COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A multidisciplinary coalition of Missouri professionals has launched a data-driven prison reform initiative, aiming to curb rising imprisonment rates.
The coalition is implementing portions of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in three of the state's counties to prioritize an investment in mental health treatment and other social services, according to the Columbia Missourian .
All three counties— Boone, Butler and Buchanan— will implement House Bill 1355, legislation signed into law on June 1.
Missouri possesses one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States. Women are being put in prison faster than in any other state.
Anne Precythe, Missouri's Department of Corrections Director, said of the fast rate of female incarceration in Missouri: "We want to be No. 1. But not for that."
Precythe said the multidisciplinary groups will address the real needs at-risk people face that most would not understand. Those would include the type of needs that prevent people from returning to 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," Precythe said. "I mean, it's all of those things that have to be rolled in together to make someone successful."
Michael Malone, a probation and parole officer in Columbia, and other stakeholders have been working on the front lines in Boone County for the last three months. The individuals he's worked with have layers of problems, and there are no easy solutions.
"It's one place that they're going, but they're getting help with employment, with housing, with mental health, on top of substance abuse," Malone said. "As opposed to, 'Just go to substance abuse treatment and tell me how it went.'"
Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com