Missouri Incarceration Reimbursement Act (MIRA)
by Megan Fewell
Many criminal offenders (and their defense attorneys) are unaware of the fact that our legislature has determined that if offenders have the means to pay for the costs of their incarceration, then they should be required to pay those costs. For those who are aware of MIRA, supporters say that the law saves taxpayers money and is a fair consequence of committing a crime, while critics say that the policy places an extra burden on ex-inmates already struggling to stay out of the legal system. Wiese, Kelly. "When Does a Prisoner’s Debt to Society End?" Missouri Lawyers Weekly, May 25, 2009, at 18.
Enacted in 1988, The Missouri Incarceration Reimbursement Act (MIRA), §§ 217.825-.841, RSMo, authorizes the State, through a civil action brought by the Attorney General’s Office, to seek reimbursement from an inmate for the cost of his or her incarceration. Pursuant to MIRA, the State may collect up to 90% of the value of an inmate’s personal assets.
The procedures followed throughout the entire MIRA process are set forth below:
1. The Attorney General files his petition for incarceration reimbursement only after determining that the Attorney General has good cause to believe that an inmate “has sufficient assets to recover not less than ten percent of the estimated cost of care of the offender or ten percent of the estimated cost of care of the offender for two years, whichever is less, or has a stream of income sufficient to pay such amounts within a five-year period.” § 217.831.3. Additionally, the cost of care for an inmate is evidenced by a Treasurer’s Certificate of Costs under § 217.841.2.
2. For judgment to be entered against an inmate, the Attorney General must present evidence as to two elements: “(1) the offender is [or was] incarcerated in a state correctional facility, and (2) he has assets that could be used for reimbursement.” State ex rel. Nixon v. Hughes, 281 S.W.3d 902, 907 (Mo. App. W.D. 2009); § 217.835.1. The Attorney General need not prove that an offender has a certain threshold amount available for recovery, only that the offender has assets subject to attachment. State ex rel. Nixon v. Koonce, 173 S.W.3d 277 (Mo. App. W.D. 2005). Further, the judgment amount may be for the entire cost of an offender’s incarceration – past, present, and future.
3. If judgment is entered against the inmate, the judgment may attach to the inmate’s assets in the same manner as any other civil judgment.
The Circuit Court of Cole County has jurisdiction to hear all cases under MIRA. § 217.835.1. The average cost of care for an inmate in 2011 was $21,019.96. The Attorney General’s Office collected $619,386.98 from offenders in 2011 for incarceration costs, and has collected $1,892,402.47 since 2009.
Anyone who has questions regarding MIRA may contact the Attorney General’s Office at (573) 751-7951.