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Our Opinion: Electronic shackles help rein in costs

Missouri lawmakers proposing increased use of electronic shackling are accepting the challenge to be smarter in dealing with crime.

In his State of the Judiciary address earlier this month, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ray Price Jr. referenced prior emphasis on incarceration and said: “We were tough on crime, but we were not smart on crime.”

Legislators last week discussed a proposal to allow the increased use of electronic monitors that effectively confine — or shackle — people to their homes. Shackling would be an option only for nonviolent crimes.

Price said the cost to incarcerate an offender in a state prison is $16,400 a year.

In contrast, an offender would pay the rental cost for the electronic shackle, much like a DWI offender agrees to pay the cost to install a breathalyzer in a vehicle.

At the county level, shackling would save money both for the county and the state.

The daily cost for a prisoner in the county jail is about $70 day, with the state reimbursing about $20 of that cost.

During discussion in the House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City — a co-sponsor — observed: “Sometimes, we put people away when it might be better to keep them at home, where they can keep their job and continue to be a productive member of society.”

Although agreement from both prosecutors and defense attorneys is rare, the panel also heard positive comments about the proposal from representatives of both statewide associations.

We believe electronic shackling — like drug and DWI courts — is a cost-effective option when used judiciously.

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