Missouri lawmakers consider new rule for pretrial Incarceration

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Jefferson City - Missouri's top judge wants lawmakers to consider changes to how and why people are incarcerated before they go on trial.

Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge said people are often incarcerated simply because they are too poor to post bond.

"There are individual and societal consequences from these unwarranted pretrial incarcerations," she said.

Under the Missouri Constitution, an individual maybe incarcerated before trial only when charged with a capital offense; when a danger to a crime victim, a witness, or the community; or a flight risk. All other persons are entitled to reasonable conditions of release prior to trial, based on the particular circumstances of their cases.

A supreme Court task force will examine how other states and cities have addressed the problem of unwarranted pretrial incarceration and recommend changes to Missouri practices.

Breckenridge said Defendants who are unfairly incarcerated  not only lose their freedom but "also their ability to earn a living and provide for their children."

"Children may even come into state custody, because incarcerated parents are not home to care for them," she said.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said he agrees with Breckenridge that changes are needed in the state Constitution's rules on pretrial incarceration.

"We need to take that seriously," he said. 

During her State of the Judiciary speech, Breckenridge also said enacting reforms play an important role in improving  juvenile divisions.

Breckenridge said the judiciary worked with leaders from around the state and developed standards in December, creating uniform practices and procedures, establishing a code of conduct; and outlining best practices that promote better outcomes for Missouri's children. 

Rep. John Wiemann, R-St. Charles County, said, "This is an opportunity for the state of Missouri for us to make some significant reforms that will make our state move in a direction that needs to move in."