St. Louis City, County will release some prisoners due to health crisis

Jail cells in a city facility located in the southern United States.
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By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Some prisoners in St. Louis City and County jails could be released to help alleviate health risks in local prisons caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell's office has been working in conjunction with judges, prosecutors and the jail to determine which inmates would be eligible. 15 are scheduled to be released Wednesday night, as many as 80 could be released in the weeks ahead.

Releasing some nonviolent offenders is a platform Bell ran on, in an effort to reduce the jail population. The nonviolent inmates chosen for release would be ones with high risk due to health problems and those in a drug rehabilitation program.

The St. Louis circuit attorney's office and the public defender's office have identified 56 prisoners with low-level offenses, or significant health issues for the court to consider for immediate pre-trial release. 

A joint statement from the offices says this is "an attempt to mitigate the very real health crisis present in our jails" and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to court personnel and to the greater community. 

"The harsh health realities of COVID-19 demand unique collaboration from all persons, groups, and organizations within the criminal justice community in order to ensure justice is pursued in a humane and consistent manner," the statement continued. "With the assistance of the court, the release of these non-violent individuals provides a benefit for the city, which no longer has to bear the cost of housing them, and for the defendants and their families by mitigating their potential exposure to the Coronavirus. We will continue to work together to balance public safety and the critical health issues posed by this deadly virus.

The joint statement from the city does not give a timeline on when the releases will happen. 

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