Missouri House Working to Change Minimum Prison Sentences

Missouri state capitol building.

Missouri state capitol building.

Missouri’s prison population was at an all-time high in September of 2017 with 33,243 inmates, but it has since fallen to 30,260, the Department of Corrections stated on January 14th. [1]

Missouri has the eighth highest incarceration rate out of the United States. Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr wants to change that by focusing more on giving nonviolent criminals a second chance without forcing them to waste their life in jail.

More Opportunities

Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr spoke to Missouri lawmakers during his opening day speech saying that they should provide more opportunities to “those in a broken criminal justice system.” Currently, Haahr is backing up some legislation which is sponsored by the House Budget Committee Chairman, Cody Smith. [2]

This legislation would create more options for judges, adding an exception to minimum sentences. Currently, state law requires criminals to serve 40, 50, or 80 percent of their assigned prison terms.

This measure would allow a judge to look at and consider the offenders character, rehabilitation chances, and whether or not a minimum prison term would be necessary. This exception would not be granted for crimes that involved serious physical violence, firearms, or most sexual crimes.

Changing Lives

“If we can keep folks out of prison, get them rehabilitated, put them on a different track,” said Smith “not only does it lead to better outcomes in their lives, but …. ultimately the hope would be that we could avoid having to build these two new prison facilities at hundreds of millions of dollars of expense.”

Smith is working towards making Missouri’s minimum sentencing law no longer mandatory unless it has to do with dangerous felons. His goals somewhat align with Governor Parsons, who has recently been working to add more drug courts throughout Missouri.

Along the lines of Smiths dream, a drug court would help an offender get treatment and return to the world without losing years of their life to a jail cell.



  1. ^Press, Associated. “Missouri House Plan Would Undo Some Minimum Prison Sentences.” US News & World Report, 14 Jan. 2019, www.usnews.com/news/best-states/missouri/articles/2019-01-14/missouri-house-plan-would-undo-some-minimum-prison-sentences. (go back  ↩)
  2. ^By David A. Lieb, Associated Press. “Missouri House plan would undo some minimum prison sentences.” Alton Telegraph, 14 Jan. 2019, www.thetelegraph.com/news/article/Missouri-House-plan-would-undo-some-minimum-13532426.php. (go back  ↩)

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