EMASS | St. Louis Public Radio

EMASS

Tyrone Henley is one of many people recently ordered to wear an electronic ankle monitor while awaiting trial in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Before he got another chance at freedom, Tyrone Henley spent six weeks in jail, unable to put up $25,000 cash bail.

But last week, Henley and dozens of others in St. Louis jails received new bail hearings after a federal judge ruled the city’s bail-setting practices unconstitutional.

At his hearing, a judge decided to release Henley after he signed a promise to return to court. But there was one more condition: In order to stay out of jail, the 55-year-old has to wear an electronic ankle monitor.

And although Henley is glad to be out of the city’s Medium Security Institution, commonly known as the Workhouse, he said he still feels confined.

Every month, Jocelyn Garner reports to Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services for a bond supervision check-in that costs her $30. Garner is awaiting trial on charges filed nearly a year ago.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Once a month, Jocelyn Garner steps off a bus and walks into a dimly lit waiting room in the Dutchtown neighborhood of St. Louis. Her name is called, and an office worker jots down her personal information and asks if she’s staying out of trouble.

The visits take less than five minutes and cost her $30. Her payments go to Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services, a private company based in St. Charles that tracks and monitors people awaiting trial in St. Louis.

Garner is one of many in St. Louis court-ordered to report to the for-profit company, commonly known as EMASS, after posting bail. Under the law, she’s innocent — but as she waits for her day in court, she pays monthly fees to maintain her freedom. Missing a payment could lead to a warrant for her arrest.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Criminal-justice reform advocates and public defenders are calling on the St. Louis circuit court to reduce its use of monitoring systems that require defendants on bond to pay hundreds of dollars in fees to a private company while awaiting trial.

In a six-page letter sent Thursday to judges of the 22nd Circuit Court, advocates argue that forcing people to pay for court-ordered ankle monitors and check-ins as a condition of their release from jail is an unconstitutional and unnecessary financial burden. Payments are made to Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services – commonly called EMASS – a private company based in St. Charles.