ST. LOUIS ( - A quick look through more than 300 pages of the City Justice Center (CJC) detainee roster paints a violent picture.

As of Saturday, the city said the CJC has around 450 detainees, with room for another 132 once several wings reopen following repairs to locks. Of those on the detainee roster as of April 8, News 4 found more than 160 detainees are charged with murder, around 115 are charged with assault and about 100 are charged with robbery.

But on Monday, the city's director of policy and development, Nahuel Fefer, told News 4 a significant number of the city's detainees are considered "non-violent".

"Non-violent detainees, is, by the way, the vast majority of people," Fefer said. Fefer said with a significant number of non-violent offenders currently in jail, the goal is to have all of the detainees out of the Workhouse by July 1, whether that means revisiting their bond, dropping charges or moving detainees to the CJC.

"Our goal is to get as many as possible home and house the remainder at CJC," Fefer said.

The city plans to put non-violent offenders in front of judges to have their bond reset or reevaluated. City officials said they won't be acting unilaterally and will consult with prosecutors and judges to decide what the best course of action is for each individual person.

"We think this is good public safety policy," Fefer said. "Arrest and incarcerate is a failed model, it doesn't work." The policy is one the city said it would take to CJC as well, examining non-violent offenders and evaluating their situations. 

"To be clear, the population at CJC is no different," he said. "These are all pre-trial detainees that are innocent until proven guilty."

The city said it is still compiling a detainee roster for the Workhouse and plans to release it soon. In 2019, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled judges are not allowed to set a bond that an offender would remain in jail for due to their inability to pay. Additionally, an offender's financial situation is weighed during the process, where judges are instructed by the law to set the least amount of restrictions that don't adversely affect public safety.

"There's a stronger presumption that people charged with crimes should be released before trial," said Lynette Petruska, a litigation attorney. "The factors the court looks at in terms of if someone is going to be released is whether they're going to appear for trial and whether they pose a danger to the community including the victims of the crime."

The ruling states public safety supersedes certain bond restrictions, meaning if someone is charged with a severe offense, bond is likely denied. Matt Vigil, a professor at St. Louis University School of Law, said in Missouri, non-violent offenses are not clearly defined in the state's criminal code. 

"I think using a term that's not defined in the code is problematic and creates the ability to be subjective," he said.

Vigil said prior to 2019, courts didn't take into account an offender's ability to pay bond. He said that resulted in many people being incarcerated because they were unable to post their bond.

"Now, it creates the presumption you should get recognizance unless either you're going to be a danger to society, either victims or witnesses or that your appearance won't be assured," he said.

Several attorneys told News 4 a non-violent offender being held on no bond likely has a criminal history that gives a judge pause. Behavior while previously out on bond can also be considered.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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