Today's Question: Should felons have to serve more of their sentence?

Monday, March 2, 2009 | 9:11 a.m. CST; updated 9:56 a.m. CST, Monday, March 2, 2009

COLUMBIA — On average, convicted felons serve less than half of their sentences in Missouri prisons.

A bill introduced by state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would change this by requiring inmates to complete a minimum of 85 percent of their sentence.

The debate around this bill is whether or not criminals should have to serve the majority of the sentence a judge hands them.

According to a Missourian report, Schaefer’s goal is make sentencing more accurate. Judges typically inflate sentences because terms are dramatically reduced in most cases.

Opponents of the bill worry that it will lead to extended stays in prison for many, which will in turn lead to increased costs for taxpayers. While Schaefer said he believes judges would voluntarily reduce the length of sentences, there can be no guarantee of this.

A witness at a hearing for the bill argued that it would reduce the incentive for felons to stay out of trouble in hope of an early release and that it would reduce the amount of time he or she spent on probation.

One could argue that knowing there was little chance of being released early could deter criminal action before it began and that keeping a person on probation costs money as well.

There would be a whole new set of problems for the state to deal with, though, if prisons could not respond to overcrowding by releasing inmates.

Do you support the passing of this bill?

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