A study of the way people are sentenced to prison in Missouri suggests more people would be better off if they did NOT go to prison.

The Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission evaluates people on several criteria after they’ve pleaded guilty or after they’ve been convicted. The commission determines the risk factors that each person will re-offend when they’re released from custody. Every two years it assesses how sentencing works. More than three-fourths of the times the commission recommends probation, a judge agrees. If the commission recommends probation and the judge sends someone to prison, the recidivism rate is measurably higher.

Commission chairman Michael Wolff, a Supreme Court judge, says 120 days of shock time in prison might not be the best.

“Recidivism rates for people convicted given probation for theft were like 19 or 20 percent. The recidivism rate for people who went to prison was 48 percent…But the recidivism rate for people who went to the 120-day (shock time prison) program…were 45 percent.”‘

Wolff says the study suggests that’s because they spend their time associating with other offenders–while they’d be associating with better people if they had been put on probation.

The commission says more than half of Missouri’s prison inmates are nonviolent offenders whose risk of re-offending are increased by their time in prison

AUDIO: Bob Priddy reports :60
AUDIO: Interview with Judge Michael Wolff (22 min)