JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's governor put his stamp of approval Wednesday on the efforts of a group of legislators and criminal justice officals to find ways to reduce the revolving door effect in prisons.
Led by Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon, the group has been working together since the spring to analyze the current corrections system, sentencing and public offenders. The 13 members are working to create a plan that would decrease recidivism and increase efficiency — all while saving tax dollars.
"It is vital to ensure that we not only continue to keep Missourians safe by holding offenders accountable, but also the taxpayers continue to get a good public safety return on their investment," Nixon said at a press conference Wednesday.
Currently the Department of Corrections houses more than 30,000 inmates.
"If we can engage and involve at a much younger age some of these folks who are clearly on a path to crime, it'll really make a difference," Jay Nixon said. "That's why it's this broader view of this, about what is not only going to be a short-term fix but a long-term solution, a long-term shift, in the way we deal with these issues in this state."
The group is looking to neighboring states such as Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas as models for the rehabilitation of Missouri's corrections system.
"There are evidence-based practices and policies that have been shown to reduce recidivism at a lower cost to taxpayers," House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, told reporters at the conference. "We must learn from other states and adopt those policies that achieve more public safety with few public resources."
The working group has support from Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of the legislature as well as the state's executive and judiciary branch, and it's seeking input from local prosecutors, sheriffs and victim advocates as well.
"I have never in my legislative time seen such a confluence of concerned folks willing to work together from a diversity of backgrounds, a diversity of life experiences, diversity of political perspectives," Goodman said. "It gives me great optimism that this working group will come out with a work product that will make the people of Missouri safer."
The corrections group plans to present its legislation to the Missouri General Assembly during the upcoming 2012 legislative session.
"It's an aggressive timeline, but these are all informed people," Nixon said. "The sense I've had so far is that this is a serious group; I understand they're doing serious work, trying to save lives, save money, make streets safer and turn lives around."
The working group's efforts follow recommendations from the chief justice of Missouri's Supreme Court that legislators find prison alternatives for first-time, non-violent offenders who represent a low risk of becoming repeat offenders.