Missouri courts have decided a policy change is needed in regards to how bail is set in the pre-trial phase of court cases.
After a person is charged with a crime, they go before a judge where a determination of bail is made.
Chief Justice Zel Fischer announced the new policies in his State of the Judiciary address saying, "Too many who are arrested cannot afford bail even for low-level sentences and remain in jail awaiting a hearing." He continued, "Though presumed innocent, they lose their jobs, cannot support their families and are more likely to re-offend."
The new rules, set to take effect the beginning of July, will require judges to consider non-monetary conditions when deciding the pre-trial fate of those charged with a crime. A monetary amount can still be set after a judge has first considered the non-monetary options. However, the monetary bail cannot exceed that which is needed to reasonably ensure public safety and that the defendant will appear back in court.
This change in bail policy comes after a year-long study conducted by experts in all fields of criminal justice and included input from court system professionals such as judges, prosecutors, public defenders and other legal workers.
Earlier this year, Gov. Mike Parson's expressed a desire for reforms rather than expansion to the growing correctional system population. In his State of the State address, Parson said, "As governor, I am not interested in building more prisons," ... a statement to which he received a bipartisan standing ovation.
Rep. Mike Henderson, R-117th, said the changes are not earth-shattering policy change, but are a good measure to ensure Missouri citizens' rights are being upheld.
Henderson also said he believes this will benefit Missouri both socially and economically, and that the judiciary system got some things right with this one.
Sen. Gary Romine called the new changes a “common sense and rational approach.”