Lawmakers layout bills for criminal justice reform6

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JEFFERSON CITY- Missouri lawmakers are taking steps to improve criminal justice with a series of bills.

House Democrats and the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus on Monday outlined a list of seven bills they believe will make the justice system more fair.

Jannette Mott Oxford, Empower Missouri executive director, said she's excited about the proposals.

"We've been calling for reforms in our state for several decades now, believing that we incarcerate far too many people," she said. "Missouri is one of eight states that continues to see a growing prison population."

Bruce Franks, D - St.Louis, is sponsoring a bill that would allow voting rights for convicted felons who have been released from prison but are on probation or parole.

"If someone can get out of jail and they can pay taxes to the state, if they can become upstanding citizens, if they can put their kids in school where we are paying property tax and that's going to the schools, then they should be able to vote," he said.

Dan Viets, an attorney & counselor, said everyone should be able to vote.

"Why should someone lose his or her right to vote just because of some criminal offense. I mean, there's no logical relationship between those two things. You know, you don't just lose your right as a citizen because your convicted of a crime," he said.

Other bills would require courts to offer community service to impoverished defendants who do not have the funds to pay fines, fees or court costs; double the restitution the state can pay to someone who has been exonerated by DNA testing and require courts to expunge records of those convicted of possessing 35 grams or less of marijuana.