Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a controversial crime reform bill into law on July 6. Senate Bill 600, which was passed on the last day of the legislative session and will go into effect on August 28, toughens sentences, creates new crimes and modifies several provisions dealing with dangerous felonies. The bill was opposed by advocacy groups on both sides of the political aisle, but law enforcement agencies and the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys support the legislation.
The passage of SB 600 means that offenders facing conspiracy charges in Missouri can also be charged with the underlying crime itself. It also toughened parole standards for individuals convicted of homicide in the second degree and using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony, introduced harsher sentences for gang members who commit crimes near schools and redefined armed criminal action, conspiracy and carjacking as dangerous felonies.
Supporters of the bill believe that drastic measures are required to cope with a surge in violent crime in St. Louis, Kansas City and Missouri, but groups like the left leaning American Civil Liberties Union and conservative Americans for Prosperity say that the law will further burden taxpayers without addressing the societal issues that give rise to criminal activity. The MAPA and several law enforcement groups say that the bill does not go far enough.
Experienced criminal law attorneys could argue that society would be better served if lawmakers tackled the underlying causes of crime. They could also point out that the primary goal of the criminal justice system should be to rehabilitate and not punish. When their clients are accused of committing relatively minor offenses and do not pose a threat to the public, defense attorneys may suggest that alternatives to incarceration such as probation, substance abuse counseling and community service are more appropriate.