Date: January 24th, 2024
To: Representative Rudy Viet, Chairman, and Members of the House Committee on Corrections and Public Institutions
From: Gwen Smith, Criminal Justice Policy Manager, Empower Missouri
RE: Support for HB 2203
As the largest and oldest anti-poverty non-profit in our state, Empower Missouri is committed to improving the quality of life for all Missouri residents through advocacy. Since our inception, Empower Missouri has focused on the criminal justice system and its impacts. Our Community Justice Coalition consists of community advocates and organizations from across the state who work with those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Many coalition members are formerly incarcerated or have currently incarcerated loved ones, and all are connected by a vision for a future without mass incarceration.
We are providing testimony today in support of HB 2203, sponsored by Representative Collins, which would address provisions relating to good time credit for individuals committed to the Department of Corrections. Good time credit is time that once earned, shall be subtracted from the incarcerated individual’s minimum eligibility-for-release date. The accumulation of this credit does not require that the individual be released, as the parole board retains the discretion to determine the date of release. Specifically, this bill would award 60 days of good time credit for incarcerated individuals who successfully complete certain programs, including those who receive a high school or college diploma or vocational training certificate, complete an alcohol or drug course other than those ordered by the court or parole board, or complete 1,000 hours of restorative justice programming.
This expansion of good time credits would have a positive impact on incarcerated individuals, their loved ones, the environment within correctional facilities, and ultimately Missouri communities. The availability of such credits based on the merits of a person’s behavior can make the prison environment safer for other incarcerated individuals and correctional officers. Through incentivizing good behavior, rather than punishing bad behavior, good time credits help incarcerated individuals develop positive habits that will lead to reduced recidivism outcomes after their release. The programs included in HB 2203 incorporate educational opportunities, vocational training, and rehabilitation, all critical elements in preparing individuals for reentry and improving community safety for all.
As an aside, in order to ensure that HB 2203 and other legislation has the intended impact of promoting program participation for incarcerated individuals (thereby reducing recidivism), the legislature may also need to consider increased resources for rehabilitative and educational programs in the Department of Corrections. We trust the legislature will consider this as part of the appropriations process.
Empower Missouri urges this committee to take action to pass HB 2203 into law. Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.