Growth is satisfying in many areas of Missouri life, but in one sector it is troubling. It’s our prison populations.

A new study is underway to determine if a solution is possible to curb rising imprisonment rates. A coalition of professionals 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 in seeking answers. The counties are Boone, Butler and Buchanan.

Missouri has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, with women being put in prison faster than in any other state. The coalition will address the real needs at-risk people face that most of us would not understand, according to Anne Precythe, the state’s Department of Corrections director. The needs include preventing people from returning to prison.

Not enough is being done to address basic life challenges such as adequate housing, jobs, substance abuse, childcare, parent care, difficult family situations, finances, the list goes on and on, according to the prison official.

There is help in all of these areas but apparently not enough. The coalition has a tough assignment, but something has to be done to curb the present situation with more and more people being incarcerated. The situation of the growing population of females in prisons is especially troubling.

It is evident that root problems have to be addressed that have resulted in crimes that have caused the prison populations to increase.

Why is it that Missouri has had such a growth in prison populations? The quick answer is because we have more crime. What is it about our state that gives rise to more crime? Are our judges and prosecutors tougher on criminals in giving sentences to prison than their counterparts in other states?

The general public in a number of instances can be heard to say our judges aren’t as tough as they should be in sentencing those convicted of crimes.

We wish the coalition success in its study. It has a difficult task in recommending solutions that are within the state’s means to implement.

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