The rate at which persons are detained pretrial for any length of time in either the St. Louis Justice Center or Medium Security Institution per 1,000 residents age 17 and over
Black residents are held in pretrial detention three times as often as white residents.
A score of 100 represents racial equity, meaning there are no racial disparities in outcomes. The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.
For Pretrial Detention, a score of 100 — a score reflecting racial equity — would mean black and white people age 17 and over are equally likely to be held in pretrial detention in St. Louis City-managed jails. It is important to note that for this indicator, equity is not our only goal: we also want to improve outcomes for all.
What does this indicator measure?
Pretrial Detention measures the rate at which persons who are detained pretrial for any length of time in either the St. Louis Justice Center or Medium Security Institution per 1,000 residents age 17 and over. Pretrial detention is when defendants are held in city jail before their court trial because they either cannot pay their bond or were considered a threat to public safety. In 2017, 16,732 people were detained in City jails prior to a court trial. This equates to a pretrial detention rate of 66 persons detained per 1,000 residents.
Pretrial Detention Analysis
Persons held in pretrial detention in St. Louis City jails in St. Louis City.
|All||Black||White||Disparity Ratio||Equity Score|
|People held in pretrial detention||16,732||12,058||4,627||-||-|
|Resident population age 17 and over||252,577||111,532||126,224|
|Persons held in pretrial detention per 1,000 residents age 17 and over||66.2||108.1||36.7||2.949 to 1||34|
Data Source: City of St. Louis Department of Corrections, 2017. American Community Survey 1-year PUMS, 2016.
Data Note: Data shows the unique number of people held in pretrial detention at any point in 2017. Persons may have been held in pretrial detention multiple times over the course of the year. Hispanic origin was not provided, so these racial groups include both Hispanic and non-Hispanic people. PUMS data may differ slightly from estimates on American FactFinder due to differences in sampling. See PUMS technical documentation for more information.
What does this analysis mean?
Based on their share of the population, black people are overrepresented in the population of people held in pretrial detention. Black people are three times as likely to be represented in the pretrial detention population as white people. Black people are detained at a rate of 108 per 1,000 residents, while white people are detained at a rate of 37 per 1,000 residents. Black detainees comprise 72% of all people held in pretrial detention in St. Louis City jails, while they make up 44% of the population. If pretrial detention rates were equitable, there would have been 7,970 fewer black people held in pretrial detention in 2017.
Why does Pretrial Detention matter?
Research from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law has found that "exposure to jails can prolong an individual’s entanglement in the justice system more broadly," including increasing the likelihood of being sentenced to incarceration and the likelihood of committing a new crime upon release. The length of time that a person can be held in pretrial detention varies based on the charges and whether the arrest was made in connection with a warrant.
The Ferguson Commission report discussed at length the impact of jailing an individual for failure to pay municipal tickets, noting that jail time "removes that poor person from their family, from their community, and, in many cases, from their job." While the City of St. Louis does not detain people for municipal charges alone, that is not the case for regional municipal courts.
Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are linked with this indicator?
The Ferguson Commission’s calls to action related to pretrial detention include:
Questions for further investigation
- Why is there a racial disparity in Pretrial Detention?
- What can St. Louis do to reduce racial disparities in Pretrial Detention?
- What initiatives are currently underway to reduce racial disparities in Pretrial Detention?
How can I learn more about this issue?
In 2015, the Brennan Center for Justice published a report on unjustified racial disparities in jail populations, which are primarily made up of defendants being held prior to trial. In 2014, the Vera Institute researched the extent to which defendants’ race and ethnicity influences prosecutorial decisions in New York County, including bail determinations and pretrial detention. They found that black defendants were 10% more likely to be held in pretrial detention, even after controlling for the influence of other factors, such as prior record and the severity of charges.
The Close the Workhouse Campaign is a coalition of community organizations, led by Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, the Bail Project, and MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment), that are calling for the closure of St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution. Their 2018 report attempts to explains more about the characteristics of the jail population, including snapshots of average bonds and charges for defendants held in the jail according to data collected by ArchCity Defenders.