JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Rep. Steven Roberts applauded Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge following her annual State of the Judiciary Address that in part focused on the need to protect the poor from unjust and excessive pretrial incarceration. Roberts was selected to serve on the Escort Committee that welcomed Breckenridge into the House Chamber for her address that was delivered Tuesday morning.
Roberts, who served as a prosecutor in the City of St. Louis, said the Chief Justice’s comments resonated with him and reminded him of the many instances where he saw defendants who were unable to pay their bond and would remain in prison while awaiting trial. Roberts agreed with Breckenridge that the state needs to seek solutions that will ensure individuals are incarcerated before trial only when charged with a capital offense; when a danger to a crime victim, a witness, or the community; or a flight risk. As Breckenridge said in her address, “Incarcerating persons merely because they are too poor to post bond needs to be examined in both municipal and criminal cases.”
Roberts commented, “Chief Justice Breckenridge perfectly articulated the problems we too often see in our justice system that result in the poor and minorities being trapped in prison simply because they cannot cover their bond amount. This is a system that is causing an undue burden, and as the Chief Justice pointed out, it takes only three days in jail to increase the likelihood an individual will commit future crimes. We need a system that treats all Missourians fairly regardless of their financial standing.”
Roberts said he was also pleased to hear Breckenridge’s strong support for drug courts and treatment programs.
“In most cases, we aren’t dealing with bad people, but people who need help. Our goal should be to keep people out of prison and to help them make better life choices so that they can be healthy, productive members of society.”