A task force spearheaded by The Missouri Bar has released its recommendations for updating the state’s criminal justice system. Most of the recommendations 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The task force was called to tackle an outdated and overburdened criminal justice system that has led to crowded prisons, backlogged cases, and public defenders’ offices closing their doors.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 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 change its State Legal Expense Fund to help pay for contract and appointed attorneys in criminal cases.
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.