According to Missouri Department of Corrections data, Texas County is in the middle of the pack with regard to incarceration rate.

Texas County Prosecuting Attorney Parke Stevens Junior loves his job and is passionate about what he does.

Stevens also has a deliberate, defined approach to performing his duties and isn’t against talking about it – especially when the subject is drugs. Here are some examples.

•Drug offenses.

Stevens believes punishment is a more effective deterrent than probation and maintains a fairly hardline stance regarding drugs.

“My policy is like, if you’re a user and you’re caught possessing, let’s not put you on probation, but let’s punish you and get you on your way and let the enhancement provisions of the system work. That means a prior drug offender’s range of punishment is higher; the first time you can go up to seven years and next time to 10 and then the third time to 15.

“But with my drug-related sentences, you’ll see a lot of two-year sentences. Why waste the money putting them on probation when they’re just going to do some time and come back out? From what I’ve seen historically, drug offenders are usually going to reoffend. So if you put them on probation, you’re letting them do that sooner.

“Some people think you should get probation with big sentences, but I’d rather you get a smaller sentence and actually do the time. I’m a big proponent of punishing them and moving on.”

•Heroin.

Stevens draws the line here.

“I’ve taken a zero-tolerance policy on heroin cases. I haven’t had many of them, but with every one of them – even first-offenders – I’ve said I will not do anything but prison. I’ll give you your ‘two-and-go,’ so to speak, but I will not accept any probation officers.

Parke

Parke Stevens Jr.

“The hope – and my prayer – with that is that we keep that drug out of this area.”

•Drugs cause crime.

Stevens figures there would be a lot less crime if drug use wasn’t so prevalent in today’s society.

“I’m often asked how much crime would drop if you took drugs out. That’s hard to quantify, but drugs and alcohol – more so drugs – are the primary reason there are burglaries and thefts.

“A lot of times I’ll see people in court and it won’t be about drugs, but you can tell they’re coming down off of some type of substance or they’re a user. And some of them even say, ‘I stole this to support my habit.’

“If you go past just the distribution or possession cases, I’d say about 60 to 70 percent of the cases are somehow drug-related. That definitely includes assaults, too, whether it’s someone who thinks someone else is stealing or messing with their supply or hassling their dealer.

“And that gets back to the issue of probation. To me, if you put them in prison – even if it’s with a lower sentence – they’ll see what those cells look like and maybe, just maybe, they won’t reoffend.”

•Average length of sentence.

Over the past several years, the average length of sentences given to offenders in Texas County increased from 4.5 years to 7.5 years.

“There has been a period of time when sleepy old Texas County has had a bunch of major cases, between Tyrone, the Sprous killing, Daniel Campbell and most recently the Steinfeld killing. When you’re getting three consecutive life sentence plus 15 years, that will skew some averages.

“I’m not sure how they would factor a death penalty into those numbers.”

•Caseload.

As the county’s sole prosecutor, Stevens faces a daunting task (he has one part-time assistant PA). But he likes the challenge.

“We’re doing a little over 1,000 cases a year; we’re at over 700 now with about 2 ½ months to go. And we also deal with lots and lots of traffic cases and DOC cases from the Licking prison, so the end result is just a never-ending, huge pile of cases.

“And consider this: In Pulaski County, they handle about 2,000 cases. But the prosecuting attorney there has four assistant PAs, so in reality they’re each handling about 400.

“But even though I put in some long days, I enjoy doing this, and I do have a good support staff and the load is being taken care of. My goal when I started this job a couple of years ago was to be caught up to the point where I wasn’t working on any cases that were more than a year old.

“I expect to reach that goal early next year.”  

The Missouri Department of Corrections each year publishes an online book chronicling statistics and information with regard to inmates in counties around the state. The book – titled, “Profile of the Institutional and Supervised Offender Population” –  covers from June to June, and lags behind a year. In other words, the most current information book (published in march of this year) contains data from June 2015 to June 2016.

The 149-page publication also includes some national data. In this year’s edition, Missouri was the eighth-ranked state in total incarcerations. Texas County ranked 51st out of 115 counties in incarceration rate (based on a ratio of incarcerations per 100,000 people) and 35th in felony sentencing rate.

Statewide, there were 32,831 people in prison (29,446 male and 3,385 female), with 62.9-pecent being white, 34.6-percent black, 1.8-percent Hispanic and fractions of percentages being of other races. The most common age group at the time of incarceration was 20-24, with 22.5-percent of the inmate population, while 18.5-percent were 25-29 years old, 15.3-percent 30-34 and 11.7-percent 35-39.

The top-five offenses were possession of a controlled substance, manufacturing or distribution of a controlled substance, first-degree robbery, second-degree burglary and second-degree murder.

For much more information, click on the link to the offender profile book the accompanies this story.

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