ST. LOUIS ( -- St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell says the pandemic has created a tremendous backlog of cases and needs additional staffing to help keep the community safe.

“The pandemic has caused a myriad of serious issues; a tremendous backlog of criminal cases and increase in case referrals, additional court dockets and a 42% increase in the jail population in the past year,” reads a letter from Bell to St. Louis County Council.

According to the letter, there are 678 pending cases before the grand jury and their office has 1,133 cases set for preliminary hearing.

“We’re waiting in line, patiently waiting in line,” said John Davis, a defense attorney. He says it’s not just a problem in St. Louis County but across the region.

To help with the backlog of hundreds of cases, Bell is asking the County Executive to make a request to the Council for nine additional attorneys and five additional support staff for a total of $796,000 annually.

Davis says more prosecutors will help, but they could also use more judges and more public defenders.

Bell is asking for the funding to come from the American Rescue Plan Act. St. Louis County is expected to receive $193 million through those federal funds.

According to a spokesperson for St. Louis County, the county council has begun meeting to decide how to spend that money but no decisions have been made.

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