Facts and Policy Reforms for Missouri
As in most states, the prison population in Missouri has exploded in recent decades.
Between 1980 and 2016, the state’s prison population increased by 467 percent. By 2018, Missouri had the ninth highest imprisonment rate in the country. Recognizing that this growth was unsustainable, Missouri engaged in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in 2017, and a bipartisan task force developed policy recommendations to reduce the prison population. Although not all recommendations have been signed into law, between 2017 and 2018, the imprisonment rate dropped by 7 percent in Missouri.
In 2017, the majority of people admitted to Missouri prisons were admitted from community supervision — 44 percent for a probation revocation and 35 percent admitted as a parole return. Seventy-eight percent of new prison admissions were for nonviolent offenses, and 35 percent of these were for drug offenses. Between 2008 and 2017, new admissions for drug offenses increased by 21 percent.
Unsurprisingly, Missouri’s mass incarceration crisis has had an enormous impact on people of color, especially Black people. In 2017, the rate of imprisonment for Black adults in Missouri was nearly four times higher than that of white adults. Although they made up 11 percent of the state’s adult population, Black people made up 34 percent of the prison population that year.
The population of women in Missouri prisons is also growing at an alarming rate: Between 2000 and 2016, the number of women in prison grew by 68 percent. Between 2010 and 2016, Missouri’s female prison population experienced the second largest growth out of any state at 36 percent.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Missouri can dramatically reduce its prison population by implementing just a few sensible reforms:
- Invest in treatment programs and housing.
- Decriminalize drug possession and traffic offenses.
- Expand existing reforms by abolishing mandatory minimums all together.
- Reform the parole system to guarantee to guarantee expedient hearings and access to attorneys when people are returned to prison.
- Reduce the rates of pretrial detention by protecting the presumption of innocence.
If Missouri were to follow these and other reforms outlined in this Smart Justice 50-State Blueprint, 15,662 fewer people would be in prison in Missouri by 2025, saving over $612 million dollars that could be invested in schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities.
For more information, along with detailed breakdowns of Missouri’s prison population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.