Prison population issues continue

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanks to a prison-sentencing pilot program introduced in 2003, Missouri is reducing its prison population. In fact, Missouri leads the nation in the rate of decline in prison population.

Incarceration of prisoners comes at great cost to Missouri taxpayers.

As recently as a decade or so ago, prisons and jails were being built all over the state to hold lawbreakers. These facilities were necessary as judges were sending a high percentage of offenders, even nonviolent ones, to the slammer.

Many of those sent to prison were the result of tough, mandatory sentences that were legislated in a wave of tough justice after what much of the public perceived as too much leniency.

Now that trend is reversing in Missouri.

The reversal is putting more pressure on the state's probation system. Some believe too many criminals are walking the streets. When it comes to the justice system, it's impossible to please everyone. The current trend seems to be more reasonable than one that requires more and more prisons to be built.

However, there is always room in our courts for common sense. It's important for state officials to keep their finger on the criminal pulse and do what's necessary to keep the public safe.

Southeast Missourian