ST. LOUIS – Low-level offenders who were released in St. Louis City due to COVID-19 restrictions are ending up right back in prison, according to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards.
As the novel coronavirus began to spread, the city’s prosecutors and public defenders looked for ways to cut down on the spread of the virus inside jails. That led to hundreds of low-level offenders being released back into the public.
“We have to make sure we prevent low level offenders who could go into the prison and expose individuals to COVID-19 virus as well as worker,” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said on March 25. “We have to make sure we prevent that and balance public safety.”
Gardner’s office only called for about 56 low-level offenders to be released, as judges and the public defender’s office called for more.
Now leap forward to May, it appears a few dozen of the some 300-plus individuals have been arrested again on city streets.
Here’s recapping what the Director of Public Safety Jimmie Edwards.
“A little over 50 have actually been rearrested on new charges, so for some of them those releases didn’t work out and they’re back being detained again,” Mayor Lyda Krewson told the Board of Alderman in Tuesday’s Ways and Means meeting.
Many on the board of aldermen said they feared something of this magnitude would happen.
A spokeswoman for the circuit attorney said Gardner opposed a “large number of offenders who were released and she’s unsure if those who reoffended…were recommendations from their office.”
Additionally, she said without more information from the director of public safety, she’ll be unable to know if the offenses were violent crimes or lesser.
At the time, Governor Mike Parson disagreed with the decision to let any offender out of jail due to COVID-19.
“If you got sent to prison, you have to do your time there,” Parson said. “You just can’t get out because of this virus. I’m not one of the guys that’s just going to give a free pass because of the virus.”
Both the governor and city officials said their focus is shifting back on violent crime in both Kansas City and St. Louis. This comes after a violent Memorial Day weekend in both cities.
It’s still unclear exactly how they plan to approach the lingering issue.