One of the primary goals of the criminal justice system should be rehabilitation. Sometimes good people use bad judgment and make mistakes that cost them dearly. Knowing this, punishments for certain crimes should not penalize people to the point that they cannot work to move on with their lives and improve themselves. Now, the Missouri State Legislature is considering a proposal that would change sentencing and parole guidelines for individuals dealing with minor criminal charges and misdemeanors.

The Missouri House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would give individuals convicted of non-violent crimes shorter sentences for parole and probation violations. Some individuals would receive "credit toward their sentence" as they go longer and longer without any violations or repeat offenses. In other cases, parole violations would lead to a short stint in jail, instead of extended prison time.

Proposals to alter sentencing came after a state directed study revealed that Missouri issues probation sentences that are up to 40 percent longer than the national average. Additionally, they discovered that 71 percent of the state's prisoners were behind bars for probation or parole violations. These sentences were filling prisons and costing the state a significant amount of resources.

One of the most encouraging aspects of this bill is that it gives individuals the opportunity to rehabilitate and find their way back into society. In fact, the proposal provides incentive for individuals to reform their behavior to avoid parole violations, which is also a benefit for public safety. If this bill becomes law, it is a step toward helping people become productive members of society.

The sentence handed down at a criminal trial can do a lot to determine a person's future. Criminal charges can make it difficult for individuals find employment and housing, so it's important to make sure that if a person is found guilty, their punishment is fair and matches the circumstances of their actions.

Source: KY3 News, "Missouri House backs bill to change parole, probation system," Wes Duplantier, Mar. 6, 2012