By Janet Saidi
State directors and staff in the fields of public safety, mental health, social services, and corrections are rolling out implementations of the state Justice Reinvestment Initiative. It aims to turn around Missouri’s rising incarceration rates by investing in treatment and other services rather than in prisons.
Missouri has one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States, and Missouri is putting women in prison faster than any other state, according to research by the Council of State Governments. Missouri’s Dept. of Corrections Director Anne Precythe says of the fast rate of female incarceration in Missouri: “We want to be number one. But not for that.”
Precythe has been a driver in a massive, statewide effort to turn these incarceration rates around, with a so-called “wraparound” approach. Rolling out in three Missouri counties – Boone, Butler and Buchanan – the Reinvestment Initiative treatment pilots are implementing House Bill 1355, signed into law June 1.
At a town hall event Nov. 7 in Boone County, Precythe told a group of counselors, Probation and Parole officers, mental health workers, state leaders and others involved in the effort that the approach is “a new way of doing business.”
Multidisciplinary teams will address the real needs faced by people at risk. Needs – Precythe says – that we don’t even understand. They’re the kinds of needs that prevent people from staying out of prison.
“They can’t do that if basic life challenges continue to show themselves and no one’s working to help address housing or childcare, parent care, difficult family situation, finances,” said Precythe. “I mean it’s all of those things that have to be rolled in together to make someone successful.”
Michael Malone is a Probation and Parole officer in Columbia. He and teams of probation officers, mental health, treatment, and social services professionals have been working on the frontlines of the rollout in Boone County for about three months. He says the people he works with have layers of problems and there are no easy solutions. But at the Boone County town hall event, he listed one person after another who he’s seen getting mental health, substance abuse treatment, and getting jobs – some for the first time.