According to a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a private program operated in St. Louis that involves allowing private companies to supervise and guide those recently arrested has some wondering about the benefits of the scheme.
Back in 2001, the Missouri Department of Corrections stopped providing supervision programs for the accused awaiting trial. In response, local jurisdictions were left on their own. Some created local programs while St. Louis took a different approach and privatized the process. Private corporations provide supervision and partner with judges who reduce the bail of those arrested thanks to the guidance.
The defendants pay for the program themselves and it is generally seen as a positive thing by judges, lawyers and even defendants who prefer ankle bracelets and drug tests to jail. However, experts question the move and say that it is very rare for private companies to take on such a typically governmental role.
Some critics point out that none of the companies providing the pre-trial services bid on the contracts, they were instead chosen without competition. Also, each order from a judge adds money directly to the pockets of the companies, something that many see as unseemly.
The companies argue that they are simply providing a service that the local and state governments can no longer offer. As for responding to charges about lack of competitive bidding, they point out that the services are free to the taxpayers and that state law only requires bidding when the cost of services exceeds certain amounts.
Other advocates of the approach point out that pre-trial supervision is a cheaper alternative to incarceration and helps diminish some of the inequities that exist in a traditional bail system, where money alone decides who goes free and who remains in jail.
However, as many defendants have come to realize, money still matters. A defendant seeking to be released must be able to afford either the original bail or the reduced bail figure in addition to the supervision costs. This has prompted some to complain about the financial strain it can cause to those already living on the brink.
Each of the three companies that provide pre-trail supervision in St. Louis charge about $30 per month for basic supervision, plus running fees for electronic house arrest or GPS monitoring. One company, Missouri Probation, charges a $60 activation fee for GPS monitoring and an additional $8.50 for each day of tracking. Payments are made directly to the companies responsible for providing the supervision. If a defendant does not abide by the terms of supervision, or does not pay, the companies can ask judges to impose further conditions or revoke bail.
The worry with the existing set-up in St. Louis is that there is a financial incentive to keep a defendant under the most restrictive conditions. This is because this private companies charge more for their GPS monitoring than they would for a more typical ankle bracelet situation. Same thing with additional fees tacked on for anger management classes and other behavioral sessions.
If you've had a run in with the law and find yourself in need of a St. Louis criminal defense lawyer capable of fighting for your freedom, don't hesitate to contact our St. Louis criminal law firm today at (314) 863-0500.
Source: "St. Louis courts add supervision to bail for better results," by Jennifer Mann, published at STLToday.com.
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