ST. LOUIS — As the St. Louis area takes some drastic measures to flatten the coronavirus curve. The release of about 140 inmates could happen any day now.
"It's about keeping people safe from the spread of this vicious disease that we're experiencing around the country and the City of St. Louis. That applies to people incarcerated, people who work inside those jails and their families in the community and that's what this is about," explained Kim Gardner, circuit attorney for the City of St. Louis.
The city's circuit attorney and the public defender's offices announced 56 people with low-level offenses or major health concerns could be considered for pre-trial release. In the county, that number is almost double at about 100 inmates.
"Someone who's in jail for attempted murder should not be released because of a pandemic," said a woman named Brenna, who asked us not to show her face.
She said not all of the inmates being considered for release are non-violent.
"Eric got a call from a victim advocate with the court and they told him that the man who shot him might be released," Brenna said.
She said the man is accused of shooting her boyfriend on Sept. 10, 2019 near Clara and Pershing in the city's DeBaliviere Place neighborhood.
"Eric was shot in the back of his head while he was walking his dog. This man tried to murder him," she said.
Circuit attorney Kim Gardner assured 5 On Your Side her office was only looking at low-level non-violent offenders.
"The first batch of individuals we looked at were non-violent low-level victimless crimes, so this example of this situation would not be included in the cases we looked at right now," said Gardner.
She said as an attorney, who is also a registered nurse, she sees both sides of this pandemic.
"We have to do our part to prevent the spread inside systems like the criminal justice system, and that's why evaluating these cases on a public safety lens as well as a health care lens is crucial."
Gardner said her office only makes recommendations. Ultimately, it is a judge who decides who will be released and who will not.
"We want to prevent the jail churn of people coming in and out of the jail that could potentially have the COVID-19 virus," said Gardner.
St. Charles County made a similar move to reduce the jail population.
Officials declined to comment on camera but told us 56 inmates were allowed to leave the jail, bringing the total number of inmates to fewer than 350.
St. Louis County officials confirmed with 5 On Your Side that the circuit court ordered the Justice Center to release 14 inmates on Wednesday. St. Louis County Department of Justice Services Director Raul Banasco said the inmates were incarcerated on the following charges:
- 8 people charged with possession of a controlled substance
- 3 people charged with possession of a controlled substance and another crime (one for receiving stolen property, one for unlawful use of a weapon and one for domestic assault)
- 1 person charged with burglary
- 1 person charged with domestic assault
- 1 person charged with stealing a motor vehicle