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Program to reduce St. Louis County jail population falls short of goal in 1st year

St. Louis County jail
File photo
An effort to reduce the amount of time people spend at the St. Louis County jail by 15 percent has fallen short in its first year.

A team of researchers and service providers in St. Louis County says they've made “substantial progress” toward cutting the number of days people spend in the county jail, but they acknowledge they fell short of their goal.

For a year, the county has offered services such as drug treatment and emergency housing to inmates who are in jail for probation violations or non-payment of bail. The team had set a goal of reducing the time in jail by 15 percent but only reached 10 percent.

“The programs that we have developed are, for the most part, brand new programs,” said University of Missouri-St. Louis criminology professor Beth Huebner, who is the team’s lead researcher. “I think we’re now getting a handle on the best ways that we can serve the clients, so we’ll be able to move people through the jail more quickly, and provide them services.”

The program cut the number of days a person spent in jail waiting for a hearing on a probation violation from 89 days to 10 days, she said.

That decrease, however, was offset by the number of people who went back to jail because they didn’t show up for court hearings, she said.

“We are working with them, to understand those barriers to getting to court, like transportation, trying to get dates rescheduled around work or family so that we can make sure that people stay in the community while waiting,” Huebner said.

She said she expects to meet the 15 percent goal.

two-year grant from the MacArthur Foundation is covering the cost of the extra services.

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