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Missouri Bar Releases Recommendations for Criminal Justice System Overhaul

(Photo credit: steakpinball, via Flickr)

 A task force spearheaded by The Missouri Bar has released its recommendations for updating the state’s criminal justice system.  As KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports, most would require the approval of the state legislature.

The task force was called to tackle an outdated and overburdened criminal justice system that has led to crowded prisons, backlogged cases, and public defenders’ offices closing their doors. The group was comprised of representatives from the various branches of the criminal system, including prosecutors, public defenders, and private attorneys.

According to a release from The Missouri Bar, one recommendation is to remove public defenders from any probation and parole violation cases except for those cases where representation is constitutionally required.  The task force also recommends freeing up public defenders by bringing in contracted lawyers on first and second-level conflict cases, and allowing courts to take monthly payments on cash, or deposit bonds, for payment of private counsel and funding of the Public Defender System.

The task force has also suggested that the state use a central collection agency for all criminal justice debt, including restitution, court and jail fees. It’s also calling on the state to cover the cost of malpractice insurance for private attorneys who are appointed by the court in criminal cases, just as public defenders are currently covered. Another recommendation is to limit the Missouri State Public Defender’s ability to certify offices on its own, and to allow District or Circuit Public Defenders to seek relief for heavy caseloads through a presiding judge.

Representative Stanley Cox has introduced legislation to update the state’s criminal code.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.

 To view the press release of recommendations from the Criminal Justice Task Force, click here.