A three-county pilot program that seeks to improve community services for former prisoners is rolling out in Missouri. Offering an array of so-called “wraparound” community services, the initial $5 million dollar pilot program focuses on services for former offenders with behavioral challenges like addiction or mental health issues.
The program arose out of a 2017 report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center predicting that Missouri would be forced to spend more than $400 million dollars on prison infrastructure if it didn’t invest instead in about $189 million dollars in community services over the next five years.
A task force took the recommendations and developed the pilot plan for Boone, Butler, and Buchanan counties. Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe led the task force.
“There are so many people that are being touched by this problem,” Precythe said of the lack of access to behavioral health services for problems like addiction. “And we just don’t have enough services in our communities, to keep the people in the community, with their family, at their job, to help them.”
Andy Barbee is research director at the Council of State Governments Justice Center. He says Missouri - like a lot of states - lacks comprehensive support for former prisoners in its communities.
"So when you don't have much of anything in the community to connect these people with, it's not a hard prediction to make that they're going to struggle," said Barbee. "And to the extent that Missouri does have something it's overwhelmingly located inside the prison system."
Precythe said because Missouri has one of the nation’s fastest-growing female prison populations, services for formerly incarcerated women will be a focus of the pilots.