JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court issued guidance this week to all state judges considering releasing individuals in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the judges, the state’s highest court reiterated its various rules and statutes regarding the pretrial release of individuals who have not yet been convicted as well as those who have been found guilty or sentenced. The Supreme Court said it’s up to the discretion of the local judges as to whether to release an individual.
This comes after the Supreme Court shut its own doors in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
State Rep. Justin Hill, who has a background in law enforcement and has spoken out against moves made by the Supreme Court in the past, told The Missouri Times this was a dangerous option.
“I think it’s very dangerous,” Hill said. “Victims exist in the community of crimes that have already occurred, and not only do they have to worry about contracting the virus but now they have to worry about their aggressors being released,” Hill said.
The St. Louis area recently came under fire after people charged with violent crimes were released from jail.
The ACLU of Missouri issued a statement this month calling for the release of those vulnerable to COVID-19 from prisons and jails as well — regardless of conviction status. Its statement also called for a more limited number of detainments by police and the reduction of pretrial detention by prosecutors, among other recommendations.
More than 1,300 people have tested positive for coronavirus, and 14 people have died in Missouri.