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Draper touts criminal justice reform efforts in State of Judiciary address


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice George W. Draper III called for a continued push for criminal justice reform in the legislature as well as a boost to the public defender system. 

“To be sure, all attorneys in public service work long, hard hours, and many are underpaid and under-recognized. But if criminal cases cannot be moved efficiently through the system because of overloaded attorneys, we risk leaving those who are guilty on the street, those who are not guilty unable to return to being productive members of society, and victims and their families powerless to find closure and move forward with their lives,” Draper said during the annual State of the Judiciary address. 

Draper praised the legislature for making certain crimes eligible for expungement and allowing defendants to pursue diversion programs last year. 

But Draper, 65, also implored lawmakers for an additional $2.8 million in the 2021 fiscal year budget to go toward continued court automation system efforts. Additionally, he suggested lawmakers allow for greater appropriations to raise certain court system employees’ salaries. 

During his 30-minute speech, Draper also touted Missouri’s efforts to fight addiction — particularly as the nation grapples with the opioid epidemic — with treatment courts. 

“As a result of this collaboration among all three branches of government, Missouri now has more than 100 counties served by more than 120 treatment courts — adult, juvenile, family, and DWI courts,” Draper said, noting legislation passed last year will mean each circuit will have a treatment court by August 2021. 

“Together, we have built a strong foundation from which our state can continue to fight the substance abuse crisis on multiple fronts — alcohol, opioids, and as health officials have forecast, another rise in methamphetamine use,” Draper said. 

Draper was first appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court in 2011 and rose to chief justice in mid-2019. Originally from St. Louis, Draper holds degrees from Morehouse College and Howard University School of Law. 

Gov. Mike Parson addressed the General Assembly with the annual State of the State last week. 

Read more of Draper’s State of the Judiciary address here.