JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri is confronting a number of troubling trends in its criminal justice system, including an uptick in violent crime and crowded prisons – and research shows women are at the epicenter.
Researchers at The Council of State Governments Justice Center, asked to study Missouri’s incarceration problem, are warning that the prison system is in a make-or-break moment.
The Center is asking the state to invest $189 million to treat offenders in the community for behavioral health problems or risk paying $485 million to build new prisons.
Andy Barbee, the Center’s director of research, says that’s because there is not enough behavioral support outside the prison walls.
“It’s not only being delivered in the prison settings,” he points out. “It’s only being delivered there. There is so little of it in a community setting.
“So the state really is shooting itself in the foot, but you see this particularly pronounced within that female population.”
Barbee says lack of treatment is creating a revolving door for offenders and the majority are women being arrested for low-level offenses.
Missouri’s prison system is running at 105 percent of capacity.
The Center’s findings show drug treatment in prison is costly, ineffective and actually no better than those without treatment.
Barbee says it’s import for the state to invest in community programs, which could lead to better community policing, and the investment will allow for better gender responsive training to curb the growing female prison population.
“In fact, a lot of times, a female that’s being arrested has – in her past or in the current setting – is also a victim,” Barbee stresses. “So there is a lot of particular dynamics that the system is not well calibrated to be sensitize to.”
Barbee’s findings and recommendations were presented to Gov. Eric Greitens to be considered in his next budget recommendations for the state.
Greitens will deliver his second State of the State address to the Missouri Legislature on Wednesday, but according to his spokesman, his budget recommendations will be released at a later date.