as he can to learn.”

Bostic has earned his GED, an associate’s degree, and an assortment of other certificates from institutions including Missouri State University while in prison. He has spent much of his time in scholarly pursuits and in helping his fellow detainees to learn as well. 

In addition to the proposed bill, a parallel effort is being made to secure clemency for Bostic. Schroer began gathering legislators’ signatures on a clemency letter that he has since passed on to Gov. Mike Parson. This petition has about 50 signatures from both sides of the aisle. 

“This is a man who can contribute widely to society, a man who deserves clemency, and we deserve to create a future in Missouri where situations like Bobby’s can never happen again,” Sara Baker of the ACLU, who assisted in drafting and filing the petition, said during Tuesday’s event. 

Missouri is one of five states that still allow for consecutive sentencing for juveniles — such as in Bostic’s case, according to Baker. 

Schroer and Washington’s bill would catch Missouri up to a national standard set by rulings in other states, such as in Florida and Alabama. 

House Bill 2201, which would ironically be the final year of Bostic’s sentence, has received much support and attention. It is not yet scheduled for a hearing.