That could be the end result if Missouri continues down the path of rethinking its "lock 'em up" approach to criminal justice. This editorial in the Columbia Daily Tribune describes the first important steps the state is taking:
... last month the Missouri Department of Corrections said 30,771 inmates are in jail, and the department is budgeted for $660 million in the coming fiscal year.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Ray Price Jr. recently said we must get over the idea long jail time makes the offender better. “It doesn’t. We have to be smarter about what we are doing.”
To that end, Gov. Jay Nixon this week highlighted the formation of the Missouri Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections, co-chaired by Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon. Nixon said the task force is looking at all aspects of the criminal justice system in an effort to reduce costs and hold offenders responsible for their actions. The working group, which has been meeting since June, is expected to complete a report in time for lawmakers to act on it during the 2012 legislative session.It's easy to think, "Oh, it's just another working group and just another report" about these kinds of situations, but we're encouraged. In many, many places, harsh sentences and mandatory minimum punishments were enacted willy-nilly, in response to high profile crimes, with little or no rational thought or study beforehand. Taxpayers have ended up stuck with these nonsensical punishments for decades -- partly because policymakers wouldn't slow down and study the problem first.
Studying sentences before we create them stops stupidity before it starts.