JEFFERSON CITY — The story of Dimetrious Woods has inspired legislation making its way through the Missouri House.
Woods required clemency from Gov. Mike Parson to be released on parole after serving years in prison for a nonviolent drug offense.
On Tuesday evening, the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice met to discuss legislation to help those who find themselves in Woods’ situation.
House Bill 504 aims to help nonviolent drug offenders who have served at least 10 years of their sentence to become eligible for parole if the Parole Board determines the offender is not at risk to re-offend.
The sponsor of HB 504, Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, said Woods inspired her to write the bill.
Woods served 11 years in prison before being released on parole for two years, but was going to be sent back to prison due to a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that stated the law that let him out on parole could not be retroactively applied.
Parson granted clemency to Woods in April, and Woods is now an entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses in the Columbia area.
Reisch said the way the bill is now written, it would specifically help two inmates whose situations are similar to the one Woods found himself in. Lawmakers talked Tuesday about broadening the language of the bill so that it would have a wider impact.
“We’re all for what’s fair, and I believe in second chances,” Reisch said. House Bill 504 had no opposition from members on the Special Committee on Criminal Justice.
Committee members from both parties spoke in favor of the bill. The committee chair, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, noted that instances like Woods’ situation are reminders of the “human cost” when there are cracks in the criminal justice system.
Reisch has drafted multiple bills concerning criminal justice reform. She also presented HB 316 in Tuesday’s committee meeting which could change hiring laws barring felons from working in establishments that sell lottery tickets or alcohol. Her self-proclaimed mantra is, “jobs, jobs, jobs!”
Reisch, a Republican, said criminal justice reform is not a partisan issue, and that she fights for these changes because “it just makes sense. We need to lift barriers and get people back to work.”