Sheriffs across Missouri are expressing their concerns with what they call the Department of Corrections' catch-and-release system.
Sheriffs said the system lets people who violate parole back on the streets instead of giving them any prison time. Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said his office started noticing the issue at the beginning of summer 2019.
"The officers were bringing in people on parole violations," Chism said. "When our jail staff went to return those violators to state prison, that's where the hell started."
The DOC said it does not have a catch-and-release system.
Issues that have been raised recently pertain to technical violations of probation or parole — not new crimes. A technical violation is a violation of the conditions of probation set by the courts or the conditions of parole set by the parole board. Examples might include missing appointments, failing to maintain employment or moving to a new address without notifying the proper authorities. Technical violations are not criminal offenses that endanger public safety.
When someone commits a technical violation of parole, the violator is re-engaged and evaluated, using validated risk and needs assessment tools, to determine whether that citizen should be returned to prison. These decisions are made by the parole board on a case-by-case basis.
This process has not changed.Karen Pojmann, DOC communications director
Chism highlighted a recent example in which the DOC released an offender who was arrested for violating parole. Just weeks later, John Garrett was charged with first-degree robbery, resisting or interfering with arrest and first degree attempted assault of an officer.
Chism said the spike in utilizing the program was a decision by the DOC administrative offices. They notified the sheriff of the change.
"They believed they needed to give the offenders more due process," Chism said. "We'd also been given notice that they were going to allow any new charges to be adjudicated before they revoked parole."
Chism posted a letter to citizens on Facebook with his concerns. Read the full letter here:
Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley also chimed in on the issue.
"I just got this from Sheriff Chism," Wheatley said about the letter to citizens in a Facebook post. "I am behind him 100 percent. This is what is happening all over the state."