Gov. Mike Parson signs violent crime bill

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Governor Mike Parson is responding to violence across the state by signing a law that addresses violent crime.

Parson said during a press conference Monday he wants Missourians to stand up for law enforcement. Some have said SB600 is a large step towards safety and justice, but others say this measure allows prosecutors to request longer sentencing without really addressing crime.

Parson indicated Monday he wants a special session to discuss violent crime across the state.

“If there was ever a time for all of us to stand up and make sure we support them, now is the time because I’ll tell you, they feel like they’ve been beaten down,” Parson said. “People need to understand the sacrifices that law enforcement officers make every day.”

The bill signing of SB600 comes after Parson traveled to Kansas City Sunday to support one of the two officers shot in Kansas City on Friday.

The bill makes a handful of changes to the state’s criminal law, including no probation for certain violent offenses, adding the offense of vehicle hijacking, increasing the range of punishment for unlawful possession of a firearm and altering the definition of a street gang.

“This allows law enforcement and prosectors to hold individuals accountable,” said Parson.

Under the current law a person cannot be convicted of an offense based upon a conspiracy to commit the offense unless the person committed an overt act. The new measure criminalizes an agreement to commit a criminal offense and allows law enforcement and prosecutors to hold individuals accountable. Mandatory prison sentences for certain violent offenses will also be put in place because of this bill. Certain offenses will not be eligible for probation, conditional release or suspended imposition or execution of sentence for the minimum period of imprisonment.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said the governor took the wrong approach by signing the bill.

“As people across Missouri and the nation demand criminal justice reform, the governor instead is embracing the same failed approach that too often produces unjust results, over-incarcerates Black men and does nothing to keep us safe,” Quade said. “By supporting Senate Bill 600, the governor guarantees that the inequities in the system will get worse, and the protests for justice will continue.”

A number of other organizations also criticized the governor for signing the bill.

“Governor Parson’s commitment to signing SB 600 is shortsighted,” Director at the ACLU of Missouri Sara Baker said. “We know that crime bills like this one exacerbate racial inequalities and fuel mass incarceration with no actual improvement to public safety. Signing this bill, which opposed across the political spectrum, tears money away from public education and services proven to decrease crime. It effectively tells Missourians who are already struggling that Missouri’s number one priority is repeating failed policy decisions from the 1980s. Across the political spectrum and in the streets the voice of the people was clear – SB 600 was wrong for Missouri. We will spend decades suffering the ramifications of this bill and fighting to restore justice to our system.”

Also, during Monday’s press conference, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Margi Vandeven said the state will use $55 million from Missouri’s COVID-19 relief fund for things like broadband, technical devices for students and PPE.

“I think everything we’re doing right now is based on multiple scenarios, so we are trying to again plan for the worst and also plan for the best,” said Vandeven. “As of right now we are not anticipating any kind of a statewide closure, but we do recognize that there will be pockets of resurge that we may see.”

Parson said he will travel to Washington D.C Tuesday with Vandeven to talk with leaders on how to safely reopen schools.

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