February 7, 2019
Contact: Rabiah Burks
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Today the Missouri House Special Committee on Criminal Justice passed two important criminal justice reform bills, HB 113 and HB 352. HB 113, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith (R – Carthage), would grant judges flexibility to depart from the statutory minimum sentence or required minimum prison term in some cases. HB 352, sponsored by Rep. Tom Hannegan (R- St. Charles), would grant parole eligibility to some prisoners over the age of 65, after they have served 30 years of their sentence.
“These bills are a must-pass for Missouri,” said Molly Gill, Vice President of Policy for FAMM. “Missouri has to choose between building more prisons or being smarter about who goes to prison and how long they stay. Passing both bills will decrease costs and reserve prison cells for the most serious offenders. That’s an easy choice for lawmakers and a win-win for taxpayers.”
Last month, FAMM submitted written testimony supporting the bills. HB 113 and HB 352 would apply to a limited range of people. HB 113 does not apply to offenders that use, attempt use, or threaten use of serious physical force, engage in a sexual offense with a minor under the age of 14, or brandish or discharge a firearm. Elderly offenders with a prior conviction for a violent crime or who are convicted of a sex offense are not eligible for parole under HB 352.
If HB 113 is adopted, Missouri would save $3 million per year in prison costs. Similar “safety valve” sentencing reforms have been adopted in other states, including Georgia, Virginia, and North Dakota. In December 2018, President Donald Trump signed federal legislation that expanded a similar exception to mandatory minimum sentences in federal law. That bill, the First Step Act, passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and the President mentioned it as an achievement during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 5.
HB 352 would help limit the number of aging, ill people in Missouri prisons. “Elderly prisoners pose little threat to safety but come with big costs for taxpayers.” said Gill. “HB 352 would reduce the financial burden on state prisons and allow some elderly prisoners to go home to their families.”
FAMM commends Chair Shamed Dogan (R – Ballwin), Rep. Smith, Rep. Hannegan, and the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice for advancing these important bills. HB 113 and HB 352 must also pass through the House Rules Committee and the Missouri House and Senate before they can go to the governor’s desk for approval.
To learn more about FAMM’s work in Missouri visit: https://famm.org/our-work/states-where-we-are-working/missouri/
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.