House Bill 1652 would designate part of Highway 171 the “Atomic Veterans Memorial Highway.” Bromley said many other states have so honored this group of veterans and its important that Missouri follow suit, especially as so many of them are elderly or have already passed on.
The House has voted to ensure that Missouri inmates who are at least 65 years old get a chance at parole.
House Bill 352 would apply to a small number of inmates who have served at least 30 years of a sentence, who have no prior violent felony convictions, are not convicted sex offenders, and are serving a sentence of life without parole with a 50-year minimum.
Democrats strongly supported the bill. Representative Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City) said just as modern DNA has proven some people innocent in old cases, this legislation reflects how the state’s law has changed to eliminate overly harsh prison terms.
Former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts (R-Joplin) said sentences of life without parole are often offered as an alternative to the death sentence in particularly egregious crimes. That is generally after the victim’s family has agreed to accept that as an outcome.
Representative Steve Butz’s (D-St. Louis) sister was raped and murdered about 10 years ago in Washington State. He described to his colleagues having to identify her body, having to wait several days before her body was released to be buried, and going through the court trial.
He said her killer is serving the same kind of sentence as the people this bill would affect.
HB 352 is part of a larger, overall focus on criminal justice reform that is a bipartisan priority this year. Its language has been included in a broad reform package, House Committee Bill 2. That bill is still before a House committee.
An inmate receiving a parole hearing under this bill must be found by the parole board to have met certain criteria to be eligible for parole. He or she must have a record of good conduct while in prison; must have demonstrated rehabilitation; must have an institutional risk factor score of no more than one and a mental health score of no more than three; and must have a workable parole plan that includes the support of family and community.
An offender who is not granted parole would be reconsidered every two years.
With a vote of 90-60, HB 352 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.