The Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice tells state lawmakers in Jefferson City on Wednesday that treatment courts help break the cycle of crime.
Chief Justice Zel Fischer emphasized treatment courts and the opioid crisis during his 2018 State of the Judiciary address. He says Missouri’s treatment courts offer a two-fold solution.
“First they’re addressing the crimes that are often due to substance use, and second, they are helping those addicted, and their families, improve their lives and break the cycle of addiction,” Fischer says.
But Fischer tells lawmakers there are currently 15 Missouri counties with no access to any type of treatment court.
“If we’re to break the cycle of drugs and crime, every Missourian in need should have a treatment court program within reach,” says Fischer.
Chief Justice Fischer hopes to work with lawmakers to make treatment courts available in every Missouri jurisdiction.
Missourinet followed-up after the address and confirmed the 15 counties are Caldwell, Carroll, Carter, Clinton, Dallas, Davies, DeKalb, Hickory, Howard, Livingston, Monroe, Oregon, Pemiscot, Polk and Shannon.
Fischer says Missouri lost 1,066 people in 2015 and 1,371 people in 2016 to a drug overdose.
Fischer, who was appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court by Governor Matt Blunt (R) in 2008, says treatment courts are more cost-effective than any other criminal justice strategy.
He also addressed the issue of criminal justice during Wednesday’s address to a rare joint session of the Legislature.
Fischer says even short stints in jail increase the likelihood of missing school or losing jobs.
He says a criminal justice task force will recommend evidence-based risk-assessment tools for determining a defendant’s suitability for pretrial release.
“And it ought to seem obvious and important to us that before a trial is held and guilt or innocence determined, that we reserve our jail space for those who pose the most danger to our communities or risk of fleeing the jurisdiction and not those who simply may be too poor to post bail,” Fischer says.
Fischer will lead a Missouri team at a May pretrial justice reform summit in Indianapolis.
He’ll be joined by Judges Rob Mayer and Jack Goodman, who are both former state senators and former state representatives. He’ll also be joined by Montgomery County Associate Circuit Judge Kelly Broniec.
Fischer says Missouri is spending more on corrections than ever before, and that Missouri’s total incarceration rate “remains well above the national average and is growing.”
The Missouri Department of Corrections’ (DOC) current budget is about $726 million.
Fischer also emphasized the court’s successes on Wednesday.
“I am happy to report Missouri’s judiciary is in good shape. We are nationally recognized as leaders,” Fischer says.
He also notes the Missouri judiciary was ranked third internationally last summer for the best use of technology to improve court services and access to the public.