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Lawmakers appear to be taking seriously the idea of reforming prison laws to keep certain nonviolent offenders out of prison.

One person who is happy about this is Matthew Charles. On Tuesday, we reported the Nashville, Tennessee, man served 21 years in prison for a nonviolent offense before being released from federal prison through the First Step Act. The first prisoner released under the federal program, Charles was a featured guest of President Donald Trump during the 2019 State of the Union Address.

Charles spoke at a news conference in the House Lounge in favor of Missouri’s omnibus justice reform bill.

Some lawmakers likely support the bill as a way to give those convicted of drug offenses, and other non-violent crimes, another chance to turn their lives around. Others probably like the fact that purging Missouri’s prisons of some of its nonviolent offenders could keep the state from having to fund the cost of building and operating two new prisons.

A study shows that’s what’s likely to happen if our prison population continues to grow.

We believe both are good reasons to support such legislation.

Charles is proof that former inmates can lead productive lives.

“Before I entered federal prison, I became a Christian,” he said. “That decision caused me to live a different lifestyle.”

He was released from prison, got a job and an apartment, and joined a church. However, the federal government appealed the decision, and he went back to prison for about two years, before a journalist told his story, leading to his second release.

Granted, not everyone who gets a second chance is destined to be a choir boy. Recidivism is a serious problem, and prisons in general need to do better at rehabilitating, rather than simply punishing.

But we’re happy to see lawmakers giving serious consideration to prison reform, which is one of Gov. Mike Parson’s priorities this session.

News Tribune

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