Records reveal prosecutor’s continued use of cash bail, limited use of alternative courts

The ACLU of Missouri has launched an interactive tool that details the use of cash bail and how long people stayed in the St. Louis County Jail while awaiting trial. The data analysis is part of a new ACLU of Missouri effort to educate voters about the candidates in the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney primary election this August.

These data were obtained from the St. Louis County jail system by the Justice Collaborative through an open records request and reflect criminal bookings in the county from 2010-2017.

“We launched this tool to make sure the people of St. Louis County know what’s happening in their jail before they vote for a prosecuting attorney candidate in August,” said Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Missouri executive director. “Voters deserve to know that their elected prosecuting attorney has not ended cash bail or effectively used the alternative drug court system. We strongly encourage both candidates to end the system of cash bail, which punishes those who can’t afford to buy their freedom and let rich people walk free.”

“Voters deserve to know that their elected prosecuting attorney has not ended cash bail or effectively used the alternative drug court system. We strongly encourage both candidates to end the system of cash bail, which punishes those who can’t afford to buy their freedom and lets rich people walk free.”

Among our findings:

  • In 2017, 419 of people faced cash bail for misdemeanors, including 65 people receiving cash bail for speeding offenses.
  • Since 2012, 2,775 people faced cash bail for misdemeanors. The average amount was $445.
  • From 2012-2017, 5,536 people faced pre-trial detention of one to five days for a misdemeanor. 683 people spent more than 20 days in jail with a misdemeanor charge pre-trial over the same time period.
  • In 2017, 899 people sat behind bars for one to five days charged with a misdemeanor.

For more on the need to end cash bail, list to our radio ad here.

Through a separate open records request, the ACLU of Missouri also found that since St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch started his pre-charge, alternative drug court program in 2014, only 99 people have been enrolled. Only 36 people have completed the program. That averages to nine people per year.

Prosecutors are the most influential actors in the criminal justice system. Their decisions are a major driver of mass incarceration and racial disparities in our criminal justice system – while Blacks are only 24 percent of St. Louis County’s population, they make up 67 percent of the jail population.

Using cash bail impacts people unequally based on wealth and race. People of color are already over-policed and arrested more than their white counterparts. The continuing operation of this system of wealth-based incarceration intensifies this discrimination in the criminal justice system.

At www.PickYourPA.org, you can find the data analysis tool as well as read the questionnaires answered by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Democratic candidates Bob McCulloch and Wesley Bell.

While the ACLU of Missouri does not support, oppose or endorse candidates, the organization has started this push because the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s race is key in protecting civil liberties in the state.

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