Last week, jailed inmates in the St. Louis City “Justice” Center broke out of their cells, chanting, “We want court dates!” in protest of their prolonged pre-trial detention during the COVID-19 pandemic. These inmates have not been convicted of any crime, but are still being held pending trial, some for more than a year, because hearings have not been taking place due to the ongoing pandemic. There was a more than one-year period during which no jury trials were scheduled.
The people held in jail are understandably frustrated. They are being held for an indefinite period, even though they have not been found guilty. And during their detention, they are being denied visitors, healthcare, and recreation, while being at elevated risk of COVID-19 infections due to their crowded living conditions.
Meanwhile, the city is spending $13.5 million to replace cell doors and locks. Why can’t it find a way to give everyone a speedy trial? If justice was truly a priority, surely it could be done.