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Mo. bill would require 85% prison sentences

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – A bill in the Missouri Senate would require convicted felons to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole.

The bill is sponsored by former prosecutor-turned State Senator Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia). He testified in favor of his bill Monday night before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I've seen some of the sentences that are handed out by the trial court...somebody gets a 20-year sentence, the victim feels comfortable, (the) family feels comfortable, only to find out that somebody serves three years of that sentence and they're back out on the street," Schaefer said.

Current law does not contain a minimum sentencing requirement.

Rita Lindhardt of the Missouri Catholic Conference testified against the bill.

"We believe that increased sentencing like this is really going to be detrimental to the rehabilitation of the offender...studies have shown that the longer an offender is incarcerated, the more likely (he or she is) to become institutionalized," Lindhardt said.

Lindhardt also suggests that requiring 85 percent of sentences to be served out would force the state to spend money to build more prisons.

Under the bill, judges would still have the option of sending offenders to drug treatment or mental health centers where applicable. But those who fail to complete treatment would be sent to prison and would have to serve 85 percent of their sentences.