As with jurisdictions across the country, the overuse of the jail has contributed to over-incarceration in St. Louis County. About 90% of the jail population is on pretrial detention or awaiting a hearing on a probation violation. With support from the Safety and Justice Challenge, the county is working to implement bold reforms aimed at reducing the jail population by 15-19% over two years while maintaining public safety.
The key elements of this approach include:
- Expanding a pretrial release program for carefully screened individuals;
- Implementing a speedy hearing process for those with technical probation violations;
- Expediting case processing for non-violent individuals awaiting trial;
- Embracing systems reform by working with the county strategy and innovation team to enhance case processing with the goal of equitable and fair treatment across the criminal justice system; and
- Working with community providers to secure mental health and substance abuse treatment, particularly in light of the opioid epidemic in St. Louis County.
The University of Missouri-St. Louis has led the collection of information and data analysis instrumental in the development of these programs. The University has also shared its expertise in procedural justice. Many of the programs have been piloted and have shown promising results.
To continue building on past reform efforts, St. Louis County was awarded an additional $2.25 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2018 to invest in these and other steps to further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years. This work will result in evidence-based, gender responsive practices that can be used as models across the country.