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Jasper County Sees Success with Pre-Trial Release Program Hoping to Reduce Jail Overcrowding

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JASPER COUNTY, MISSOURI -

People too poor to bond out of jail prompts the Missouri Supreme Court to  commission a task force to look at the problem of pre-trial incarceration. 
          Jasper county is ahead of the curve having  adopted a pre trial -release program in May for those who can't pay bond.


Overcrowding is the norm at the Jasper county jail. It is currently housing more than two hundred thirty-five inmates but is licensed with bed space for one hundred eighty-three. Sixty percent of those in the jail haven’t been convicted. They’re simply waiting to go to court. That’s the reason behind the pre-trial release program.   

Jasper county court administrator Erik Theis explained, “We go into the jail and interview them.  We conduct a comprehensive social history. We get regarding their criminal background. We present a report to the judge so they can make an accurate and more  informed decision on releasing these individuals or not.”  The program uses
 a scientifically valid risk assessment to aid the judge that includes a number system to evaluate the person as low risk or high risk when it comes to showing up for court or re-offending.
Since May, forty-nine people  have been released including Josh Davis.  He’s facing a felony drug charge and couldn’t afford to bond out of jail. He meets or communicates with pre-trial officer  Larry Stout no less than once a week as part of his pre-trial release.

Stout said the contact brings reminders. He said,   "You get out of jail and  go to court the first time.  Then you’re set down the road.  It could  be set six to eight weeks down the road. And  the six, eight weeks, those pieces of paper have ways of walking away and things just get forgotten. I think that’s what helps quite a bit."

 

While the cost savings for the jail is about forty dollars a day, for Davis it could have cost a lot more if he had stayed incarcerate the thirty days until his court date.


Davis explained, “Thirty  days without being  able to see my kids like I want to,  thirty  days without income  which means I’m a month behind on child support, a  month behind on insurance, a  month behind on my truck payment, a month behind on my rent."
 

Theis says some have lost jobs and even children have been put in foster care while a parent is incarcerated awaiting trial.


Only four of the 49 released in the new  Jasper county program failed to appear.
Theis said there are no guarantees but, “We can mitigate chances of a person going out and committing   a new offense because when people are monitored, they tend to behave and tend to be successful. We've seen it in studies from Kentucky.  Their entire state has a pre-trial program. They don’t have a cash or monetary  bond system in their state."


A local bond company official  said totally eliminating their services would be a mistake costing taxpayers in more officers needed to track down those who don’t show up for court. But the bond company manager surprisingly supports the pre- trial release.
Debra Wingo said,  "With the cash and code bonds going on some people are getting trapped in jail who have jobs and have not had prior convictions or failure to appear. So the pre-trial is a bonus  that they can get out and make good with their life."  
 
Something Josh hopes to do.
We asked, "Was this your first felony offense?”

He said, “Absolutely and the only one I’ll ever have!"
    
The  pre-trial release program is already growing so it will be getting an intern from the Missouri Southern State University  criminal justice department to help with the workload.

 

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