Missouri’s prison system needs major reform. The most recent report, from 2018, showed that Missouri
houses 32,284 offenders, at a cost of $22,187 per offender, and a total of $716,287,058 a year. National
statistics’ show the cost rises to $68,270 per year for offenders over the age 50. One simple change can
save over half the State’s one-year budget in just five years!
If Missouri prison population is decreased by 10% and 50% of the offenders are over 50 years old. This
decease would save the state $145,997,598 per year. We will have saved over a billion dollars that can
be used in better places, such as education, health care, prevention and intervention (rather than
reactive) law enforcement measures. There is a way we can do this safely.
How can we help decrease the prison population safely and save millions of dollars? A legislation which
would allow an override of the 85% mandatory minimum for certain individuals who committed a
violent offense. The parole board has no mechanism to release individuals convicted of a violent crime
before they serve 85% of their sentence.
A recent study showed that 75% of drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime after their initial
release. During the nine-year study period, releases who had nonviolent convictions were more likely
than those with violent convictions to be arrested. This study leads us to the conclusions that we need
to revisit the way we punish and consider the release of those convicted of violent offenses.
Even though an individual case states a violent offense, we must look at how the interpretation was
viewed by the prosecutors. Let’s review at least 3 cases as violent:
1.Terrance Norman, who told an informant that he would sale him a gun for $450 .00 dollars,
Mr. Norman had no gun and took $450.00 dollars from the informant (no aggressive manner),
Jumps into his car and drives off while a Detective was watching, Mr. Norman, never harmed
the informant, he did take the money and run. Mr. Norman was convicted of first-degree
robbery and sentenced to 25 years for his first adult offense. He must serve 21 years before he
is eligible for parole.
2. Michael Albanese, sat in a car during a drug deal gone bad, his friend was killed. Mr. Albanese
did not have a gun, did not commit any act of violence. However, he was convicted of felony
murder and sentenced to life in prison. Mr. Albanese served 25 and half years. He was released
3.Mr. Frederick Thornton was involved in a fatal car accident while intoxicated, He did not
intend to hurt anyone. Mr. Thornton was convicted of second-degree felony murder and
Sentenced to 30 years in prison. Mr. Thornton has been a great model offender, he has many
more years to serve before he is eligible for parole.
The parole board cannot consider the mitigating factors of these cases to consider the release of a
parole. Norman, Albanese, and Thornton must serve 85% of these extremely lengthy sentences. Mr.
Thornton did not intentionally try to harm anyone. Most of us would say, He had no business getting
behind the wheel while he was intoxicated. You’re absolutely correct. Did he intentionally cause a
violent act? Did Mr. Norman or Mr. Albanese cause a violent harm act toward their victim? We do know
they violated the law. The offenders have been serving their time as model offenders while being
incarcerated. They continue to stay employed within the penal institution and continue to keep a
positive record of good conduct while serving their time.
An override mechanism will provide the offenders a second chance. These individuals have a low risk of
returning to prison. Again, we need to revisit the 85% law case by case. The prison system truly needs a
major reform. As I pause on this column. I will see you next week regarding part 2. I look forward to your
questions, answers as well as your advice. My email:firstname.lastname@example.org May the tribe
Blessing Always, Barbara Courtney, Cascade Media Columnist/Host of Shining The Light Podcast email@example.com