JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A new law in Missouri modifies several criminal justice policies and could result in longer prison sentences.
Gov. Mike Parson is calling it a big step toward safety and justice. He signed the omnibus crime bill Monday.
The governor and the bill’s sponsor said Senate Bill 600 addresses violent crime across the state, but lawmakers against the measure said the bill could have been written better and won’t make cities or the state safer.
Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, said among the offenses that would eliminate probation for past convictions, the law also creates a new offense for carjackings, allows charges for conspiracy to commit a crime and it makes it easier to prosecute gangs.
“We need to make sure violent offenders are removed from the streets and put in prison so they are not able to terrorize people any longer,” Luetkemeyer said.
“Prosecutors will be able to more effectively prosecute multiple gang members in a single case as opposed to trying them in multiple separate cases, which makes it very difficult to prosecute those gangs.”
Under the current law, a person cannot be convicted of an offense based on a conspiracy to commit the offense unless the person committed an overt act.
The new measure criminalizes an agreement to commit a criminal offense and allows law enforcement and prosecutors to hold individuals accountable.
Mandatory prison sentences for certain violent offenses will also be put in place because of this bill.
Certain offenses will not be eligible for probation, conditional release or suspended imposition or execution of sentence for the minimum period of imprisonment.
SB600 increases the minimum sentencing requirements for armed criminal action of the crime committed with a person who has unlawfully possessed firearm.
The law also allows prosecutors to charge people with both conspiracy to commit a crime and the criminal act itself.
The sentences for both of these crimes will now be served one after the other.
Under the law, probation is eliminated for second-degree murder and other dangerous felonies if a person has a past conviction.
Not all agree SB600 will reduce crime and make Missouri safer. Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, disagrees with the law.
“If anything, it’s just going to curb more bodies being in jail,” Roberts said. “It’s not going to do anything to curb crime or violence in the state.”
Roberts said he wants the focus on police reform.
“This mind set of ‘we need to create harsher penalties’ hasn’t worked and won’t work,” Roberts said. “Making our officers more accountable is far more important.”
Luetkemeyer said this law does protect officers.
“This is also going to make law enforcement officers safer because they are not going to have to re-arrest dangerous individuals multiple times before they actually spend time in prison,” Luetkemeyer said. “It stops the catch and release of violent offenders.”
Roberts said he would like a special session to discuss police reform. Parson indicated on Monday he wants a special session to discuss violent crime.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said the governor took the wrong approach by signing the bill.
“As people across Missouri and the nation demand criminal justice reform, the governor instead is embracing the same failed approach that too often produces unjust results, over-incarcerates Black men and does nothing to keep us safe,” Quade said.
“By supporting Senate Bill 600, the governor guarantees that the inequities in the system will get worse, and the protests for justice will continue.”
A number of other organizations also criticized the governor for signing the bill.
“Governor Parson’s commitment to signing SB 600 is shortsighted,” Director at the ACLU of Missouri Sara Baker said. “We know that crime bills like this one exacerbate racial inequalities and fuel mass incarceration with no actual improvement to public safety. Signing this bill, which opposed across the political spectrum, tears money away from public education and services proven to decrease crime. It effectively tells Missourians who are already struggling that Missouri’s number one priority is repeating failed policy decisions from the 1980s. Across the political spectrum and in the streets the voice of the people was clear – SB 600 was wrong for Missouri. We will spend decades suffering the ramifications of this bill and fighting to restore justice to our system.”