When the Bail Project opened an office in the city of Saint-Louis in 2018, it found fertile ground. The nonprofit is using its revolving bond fund to get people out of jail while they wait for their day in court. That year he went from an operation in the Bronx to one of national concern.
In St. Louis, cash bail requirements were common and many defendants did not have the resources to pay even a few thousand dollars. Mike Milton, a St. Louis native hired as one of the office’s first “bail disruptors”, says the office quickly served up to 200 people each month, posting up to $ 5,000 for each, allowing those accused of crimes to keep their jobs and stay at home while awaiting trial.
The St. Louis office quickly became one of the largest Bail Project sites in the United States, although Milton became the organization’s director of policy and advocacy for Missouri. More than 3,000 defendants have been released from jail in St. Louis thanks to the efforts of the Bail Project.
And they took the opportunity that was given to them. Bail Project statistics show that people returned to court appointments 86% of the time. The cases of almost 50% were ultimately dismissed – suggesting they should never have been in jail in the first place.
The changing landscape of the cash deposit in Saint-Louis
Listen to Robin Steinberg and Mike Milton on St. Louis on the Air
But a lot has changed in recent years, both in St. Louis and in Milton. Now that he has launched a new restorative justice organization, Freedom community center, the Bail Project is making a big change. The organization closes its St. Louis office and trusts Milton to handle the occasional cases that still require his bail.
And these cases are really “occasional” nowadays, as Milton explained on Monday. Saint Louis on the air.
“For example, in August we didn’t have anyone who received a cash deposit as the final deposit amount, not a single person,” Milton explained.
This does not mean that everyone is at home waiting for their day in court. Recognizing that the Bail Project provides service when the cash bond is granted, some judges in the city’s circuit courts have now decided not to allow any bond.
“There has been an increased use of ‘no bond allowed’,” Milton said. “[Bail Project CEO] Robin [Steinberg] I talked a lot about this at the start of the Bail Project era, that the system will just adapt to some of the reforms that are going on. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing with the tribunal.
Last month, he said, 57% of all new criminal cases filed in St. Louis Circuit Court were given “no bail” status. It could have been even worse: Despite Attorney General Kim Gardner’s image as a progressive reformer, city prosecutors had asked for “no bail” in 86% of all cases.
Despite this, Steinberg sees reason for hope, citing the sharp increase in cases where people are now being released without cash bail, as well as the restorative justice work Milton does in conjunction with Gardner’s office and both victims of crime and defendants.
“We’re talking about dismantling a system that’s been around for generations, and systems don’t fail without a fight. They will fight for their survival, right? she said. “So the idea that in the city of St. Louis, that our team and our coalition with a lot of other people in St. Louis were able to push the change forward as they’ve done in the past four years. last few years is amazing and inspiring, and really fills me with hope.
“I will also say that change is never a straight line either, is it?” This is why it is essential to build power and communities to continue the work, which can advance this change, so that these systems do not recreate themselves and create the same evil. But we certainly think that every time we close our doors because there have been significant changes in jurisdiction, like the city of St. Louis, it is a success. And it’s a victory and something we’re incredibly proud of.
The Bail Project will continue to maintain offices in St. Louis County and St. Charles County, Steinberg said.
“Saint Louis on the air”Brings you the stories of Saint-Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah fenske and produced by Alex heuer, Emily woodbury, Evie hemphill and Lara hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The sound engineer is Aaron Doerr.