Criminal Legal System

Women’s Voices Address Passage of MO Senate Bill 600 (SB600)

July 7, 2020

Members of Women’s Voices are dismayed that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is signing SB600, a punitive, regressive crime bill that does absolutely nothing to further the cause of criminal justice reform. This bill will increase mandatory minimum sentences and the time that prisoners spend behind bars. It could add another 2,500 prisoners in the next 20 years, which will mean that Missouri will need more prisons.

More prisons do not result in less crime. We need thoughtful, intelligent solutions to improve public safety by funding improved education, health care, housing, and social services for those who are living in impoverished communities.

Already devastated communities, especially Black communities, will be further damaged by this unnecessary and hurtful legislation. Missouri lawmakers need to find a better way to serve their constituents.

Racial Justice Co-Chairs Urge Veto of SB600

July 4, 2020

Barbara Finch and Jenny Birgé write in the St. Louis American that we do not need more minimum mandatory sentencing! Read their letter here.

Ask Gov. Parson to veto SB600 – 573-751-3222

Women’s Voices Urges Gov. Parson to Veto SB600

June 30, 2020

Women’s Voices co-president, Ruth Ehresman, submitted a letter on behalf of Women’s Voices urging MO Gov. Parson to veto SB600. Read the letter here.

Close the Workhouse Campaign Claims Victory

June 30, 2020

Women’s Voices has called for closing the St. Louis medium security prison, “the workhouse”. It is reported that the Board of Aldermen may take action on the issue.

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed will file a pair of board bills that would close St. Louis’ Medium Security Institute, also know as “The Workhouse”, and redirect funds to crime reduction programs. The first bill calls for officials to immediately start assessing the potential cost of outsourcing housing of the people currently held at The Workhouse, determine possible new uses for the facility and land and develop a plan to close the facility no more than 150 days from the effective date of the bill. The bill would also create the Neighborhood Crime Reduction Fund. Money from that program that would be “allocated to neighborhoods with high violent crime” which Reed said would be administered by a participatory budgeting process, also known as a citizen budget. Policy experts say citizen budgets are when a group of citizens makes the spending decisions for a portion of a municipality’s budget.

read more here

Women’s Voices Addresses the Murder of George Floyd

May 27, 2020

George Floyd

It is with a combination of revulsion and outrage that members of Women’s Voices acknowledge the taking of another black life. The murder of George Floyd by four policemen in Minneapolis adds to the list of lives (Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, etc.) brutally taken by those who are supposed to “protect and serve.” We are equally appalled by the self-styled vigilantes who stalk and murder innocent black men and boys (Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, etc).

People keep saying, “This has got to stop.” Indeed, it must stop. But it will not stop until our system of so-called “criminal justice” learns that a black life is every bit as valuable as a white life. It will not stop until young white men, armed with weapons of war, put down those weapons and learn that black lives matter.

These lives matter to us. We weep with our black brothers and sisters and re-commit our efforts to seek a better, fairer, most just society for all.


Women’s Voices joins Organizations to Urge State Leaders to Accommodate Re-entry

April 10, 2020

In a letter to Gov. Parson, and Missouri Department of Corrections Director, Anne L. Precythe, organizations outlined a funding avenue and recommendations to accommodate re-entry for persons exiting state prisons and local jails during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

1. Identify incarcerated persons who are 60 or older and/or immune compromised, who meet the requirements for compassionate release pursuant to RSMo 217.250 and grant release.
2. Identify persons currently incarcerated who are within one year of release from incarceration and immediately release those persons from incarceration, implementing house arrest, electronic monitoring, or other measures as necessary for the balance of the term of incarceration.
3. Identify persons currently incarcerated due to a technical violation and immediately release those persons from incarceration, implementing house arrest, electronic
monitoring, or other measures as necessary for the balance of the term of incarceration for the violation.
4. Halt all arrests and detentions for technical violations of probation or parole and suspend in-person meeting requirements.
5. Identify persons who have completed three years of supervision and transfer that person to administrative supervision or terminate supervision as appropriate. Suspend fines and fees for formal, informal, and administrative supervision.
6. Allow and encourage those with families and loved ones who can house them to return directly to their families, even if that housing is public housing, without requiring a stay in transitional housing. Use the Governor’s emergency powers to house people in available and vacant buildings that have kitchen facilities and other necessary infrastructure such as hotels, motels and college dorms.

Read the joint letter here.

Women’s Voices joins Statewide Organizations and Medical Professionals Call on the Missouri Supreme Court to Prevent a COVID-19 Public Health Crisis in Jails by Releasing People

March 26, 2020

From the press release distributed by ArchCity Defenders, “Due to growing concerns of the spread of the Coronavirus, particularly among people who are incarcerated, a coalition of over 30 organizations and medical professionals, sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, the Honorable George W. Draper III, outlining the need for decarceration, and requesting the Supreme Court act timely to order the release of people from jails statewide. The primary letter was enclosed with supporting documents, including a memo written by Dr. Fred Rottnek, Professor and Director of Community Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, which received broad endorsement from the medical and public health community.”

Citing the Supreme Court’s authority under Article V, Section 4 of the Missouri Constitution, signatories requested judges act immediately to release the following groups of inmates during the pendency of the COVID-19 pandemic:

(i) those currently serving sentences in any city or county jail in Missouri pursuant to a conviction for a misdemeanor offense;
(ii) those currently serving sentences in any city or county jail in Missouri pursuant to a conviction for a municipal ordinance violation;
(iii) those confined pretrial on nonviolent misdemeanor, municipal ordinance violation, or nonviolent C, D, and E felony charges;
(iv) those confined on technical probation violations or probation violations based on allegations of a nonviolent felony and
(v) those in high-risk categories likely to face serious illness or death, such as pregnant women, immunocompromised persons, and those over 60 who pose no threat to the public.

Read the full press release here.


Women’s Voices advocates for clemency for Patty Prewitt

December 14, 2019

Ruth Ehresman, co-president of Women’s Voices, submitted a letter to Gov. Mike Parson on behalf of Women’s Voices requesting clemency for Patty Prewitt.

Learn more about Patty’s case:

Feb. 2, 2019 St. Louis Post-Disptach by Editorial Board

Feb. 2, 2019 St. Louis Post-Dispatch by George Lombardi, former director of the Missouri Department of Corrections

Dec. 13, 2018 Kansas City Star Op-ed by Jane Prewitt Watkins, oldest daughter of Patty Prewitt

Dec. 26, 2017 St. Louis Post-Dispatch Op-ed by Tracy McCreery, MO State Representative, St. Louis

Dec. 30, 2010 St. Louis Post-Disptach Op-ed by John Burnett, MO State Representative, Kansas City and Bill Deeken, MO State Representative, Jefferson City

Learn more about how you can take action here.

Close the Workhouse finds allies in federal judge, Ben & Jerry’s

June 12, 2019

“[Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream,] and his massive team have gotten behind the local St. Louis advocates who are trying to close the Medium Security Institute, known as the Workhouse, that has long been decried for inhumane conditions.”

The same week that Ben & Jerry’s came to town to spread the message about the effort to Close the Workhouse, a federal judge handed down a decision that bars St. Louis jails from holding inmates simply because the cannot pay bail.

Read the article from The St. Louis American here.


Women’s Voices on the Death Penalty

Members of Women’s Voices voted unanimously in March 2007 to endorse a resolution calling for a moratorium on death penalty executions in the state of Missouri.