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Prison Gates Opening Faster

By Dan Verbeck, KCUR News

Kansas City, Mo. – Prisons aren't quite as full as they have been around the country for the first half of this year. The Missouri court system claims the state is lone in the nation with a prison decline over 18 months. Numbers purport to come from a double attack on the phenomenon of repeat offenders, showing a dramatic 2.9 percent prison force decline in fiscal 2006.

One thrust changes data given judges about an offender's risk factors. One of those jurists is Larry Harman, former presiding judge of Clay County Circuit Court who says "I think what you'll find is, experienced judges have a sense of what is appropriate for their community, given their years of experience. And they're going to do what they think is right."

A second program tries to help inmates back into non-prison life. Justice Department figures show Missouri as one of eight states with declining prison populations.

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