Judges releasing some jail inmates to prevent disease outbreaks

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ST. CHARLES, MO - Judges are releasing dozens of inmates across the St. Louis area.

In St. Charles County, it started with a phone call from the Director of Corrections to the presiding judge. The request? Find people who can be safely released from jail to prevent an outbreak.

Judge Daniel Pelikan told us by phone what the judges did next. He said, “Anyone who had a zero risk offense to the community, like a failure to appear in court for example – or a very low-level felony or misdemeanor case, let’s say involving shoplifting or receiving stolen property or possession of drugs for example, and they didn’t have a history, we decided to release those low-level offenders.”

In cooperation with the prosecutor, Pelikan says the judges identified nearly 60 inmates last Thursday and ordered them released. One was as a client of attorney Jim Briscoe who said,
“I had a gentleman who was in jail, would probably still be there but because he had an underlying medical condition the judge agreed to reduce his bond with the condition he be placed on house arrest.”

Fewer cases are also coming in. Judge Pelikan said they’ve been “…drastically been curtailed and we’re trying not to issue warrants for arrests at this point. This is a very short window of time here. We’re hoping it’s a month or less this slowdown period.”

Another 60 cases in St. Charles County are now under review for possible release.

Meanwhile, judges are handling cases via teleconference. However, they are not turning away people who continue showing up in person, with emergencies such as protection orders.

“The skeleton crew we have here now are working overtime to make sure services are being provided, the rights of people are being respected, but that everyone is being kept safe at the same time,” said Judge Pelikan.

It’s not just happening in St. Charles County, but across the state and the country. St. Louis’ presiding Judge Rex Burlison told us today city judges also worked with prosecutors to release 44 inmates there. And the review is ongoing, with inmates in jails who haven’t had their first court appearance also getting reviews and possible release.

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