By Wesley Bell
從2018年開始，這個小組每週開會審查在監囚犯人數和可以考慮釋放的選擇性個案。獄方每週準備5到8個 C、D 和 E 重罪案件個案交由小組團隊進行審查，審查的考慮因素包括案件是否有受害人，被告過去緩刑、保釋紀錄 和懲教需求等。
但是，有時我們的辦公室會審查提交給小組的案件並拒絕釋放被告，這個決定總體上說明了我們的起訴理念。雖然有些個案不是重暴力和令人髮指的罪行(通常是指 A 和 B 重罪)，但是並非所有的 C、D 和 E 重罪案件都沒有受害人或非暴力案件。所以不是每一個拘留被告都可以審前釋放。
C、D 和 E 重罪案件包括入室盜竊和汽車盜竊等案件，在這些案件中，我們必須事先諮詢犯罪受害人同意釋放審前被拘留的被告。
在某些 C、D 和 E 重罪案件中 – 包括性犯罪和家庭暴力 – 我們的政策是，全面拒絕通過這一審查過程而提前釋放被告。我們認為，在我們同意更改審前拘留條件之前，性犯罪和家庭暴力案件需要由法官審理。這種審前拘留和釋放方法會延續到指控決定和量刑建議中。
本文作者 Wesley Bell 是聖路易郡檢察長，這是他當選聖路易郡檢察長後致力司法起訴改革兩篇文章中的第二篇。第一篇是 “犯罪和起訴的疑慮和事實 (Fear and facts about crime and prosecution)“。英文原文請見聖路易時報網站。
Protecting the public while reforming prosecution
By Wesley Bell
My philosophy of prosecution has been consistent since I announced my initial campaign for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney up until today. I have always said we need to aggressively prosecute violent offenders while providing options for how we deal with nonviolent, low-level offenders. This obviously raises the reasonable question and concern of where we draw that line.
While every charging decision is unique based on the law, evidence and defendant’s age and criminal history, the way we approach these decisions can be seen in another facet of our work: our collaborative effort to reduce the St. Louis County pre-trial detainee population without creating new threats to public safety.
With the guidance and support of the MacArthur Foundation, St. Louis County has formed a jail Population Review Team. This team includes every stakeholder in the criminal justice system and some outside of it: the jail, the courts, the public defender, the private bar, probation and parole, the treatment courts, treatment providers, and the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Since 2018, this team has met weekly to review the jail population and consider select individual cases for release. An administrator at the jail prepares 5-8 cases to review per week. These are C, D, and E felony cases. The team makes a cooperative review of these cases. We consider issues such as whether there was a victim involved in the crime, the defendant’s past probation record, their past experiences with bonding out of jail, and their treatment needs.
From 2018 through mid-November 2020, this review process showed a trend of reducing the jail population ethically without posing new threats to public safety. Overall, during the three-year MacArthur grant period that has ended, the average daily population of the St. Louis County jail declined 16% without any compromise to public safety.
However, sometimes our office reviews a case that is brought to the team and declines to release the defendant, and our approach in these decisions is indicative of our prosecution philosophy generally. While these are not the most violent and heinous crimes (those classified as A and B felonies), not all C, D, and E felony cases are victimless or non-violent. Many of these defendants were ordered by the court for pre-trial detention for good reason.
C, D, and E felony cases include things like burglary and car theft, where we are compelled to consult with the victim of the crime before consenting to release of the pre-trial detainee. In many of those cases, the victim strongly rejects an early pre-trial release of the defendant. In certain C, D, and E felony cases – including sex crimes and domestic violence – our policy has been across-the-board rejection of early release through this process. We believe that sex crimes and domestic violence cases need to go before a judge before we will agree to change the terms of pre-trial detention.
This approach to pre-trial detention and release carries over into charging decisions and sentencing recommendations. While we try to offer alternatives to low-level, non-violent offenders, especially those struggling with mental illness or substance abuse, wherever there is a clear victim or the use of a firearm, we are compelled to protect the public by prosecuting aggressively.
That said, the public should know that offering alternatives to low-level, non-violent offenders also protects all of us now and into thefuture. Our diversion programs for non-violent offenders have accepted close to 1,200 participants to date, and the re-offense rate for our diversion participants was less than 8% as of August 2021. Compare that to statewide averages for recidivism that hover around 45% and go as high as 80% around the country, and it’s clear that these new alternatives to traditional prosecution are working and will protect the public in the long run.
Wesley Bell is the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney.