The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

State News

July 29, 2007

Missouri: State leads nation in cutting inmate population

The Associated Press

FARMINGTON, Mo. — Missouri is leading the nation in reducing its inmate population, thanks to changes in recent years designed to get offenders back on their feet, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday.

In the year that ended June 30, 2006, the number of people behind bars in Missouri declined by nearly 3 percent, the largest percentage in any state. Only eight states reported a decline, according to the Department of Justice.

When Republican Gov. Matt Blunt took office in January 2005, Missouri’s prison population was growing by about two people a day, said Commissioner of Administration Mike Keathley. At that rate, the state would have had to build a new prison every two years.

Instead, Missouri has new supervision centers to house offenders who may have slipped up with probation or parole violations, a re-entry program to help inmates return to society and even tools like a computer program that helps judges determine sentences.

Missouri officials point to the centers as a key factor in the state’s inmate decline.

Two community supervision centers are already open in Farmington and St. Joseph. The state plans to open five more, in Hannibal, Kennett, Poplar Bluff, Kansas City and Fulton. They house offenders on probation or parole, usually those who violated the terms that led to their freedom, and keep them from returning to prison.

At the centers, nonviolent offenders can get drug treatment, attend employment workshops or earn a high school diploma by passing a GED test.

Rep. Danie Moore, R-Fulton, stresses the taxpayer benefit of the supervision centers. She heads the House committee that oversees the $624 million operating budget of the Corrections Department.

The system now holds 29,901 inmates. Each prisoner costs the state $39.43 a day or $14,392 a year.

Larry Crawford, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, said the state also provides a special “re-entry” program for inmates leaving prison.

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