A proposed bill would give crime victims in Missouri the right to submit statements when first-time, nonviolent offenders request early releases from prison.
Under a law passed in 2003, an offender convicted of a Class C or Class D felony can petition for early release after serving 120 days.
When a prisoner files a petition, the Department of Corrections recommends whether he should be released and provides a report evaluating the offender’s conduct and alternative custodial methods.
If passed, the bill would require that statements from victims or witnesses also be included in the corrections department’s report. The types of crimes for which victims statements could be offered include involuntary manslaughter, second-degree statutory rape, forgery and parental kidnapping.
Additionally, the bill would require offenders to send copies of their petitions to the attorney who prosecuted their offense.
Rep. Cathy Jolly, D-Kansas City, pre-filed the bill earlier this month with co-sponsorship from House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia.
“As much as anything, we want to make sure that before these felons are released from prison, the victims have a voice,” Harris said.
Harris has pre-filed a separate bill, co-sponsored by Jolly, that would notify victims and witnesses when offenders file petitions for probation, early release, transfer to a treatment facility or other alternative punishments.
Both bills have received support from Attorney General Jay Nixon, who is also a Democrat.
“The Missouri Constitution and state laws give crime victims rights to be notified of and to be present and participate in parole hearings,” Nixon said in a press release. “Unfortunately, they will not have those same rights in the early release hearings unless we close this loophole.”
Harris said he expects both bills to pass.
“This is a measure we believe should have strong bipartisan support,” he said.
The Missouri General Assembly will convene Jan. 5. If passed, the proposed bills will become law on Aug. 28.