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Covid Was Supposed to Cut Jail Time. Not for Those Awaiting Trial.

An uprising this month showed how Covid-related delays to court proceedings have kept people in jail longer, even amid efforts to reduce the incarcerated population.

Before this month’s uprising at the St. Louis City Justice Center, protesters gathered there last June to demonstrate against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd.

Before this month’s uprising at the St. Louis City Justice Center, protesters gathered there last June to demonstrate against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd.

Photographer: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images 

On the night of April 4, an uprising broke out at the downtown St. Louis City Justice Center. People escaped their jail cells and broke windows, set fires and hung signs pleading for help. In the fourth such protest since the start of the year, the detained people were decrying the unsafe conditions of the jail, but also the length of stay.

The men’s central demand: “We want court dates.” The majority are being held pretrial, meaning they have not been convicted of a crime and are legally innocent. But as the pandemic has suspended court hearings in the city for months, people awaiting trial have been suffering.