Missouri Governor Parson, a former sheriff, has always been in favor of “reform[ing]… Missouri’s criminal justice system.” Now that he’s Governor, he can make that happen, starting with two seemingly simple laws that were enacted Tuesday, July 9, which could make several hundred Missouri prisoners eligible for parole. Parson has touted these laws as part of the answer to reforming the criminal justice system in the state; the law itself will help nonviolent criminals serve less time in jail. These laws come on the heels of a national wave of more lenient prison sentences, especially for low-level criminals.
“I understand the challenges facing those working within the criminal justice system, and we have to do a better job,”  said Governor Parson when signing the bill on Tuesday. The new law will exempt some of the “nonviolent” offenses that, if committed, the state requires at least 40 percent of the prison term to be served. Depending on past records, the criminal could have to serve 80 percent of the prison term. These laws could immediately make Missouri prisoners eligible for parole, early release, or probation, when they take effect on August 28.
As a former sheriff and law enforcement officer, I understand the challenges facing those working in criminal justice.
Today, we signed 11 pieces of legislation into law, including two major criminal justice reform bills. #MissouriForward
— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) July 9, 2019
Parson continued, “these bills bring bipartisan reform to Missouri’s criminal justice system while also promoting public safety and supporting our local prosecutors.” The population in Missouri’s prisons has steadily climbed as of recent years, hitting over 33,000 people in fall of 2017, since then Missouri has changed some of its criminal laws, and the prison population has dropped down to just over 28,000.
The laws will not affect criminals who were charged with murder, assault, rape, serious arson, as well as various other crimes such as drug trafficking.
These laws come after a recent surge in the national trend of focusing more on rehabilitation rather than jail time for lower-level criminals. “Our laws should help individuals get back up on their feet after tough times instead of creating more obstacles on their road to redemption,” said Jeremy Cady, the Missouri director for Americans for Prosperity. 
- ^“Governor Parson Signs Criminal Justice Reform, Public Safety Bills | Governor Michael L. Parson.” 9 July 2019, governor.mo.gov/press-releases/archive/governor-parson-signs-criminal-justice-reform-public-safety-bills. (go back↩)
- ^By David A. Lieb, Associated Press. “Missouri law could free hundreds from mandatory prison terms.” Alton Telegraph, 9 July 2019, www.thetelegraph.com/news/crime/article/Missouri-law-could-free-hundreds-from-mandatory-14083089.php. (go back↩)