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CLAYTON, Mo. – Spending five years in jail waiting for trial doesn’t sound possible but that’s what the St. Louis County Justice Center director reports in his latest review. Director Doug Burris is always crunching the numbers.

“We review the population of the jail every single week, often every single day,” he said.

Burris took over the top job at the Justice Center six months ago. Last week, he showed us inside, explaining that he prefers the term “residents” over inmates, because they’re not convicted.

“These people are really no different than me. I am four or five decisions away from being in their shoes,” he said.

Burris said his latest review shows that out of the 1,003 St. Louis County Justice Center residents:

  • 319 have been waiting more than one year for their trial
  • 127 have been waiting more than two years
  • 1 resident has been waiting for more than five years

Burris could not talk about specific cases without getting permission from defendants, however, he explained why they want to know as much as they can about who they have locked up.

“We do a population review with a team of members from the court, including Presiding Judge Michael Burton, members of the prosecutor’s staff, and the public defender,” he said.

Burris said they sometimes find better solutions for people than keeping them detained.

“The perfect example is a returning veteran who has PTSD issues,” he said. “Rather than being in the jail, if we can get him in the VA system where he’s receiving mental health treatment, he’s going to be much better served, as will the community.”

Burris said without that review team, he believes the jail population could easily be at about 1,300 rather than the 1,003 currently housed by the Justice Center.