JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Earlier in the year, Governor Eric Greitens signed off on an executive order establishing a justice reinvestment task force, laying the ground to bring change to the state’s criminal justice system. Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe touted the program at the recent Missouri Association of Counties conference.
Gov. Eric Greitens in May, along with then-Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, Senate President Pro Tempore Ron Richard, and House Speaker Todd Richardson, asked for support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) in order to look into a justice reinvestment approach. That has led to a partnership with The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, which is helping collect and analyze data which will be used to help create new policy options to contain corrections spending and reinvest in strategies that will increase public safety and reduce recidivism.
The Justice Reinvestment Approach works in three steps: the CSG Justice Center staff conducts an analysis of the corrections system to identify areas that can be improved through policy changes.
The second step is to adopt these policies, meaning that the policy changes would need to be brought into the Missouri legislature. If the policies are enacted, the CSG staff will work with Missouri lawmakers for up to 24 months to translate the policies into practice and implement. In addition, Missouri will also be given the opportunity to apply for federal grant funding to meet important one-time implementation needs, such as information technology upgrades and measures to ensure fidelity to evidence-based practices.
The final step is measuring the performance and tracking the components to assess the impact.
In conjunction with the first step, Greitens established a task force in June through an executive order, with members from all of the branches of government as well as members of state and local criminal justice system stakeholders.
Some of the trends that have taken the spotlight in the conversation for reform include the fact that Missouri’s prison population has been growing in recent years and is projected to continue doing so, as well as an increase in violent crime, despite a decline nationally.
According to the CSG Justice Center, between FY2010 and FY2016, state spending on corrections increased seven percent, from $665 million to $710 million.
To date, the center has worked with 28 states in this initiative, and since May has been meeting in order to put together recommendations, which are due to the Governor’s Office by the end of the month. The task force held its final meeting on Dec. 13.
From the task force’s report, policy changes will be identified, and then it falls to the legislature to pass, kill, or amend the measures as they see fit.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.