JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri senators have given preliminary approval to legislation designed to shrink the state's prison population by about 2,000 people over two years.
The bill was endorsed by voice vote Tuesday. Under the bill, those convicted of the least severe felonies could not be sentenced to state prisons unless they have two previous felony convictions. People convicted of more serious felonies for offenses such as forgery, identity theft and possessing a controlled substance also could not be sentenced to prison unless they have a previous felony conviction.
Instead, the offenders would be directed to treatment programs, given probation or sentenced to county jails.
Supporters say the bill could lead to a prison closure and could save $26 million. Critics worry the changes would be a burden for counties.