Contact: Rabiah Burks
FAMM Praises Missouri House for Unanimously Passing Smart Sentencing Reform Legislation
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Today the Missouri House unanimously passed HB 1739 by a vote of 148-0. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage), would allow judges to depart from mandatory prison terms and statutory minimum sentences in a limited number of cases if the minimum sentence would cause substantial injustice, or is not necessary for the protection of public safety. FAMM applauds Rep. Smith and the Missouri House members for passing this important reform this session.
“If Missouri wants to be safer, this bill is a must-pass item, and clearly Missouri’s House members agree,” said Molly Gill, Vice President of Policy for FAMM. “The state can’t afford to not change its sentencing laws. This bill would let Missouri judges reserve longer prison sentences for the most serious offenders, which saves money and prevents a prison-building bonanza. It’s a smart way to protect public safety without breaking the bank.”
HB 1739 would apply to a narrow range of people. Offenders who used or threatened to use violence, engaged in sexual acts with a minor, or brandished or discharged a firearm would not be eligible for consideration for a sentence below the minimum term required by current law. The bill would save Missouri more than $3 million each year once fully implemented. Without changes to current sentencing practices, Missouri’s prison population is expected to keep growing, requiring the constructionof two new prisons in the next five years.
HB 1739 still has a few more stops before becoming law. HB 1739 must also pass through the Missouri Senate before it can go to the governor’s desk for approval. An identical bill, SB 748, was introduced in the Missouri Senate by Senator Ed Emery (R-Lamar) and has already been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If HB 1739 is adopted, Missouri would join a growing list of states, including Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, who have adopted similar “safety valve” legislation to reform mandatory sentencing laws.
“Dozens of states have adopted sentencing reforms like this one and watched prison populations and crime rates decline. It should be Missouri’s turn next,” said Gill.
FAMM is a nonpartisan, national advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice reforms to make our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM promotes change by raising the voices of families and individuals who are directly affected by counterproductive sentencing and prison policies.
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