Missouri employers are increasingly concerned about the impact of crime on the state’s economy. In response, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is bringing a new business-minded focus to the public safety discussions happening in the state capitol.
A recent survey of Missouri business leaders by the Missouri Chamber found that most employers (66%) believe crime is negatively impacting the state’s economy. In the same survey, 73% of business leaders asked the Missouri Chamber to take action on this issue.
This week, the Missouri Chamber took this message to the capitol as lawmakers began discussions on two bills to address crime in Missouri.
Senate Bill 850 contains a number of important provisions aimed at keeping violent, repeat offenders from being released from prison too early. Bill sponsor Sen. Jason Bean, a Republican from Southeast Missouri, said the bill would enforce tougher penalties on habitual criminals who commit dangerous felonies.
“COVID and other issues created many obstacles for law enforcement and our court system over the past couple of years,” said Sen. Bean. “Unfortunately, these burdens have created opportunities for career criminals to put even more law-abiding citizens at risk. Something has to be done.”
Sen. Bean said his legislation would “zero in on enhanced penalties to capture truly harmful individuals that offer no regard for human life.”
Missouri Chamber General Counsel Carol Mitchell testified in favor of the bill during a hearing by the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
“Members of the business community believe that crime is affecting our economic competitiveness,” said Mitchell. “We believe that Sen. Bean’s bill is an important tool in addressing the issue of crime.”
While working to safeguard the state’s economy from habitual, dangerous offenders, the Missouri Chamber is also supporting legislation that would incentivize nonviolent incarcerated Missourians to pursue prison work experiences that will prepare them for jobs after they are released. Keeping a job has been shown to greatly reduce recidivism. Studies show that previously justice-involved individuals are much less likely to re-offend when they have stable, full-time employment.
Under House Bill 2088, nonviolent offenders who hold down jobs while in prison would be able to earn credit toward early release. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Derek Grier, a Republican from Chesterfield.
Rep. Grier’s bill was heard in the House Committee on Corrections and Public Institutions on January 25.
The Missouri Chamber’s new focus on these areas is attracting interest and praise from leaders in the capitol.
Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Parkville who chairs the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, said it was “very wise for the chamber to get involved in criminal law reforms.”
“I think one of the biggest impediments and threats to the economic viability of both of our major cities is the increase in violent crime and I’m happy to see the chamber is getting involved in this,” he said.
For more information, contact Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-634-3511.