PENNY-WISE, PRISON FOOLISH

Gov. Mel Carnahan again vetoes a modest appropriation for a weekly transportation service that would have helped family members visit relatives in prison

Though the state raked in more than $10.4 million last year on commissions from collect calls made by Missouri prisoners ("Communications Shakedown," RFT, July 21), Gov. Mel Carnahan apparently doesn't want to earmark any of the cash for prisoner services. For the second year in a row, the guv vetoed a modest appropriation for a weekly transportation service that would have helped family members visit relatives in prison. In the last legislative session, state lawmakers had earmarked a measly $100,000 for the trial program.

When the annual two-week veto session opens on Sept. 15, state Sen. Walt Mueller Jr. (R-Kirkwood) will try to garner enough support from his colleagues to override Carnahan's rebuff.

Mueller says the transportation program will pay for itself by helping maintain family ties and thereby reducing the number of prisoners who return to jail. "It's been proven time and time again that when there is relationship between an inmate and his family the chances are great for a reduction in recidivism," Mueller says. "The cost of keeping a prisoner, in most cases, runs between $17,000-$22,000 a year. So you can see, if you stop one person from performing a (repeat) felony, which would give you up to five or 10 years, right away you've got your money back."

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