Strategies including the launch of the Initial Appearance Program have proved successful. Between April 2019 and early 2021, over 900 individuals have been supported with legal representation. Before the program, 53% of individuals were held on no bond or a cash-only bond at initial appearance. When people came to the initial appearance with legal representation, 78% of individuals had a reduction in bond or negotiated a release on recognizance, without paying bail.
As a result of the expedited probation program, the average length of stay for individuals decreased from 99 days to just 12 days during the period of 2017 to 2019. Because of the success of the program, the Missouri Probation and Parole department now fully funds the program and has hired staff to work at the county jail to fully institutionalize it.
Each of the county’s strategies is meant to decrease the disproportionate burden that people of color face in the criminal justice system. St. Louis County is also advised by the Ethnic and Racial Disparities committee, made up of criminal justice stakeholders, representatives from community advocacy groups, and individuals with lived experiences. As a result, the county is also seeing a sustained decline in racial and ethnic inequities in its justice system. As of Fall 2020, the population of Black people detained in jail has declined 37% during the Safety and Justice Challenge grant period, compared with 31% among white people. Length of stay has also declined, with Black individuals experiencing a 44% decline in the length of stay compared with 41% for white individuals.
The Population Review Team (PRT) has been meeting regularly since June 2018 to identify people who do not need to be in jail and can be safely released pretrial. As a result of the work of the PRT, there has since been a substantial decline in the Average Daily Population of people in the jail. Overall, the PRT has become a laboratory for innovation with committed stakeholders at the table who are committed to advancing the goals of SJC and beyond.
The newest St. Louis County initiative, the Tap In Center, has proved especially popular. For example, one individual visited the Tap In Center in January 2021 to get a public defender and a new court date. She said, “I am just very pleased with this program, I’ve felt stuck all my life with these warrants. To know that this program is available to help people, it’s a real reliever! Now that I don’t have a warrant I am about to be getting a job thanks to the Tap In Center!”