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Missouri Department of Corrections calls prison population boom no problem

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — An all-time high number of inmates in Missouri prisons has officials searching for the reasons.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Jacqueline Lapine said three factors are probably leading to the prison population growth: more crimes being committed, more stringent sentencing and, in some areas such as St. Louis, an attempt to push cases through the courts more quickly.

The high of 30,720 inmates has dropped off by about a dozen since originally announced at the end of September by the Corrections Department. Corrections officials said the number does not worry the department. No matter what, officials said, they are more than ready to handle the large number of prisoners.  

One Missouri legislator disagreed, however, with the department's statement that the high number is "not a problem."

Rep. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, said Missouri prisons have "severe overcrowding" that creates many problems, such as safety concerns.

For one thing, it is harder to manage the large number of prisoners, Hoskins said. Because of that, the safety of the prisoners, guards and staff comes into question.

"These people have a dangerous enough job as it is; we need to make sure they're safe," Hoskins said.

Between July 2008 and the record high in September, the state's prison population rose 2.3 percent, adding 687 inmates.

These numbers, while high for Missouri, do not pose a problem of forcing early release for some prisoners because of overcrowding, Lapine said.

As of Monday, about 500 vacancies were available for prisoners. If necessary, certain facilities, such as the women's facility in Chillicothe, can be opened for more prisoners.

One factor contributing to the high prison population is a 39 percent increase since July 2008 in incoming inmates who have been sentenced for a new or first offense, Lapine said.

The sentence length tends to be longer for this type of offender. Their average sentence is three years, while parole returnees, for example, average a one-year sentence. The number of parole violators has risen only 5 percent, said David Oldfield, Corrections Department director of research and evaluation.

Hoskins said an increased prison population is "a problem we have to take in the legislature," and he said Missouri lawmakers should further research other options, like private prisons.

Missouri has two private prisons, in Holden and Bethany. Hoskins said there may need to be more. Creating more private prisons is "a viable option," he said, but first he would like to make sure that the two Missouri has are being used efficiently.

Hoskins represents Missouri's 121st House District, which includes Holden.

The two private prisons house inmates moved as a result of overcrowding in Missouri and other states.

Another option that could decrease the number or people sentenced to prison would be alternative sentencing for minor drug offenses, said Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

"Treatment through drug court is a more cost-effective method for some drug offenders, rather than prison," he said.

Oldfield said the prison population increase from last year is relatively low compared to the past 30 years.

Since July 2008, 1.9 prisoners have been added each day, Oldfield said, but over the past 30 years, the average daily increase was more than 2.5 prisoners.

"While our numbers are high — and granted it's not a huge spike — we have plenty of room to accommodate those intakes," Lapine said.


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Comments

William Thomas November 3, 2009 | 1:26 p.m.

INCARCERATING PEOPLE "FOR PROFIT" IS IN A WORD....WRONG!
Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to "job-out" its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing "The Single Voice Petition"
http://www.petitiononline.com/gufree2/pe...

Please visit our website for further information: http://www.npsctapp.blogspot.com

–Ahma Daeus
"Practicing Humanity Without A License"…

(Report Comment)
Kim Davis December 4, 2009 | 9:05 p.m.

I believe that over crowding in MODOC should be blamed on the fact that lawyers, judges, and prosecutors are not doing their job to make sure that they are getting the criminals off the streets! My fiance is in South Central Correctional Center, in Licking, MO for a crime he DID NOT commit!! There is no evidence that can prove that he commited the crimes that he was convicted of..........
www.thepetitionsite/3/FREE-THE-INNOCENT
Take a look for yourself.......Free all the people who have been WRONGFULLY CONVICTED

(Report Comment)
SANDRA HICKS March 25, 2011 | 9:03 p.m.

WHY NOT DROP THE 85% LAW FOR THE INMATES THAT HAVE SERVED 10 PLUS YEARS WITH STIPULATIONS OF COMPLEATSION OF THE I.T.C. PROGRAMS AND G.E.D.AND ANY OTHER PROGRAMS THEY HAVE COMPLEATED TO MAKE THEM A BETTER PERSON. AS FOR PAYING FOR PRIVATE PRISONS WHY NOT LET THOSE 10 PLUS YEARS OUT WITH A MONITOR THEY PAY FOR THEMSELVES TO BE ABLE TO HAVE THE OPPERTUNITY TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY EARNING THEIR WAY. MOST OF THE 85% INMATES HADNT TURNED 30 YEARS OF AGE WHEN THEY DID THEIR LAST CRIME,AND MOST DON'T SEE REALITY UNTIL THEIR 30. THE CRIME WOULD NOT BE RELATED TO A TAKING OF LIFE, CHILD ABUSE, OR ANY SEXUAL OFFENCE TO BE CONSIDERED FOR THIS DROPPING OF THE 85% LAW AND RELEASE WITH MONITOR. THANK YOU FOR LISINING

(Report Comment)
Teresa Woolery October 21, 2011 | 7:38 a.m.

My husband was sentence to 6 years on a Class C felony for a nonviolent crime. The judge ordered a SAR report it was reccomended a max sentence of 3 years. This was judge Rolf in Lexington, Mo. My husband for several months passed there UA tests and hair folicle tests. He was innocent and it was proved. Judge Rolf threw away the eveidence because he said he didnt like my husbands attitude when he didnt have an attitude. Then judge Rolf sentenced him to 6 years because he didnt like him. You tell me what kind of honest judge would do that. Judge Rolf is not an honest judge as he said in one of his statements to the media. Do we really wnat this kind of judge in the system. Come to find out after the sentencing our attorney Kelly Rose was also a judge in Lexington, Mo. This was not told to us prior to hiring her. My husband was railroaded by these to judges. No one really has any rites these days. This is the reason our prisons are overpopulated. My husband and I were married June 3, 2011 he was sentenced to prison July 6, 2011. We cant even have a life together because of this neglegeance of these Missouri Judges being dishonest. My husband has a rite to his freedom. He is innocent

(Report Comment)

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