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An innovative Missouri program is providing a model for criminal justice that is effective, just and financially responsible. STOP, which is short for Stealing Offenders Program, focuses on educating theft offenders so they don't steal again.

The program teaches first-time theft offenders about the consequences of their actions and what will happen if they steal again, including penalties for subsequent infractions. STOP meetings may be ordered for any first-time stealing offender of a city code ordinance.

The program draws offenders from around the state and has had about 2,500 participants since it began in 2003. It has become a standard part of sentencing for first-time offenders. In fact, some offenders even go through the program before being sentenced.

Programs like STOP are valuable for many reasons. First, they take some of the financial and administrative burden off of the court system. This saves taxpayers money and allows criminal courts to focus on higher-level offenses such as violent crimes that justify harsher penalties.

These programs are beneficial for offenders who may just need a bit of education to prevent their next offense. Attending a STOP session is much less costly or intrusive than traditional enforcement actions like jail time.

It also benefits the community as a whole as it rehabilitates offenders and prevents future shoplifting, which helps strengthen the local economy. In addition, less burden on the courts means less taxpayer spending.

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges it is essential to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights in the criminal justice system. They can help you build your case, gather the appropriate evidence and get the best possible result.

Source: The Columbia Missourian, "Court-ordered program works to educate theft offenders," Arthur Cook Bremer and Sasu Siegelbaum, Dec. 14, 2012

To learn more about criminal charges in Missouri, please visit our website.

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