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Missouri Policy Journal

Abstract

Approximately ten years ago, a conservative-led movement to engage in various forms of correctional and sentencing reform emerged. This movement extends to broader acceptance within the criminal justice field to implement less traditional forms of sentencing, including alternative sentences that incorporate rehabilitative components. A decade later, this policy debate has gained significant traction throughout many conservative states that have traditionally relied upon mass incarceration as the chief means of crime control. Recent scholarly evidence suggests that the reform efforts within these conservative states have met with success in reducing prison populations and the development of rehabilitative strategies increasingly in line with public opinion polls. Moreover, these reforms have brought greater focus to evidence-based practices and increasing attention to empirically-derived evidence of “what works” in reducing recidivism. This paper presents the results of an evaluation of a drug court in a Missouri judicial circuit as an example of how such efforts have spread throughout Missouri. We offer recommendations for policymakers seeking to support this largely bipartisan issue and take advantage of what may be a shrinking window of opportunity.

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