Overcrowded jails put criminals back on the streets early

Lower bond amounts, jail capacity allow criminals to return to the streets

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Roughly 30 people are arrested and taken to the Boone County Jail each day. Of those, 25 post bond and are back on the street.

That had us wondering if the current bond process puts the community at risk. After speaking with the county prosecutor, jail administrator and a local bail bondsman, we discovered low bond amounts and limited jail space may be to blame.

Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight says officials have to prioritize crimes and hold the more violent offenders. Therefore, lesser crimes mean lower bonds, making it possible for the majority of misdemeanor offenders to bond out and get back on the streets.

Currently, the Boone County Jail has 206 inmates. Eighteen of those inmates are being held for homicide or assault.

"You have to consider public safety and the public pocket book because there's a limited amount of resources," said jail administrator Warren Brewer.

Those resources to house inmates come from taxpayers.

Jail officials do have the option to send an offender to a surrounding county jail, but Knight says that also requires money to pay the other jail for its services, which is also limited.

"There is prioritization that goes on because of the finite capacity," Knight said. "When we have more violent people charged, the people that are less violent are going to be able to bond out."

All bonds, except for Class A and some Class B felonies, are preset.

Prosecutors can suggest changes to those amounts to a judge, but Division Four Circuit Judge Jodie Asle says the predetermined bond is always the amount, except in rare circumstances.

Another factor that puts offenders back in the community before their trial date is the help of bondsmen.

Richard Cloud owns a local bail bond business and he says helping people who have committed lesser crimes bond out is doing society a favor and saving them money.

"The jail couldn't afford to keep everyone that's accused," said Cloud. "It wouldn't be practical to keep everyone until their trial date, so we have to get them on the street. I feel like we provide a good service to the community in that aspect that we try to keep the jail numbers down."

Knight, Brewer and Cloud all agree that it comes down to jail capacity.

However, Knight says public safety is always first and if they believe someone cannot handle being back on the street, prosecutors will request higher bonds to keep them behind bars.

Boone County Jail administration says almost 7,000 people are booked into the jail every year. The vast majority bond out within three hours or less.

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