The GOP Missouri House Speaker is praising the Legislature for approving three different major criminal justice reforms. Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, agrees, noting criminal justice reform has also been a top priority for House Democrats and the Black Caucus.
“We had legislation expanding diversion courts, legislation that revises our mandatory minimums, especially for non-violent offenses,” Roberts says. “As well as an expansion of our expungements.”
House bill 192 is the legislation revising mandatory minimums. It has support across the political spectrum, from the ACLU to Americans for Prosperity.
It requires Missouri’s Probation and Parole Board to evaluate those serving mandatory minimums and decide if they should be released. Supporters say about 48 percent of Missouri’s prison population is serving time for drug offenses and other nonviolent crime.
Empower Missouri, the ACLU and Americans for Prosperity say that if the bill becomes law, about 200 prisoners will be released in the first ten months.
Chairman Roberts is also pleased with the Missouri General Assembly’s passage of legislation that expands expungements for certain non-violent crimes. He says expungement helps citizens succeed at re-entry, after they complete their sentence.
“And so allowing people who really are trying to get that second chance the opportunity to do so,” says Roberts.
Expungement is a court-ordered process, where the legal record of a criminal conviction is essentially sealed.
State Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, sponsors the the expungement bill, which is Senate bill 1. It allows expungement for several non-violent crimes, including stealing, first degree property damage and fraudulent use of a credit device.
The diversion court bill is another bipartisan piece of legislation. House bill 547 from State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, requires each judicial circuit to establish a veterans’ treatment court.
Griffith’s bill states that it is Missouri’s public policy to encourage and provide an alternate method for the disposal of cases for military veterans and current military members who have substance abuse disorders or mental health disorders.
The bill allows prosecutors to divert criminal cases to a prosecution diversion program.
Roberts emphasizes the importance of bipartisanship on the criminal justice reform issue. He tells Missourinet that House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, met regularly with the Black Caucus in 2019.
“He’s been genuine and I appreciate him stepping up and meeting with us on a monthly basis,” Roberts says.
Speaker Haahr told Capitol reporters on the session’s final day in May that the 2019 session is the most successful policy one he’s seen in his seven years in the Legislature.
Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s full interview with State Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, which was recorded on May 17, 2019 at the Statehouse in Jefferson City:
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