Criminal Justice | St. Louis Public Radio

Criminal Justice

State Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

State Rep. Shamed Dogan returns to Politically Speaking to talk with St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum about his efforts to change how Missouri handles criminal justice.

The Ballwin Republican represents the 98th House District, which includes parts of Ellisville, Fenton and Wildwood. 

St. Louis County jail
File photo

St. Louis County’s top public health officials want more medical workers at the county jail. 

The facility needs about 20 more full-time nurses to reach its ideal staffing level of 60, they say. 

Currently, the jail is relying on nurses hired on short-term contracts to fill the gaps in staffing, said Dr. Emily Doucette, co-director of the county’s public health department. 

Beth Huebner is a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County has significantly reduced its jail population over the past year, as Missouri Lawyers Weekly reported last month. Officials say the drop from an over-capacity total of 1,242 inmates in July 2018 down to 965 as of May 2019 has a lot to do with justice reform efforts that began in the wake of Ferguson protests.

University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Beth Huebner has led research in collaboration with the county, its circuit court and service providers – an effort fueled by $4.5 million in grant funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Huebner joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the progress she’s observed in the county system as well as aspects of it still in need of change.

Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, reacts to the annual Vehicle Stops Report at Second Presbyterian Church on June 3, 2019.  She wants Missouri law enforcement officers to be held accountable for discriminatory practices during traffic stops against blacks.
File photo I Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Sen. Karla May is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast, where the St. Louis Democrat talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about a bipartisan push to overhaul the criminal justice system.

May represents parts of St. Louis and St. Louis County. She was elected to the Senate in 2018 after spending eight years in the House.

Phil Cohen with two of the toy trucks he made when he started woodworking. It was his escape from a life of drugs and crime, and now he hires people with similar backgrounds to work at his business.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Phil Cohen didn’t think anyone would want to work for him at the cabinetry company he opened in St. James in 2004. He was recovering from being addicted to drugs and had been in trouble with the law. He didn’t know much about business. His plans were largely built on faith.

So he hired people like him — former criminals and people who had been drug addicted who were turning their lives around.

Counties across Missouri hoped this was the year that the Department of Corrections would make headway on the $20-$30 million they’re owed for housing inmates who eventually go to state prisons.

But legislators allocated only $1.75 million more to address the backlog. Missouri's practice of reimbursing counties in this way is unique in the United States, and local sheriffs and county leaders say it’s time for a better solution.

Judge Jack Goodman, left, swears in Elijah Haahr as speaker of the Missouri House on Jan. 9, 2019.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where he talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about what to expect during the 2019 legislative session.

The Springfield Republican was elected as House speaker on Wednesday. Republicans will have a chance to accomplish a lot since the GOP holds commanding supermajorities in both of the General Assembly’s legislative chambers.

Stephanie Regagnon, far right, poses for a photo in 2014 with some of the Ava's Grace scholarship recipients.
Stephanie Regagnon

When Stephanie Regagnon of Kirkwood was in her 20s, a jury found her mother guilty of a federal crime and sent her to prison for four years. The family maintains that she is innocent.

The first time Regagnon visited her mom, she noticed small children stocking up on vending-machine snacks for their parents to enjoy when they came out to see them.

“It seemed like they were trying so hard to create a nice environment,” Regagnon said. “It was pretty soul crushing.”

Regagnon imagined the children waiting to see their parents would likely have a hard time getting to college. In 2010, she started a scholarship fund called Ava’s Grace to help young people whose fate brushed so closely against her own.

A measure that has passed the Illinois House would require hospitals to have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) who can treat and examine victims of sexual assault. Some say it would mean better collection of forensic evidence and better treatment of victims.

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann discusses important criminal justice and city politics stories of 2017.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we did a year-in-review of the top criminal justice and city politics stories in 2017. Joining host Don Marsh for the discussion was St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann.

Lippmann said an important story in her beat was the election of Mayor Lyda Krewson.

“She is the first woman mayor in the history of the City of St. Louis … [and that] has led to some changes even within the criminal justice area,” Lippmann said.

Samantha Jenkins was incarcerated for 67 days, unable to afford her own bail. In that time she lost both her jobs and housing.
Provided | ArchCity Defenders

Updated May 15 with ongoing fundraising — The creators of #BlackMamaBailoutSTL — Arch City Defenders, the St. Louis Action Council, and Decarcerate St. Louis — want to continue helping the women they bailed out long past Mother's Day.

Vesla Weaver, a Yale professor who studies inequality as it relates to the criminal justice system, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh in-studio.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh was joined by Vesla Weaver, an associate professor of political science and African-American studies at Yale University, ahead of a talk slated for Wednesday afternoon in Grand Center.

Chad Sabora of the Missouri Network for Opioid Reform and Recovery answers question from the public safety committee on May 24, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The public safety committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved Tuesday a measure that supporters say will reduce the number of fatal heroin overdoses in the city.

The so-called "good Samaritan law" would give heroin users immunity from drug possession charges if they call 911 for someone who has overdosed. They could still be arrested for other crimes, or if a warrant has been issued against them.

The Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee is weighing a series of new bills that aim for criminal justice reform. One would increase educational and job opportunities for inmates.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, is strongly backing efforts to curb cities' ability to take in traffic fine revenue.
Provided by Cleaver's office

Kansas City Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver says there are real commitments from leaders on both sides of the aisle to pass a package of criminal justice reforms this year.

He says one provision will likely require the appointment of a special prosecutor when a grand jury considers indicting a police officer or possibly even a political figure.

A cartoon rendering that explains the concept of collateral consequences.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

First a definition: Hiatus, noun, a break or interruption in the continutity of a work, series, action., etc. 

We aren't giving you this definition to insult your intelligence. Rather, we are defining the word to let you know that the We Live Here crew is taking a hiatus. And it really will be a short break, so that we can bring you fresh, informative and thought-provoking shows in our second season starting in March.

(via Flickr/neil conway)

Starting Thursday, more than 150 people from all parts of the criminal justice system with gather at Washington University to ponder a radical remake of the way this country uses incarceration.

The conference is the first major undertaking for the Smart Decarceration Initiative. Carrie Pettus-Davis, an assistant professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, is one of the organizers.

Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City was closed in 2004.
Dustin Holmes | Flickr

There are about 1.5 million people in federal and state prisons in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Justice 2013 count. That is more than the population of St. Louis County and city combined.

They are locked up for burglary, assault, murder or numerous other crimes. A sliver of that population will remain in prison for life. But the vast majority are released at some point. How does someone adjust to life outside after spending years behind bars?

A cartoon rendering that explains the concept of collateral consequences.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

On last week's podcast, we explained in detail how it happens that someone can wind up homeless for pleading to a seemingly minor transgression like trespassing or for not paying child support.

For those of you who learn better visually, rather than aurally, we thought you would appreciate this graphic representation of the concept. This is not based on any one person's experience, but is an amalgamation of several stories we've heard. 

Melvin Bain, a homeless Navy veteran, says a criminal record that included nonviolent offenses that he says makes it hard for him to find a job and get back on his feet.
Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Let’s say you’ve been arrested for something minor, like misdemeanor trespassing.  Odds are that you’ll plead guilty; that’s what court data indicate.  And in this hypothetical situation, we’ll say that you’re able to come up with the money to pay the fine.  You figure this alleged transgression is behind you, and now you can move on with your life.

But not so fast. Even pleading guilty to a misdemeanor can come with some other penalties.  These are called collateral consequences, and they're the focus of this episode of We Live Here.

peter.a photography | Flickr

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is pardoning five people for non-violent offenses, some of them committed decades ago.  One of those pardoned was convicted for stealing $1.46.

But most of the attention that Nixon is receiving for Friday's announcement is focused on his decision to commute the life sentence of Jeffrey Mizanskey, who has become a major figure in the movement to decriminalize marijuana.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

We Live Here spent the last several weeks ramping up to explore race in St. Louis and, specifically, how systems intersect with people to create  a lot of the inequality in our region ... and around the country.

Now, we are moving from the general to the specific. We will spend the next several months exploring the criminal justice system.

Commentary: Confessions of a Samaritroph

Mar 10, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 10, 2011 - I think I'm suffering from samaritrophia. My affliction is self diagnosed, but I believe my analysis to be accurate. For the uninitiated, I should mention that samaritrophia is a disorder that was discovered by the late Kurt Vonnegut who defined it as "the hysterical indifference to the troubles of those less fortunate than oneself." A lot of it is going around.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 21, 2009 - Prosecutors and public defenders commonly spar in the courtroom. But their courtroom antagonism spilled into the political arena over legislation to allow public defenders to cap their caseloads.

Faced with legislation they said would be disastrous to the criminal-justice system, prosecutors went into overdrive, saying the measure would gum up the system. For their part, public defenders argued the cap was needed to limit a caseload they say is out of control.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 26, 2009 - Every so often, the usual liberal-conservative alignment on the U.S. Supreme Court breaks down. One of those times was Thursday when the court ruled 5-4 that criminal defendants can insist on confronting the analysts who prepare crime lab reports for trial.

Commentary: Redemptive justice

Apr 18, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: It should be understood from the outset that the hanging of Jake Spoon was a task undertaken with a general lack of enthusiasm by all involved.

Spoon was a former Texas Ranger who had fallen in with a band of murderous horse thieves on the American frontier. Unbeknownst to him, a posse led by his old friends, Captains Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, was hot on the trail of the desperados.