VOTE WESLEY BELL AUGUST 7TH
“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” – Coretta Scott King
My name is Wesley Bell and I am a candidate for St. Louis County Prosecutor. In 2015, I was elected to the Ferguson City Council and had the opportunity to make history working with President Obama’s Department of Justice to implement community policing and some of the broadest court reforms in the nation. I am proud to have taken part in that kind of history – the kind that encourages people to raise their voices, join together and become part of a movement to actualize change. With your help, we can make a similar kind of history on August 7th. We have listened to the concerns of people of all ages, races, and backgrounds – from South County to West County to Mid County and North County – and all of us agree: it is time to start a new chapter for St. Louis.
In addition to serving as a Councilman, I have served in every capacity in the criminal justice system: as a judge, a public defender, and a municipal prosecutor. My comprehensive experience has allowed me to see the need for criminal justice reform. After graduating law school, I started my career in the public defender’s office in the City of St. Louis. During my time there, I worked with many young people who needed a mentor just as much as they needed an attorney. They were not just cases to me; they were sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, and cousins. They were also, in some cases, victims of circumstances that led them down the wrong path.
Like most young attorneys, I aspired to become a judge, where I believed I could effectuate the most change. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the prosecutor, not the judge, has the most potential impact on criminal justice reform. The judge is limited because they can only rule on cases once they’re adjudicated and must act within the confines of the law. However, the prosecutor has the discretion to charge or not charge, to decide what charge to bring or to offer incentives for the accused to avoid being charged. The impact of the prosecutor only became clear to me after wearing each hat myself and experiencing the criminal justice system from multiple perspectives. Even as the judge and the senior officer in the court, I often found my hands tied due to plea deals orchestrated by the prosecutor. This realization encouraged me to more comprehensively research the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office and consider this candidacy.
Too many of our young people are being put on probation and incarcerated for non-violent offenses, perpetuating the vicious cycle of mass incarceration for at-risk youth. We have a chance to make a change, and here’s how we’re going to do it from the Prosecutor’s office:
First, instead of indiscriminately incarcerating non-violent offenders, we’re going to expand treatment for drug addiction and mental health. We know that when non-violent offenders receive treatment instead of jail time, they are significantly less likely to re-offend. We cannot continue to criminalize addiction. We have the resources and the knowledge to provide treatment. The St. Louis County Prosecutor is the gatekeeper for these programs. If elected, I will ensure that those in need of addiction or mental health treatment have access and support to recover and transition back into the community.
Second, we need to severely reform cash bail practices. Bail is not for punitive purposes, it is to ensure the presence of the accused throughout the criminal justice proceedings. The cash bail system essentially allows the murder-with-means to walk free while the non-violent drug abuser remains incarcerated. As Prosecutor, I will not criminalize poverty. We cannot allow one more single mother accused of a non-violent offense to lose her job, home and potentially her children because she can’t afford a cash bond.
Finally, restoring trust in our justice system will build a safer St. Louis. I want a justice system that works for ALL of St. Louis County. I need your vote on August 7th. YOU have the opportunity to bring about real change. I’m asking for your vote, I’m asking for you to help me restore justice for St. Louis County.
WESLEY BELL POLICY
END MASS INCARCERATION & REFORM CASH BAIL
STOP OVERCHARGING AND PROSECUTING INSUFFICIENT AND INSIGNIFICANT CASES
The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office places too much emphasis on prosecuting non-violent drug and property crimes, often with insufficient or unreliable evidence. When a Prosecutor operates in this manner, they are acting as an arm of the police rather than a guardian of the public trust in its own right. This clogs the courts, delays trials, and contributes to the County’s high incarceration rate. Meanwhile, witnesses’ disappear, their memory fades, and successful prosecution of serious violent crime plummets. This toxic practice that prizes prosecution rates over promoting justice focuses on winning convictions at any cost, often at the cost of justice itself. Wesley Bellwill decline to prosecute cases forwarded by the police that lack support by sufficient and legally obtained evidence, and promises not to “over-charge” in order to force guilty pleas.
TREAT ADDICTION AS A DISEASE, NOT A CRIME
In the last two years, St. Louis County has had two to three times as many drug overdose deaths as deaths by homicide. Wesley Bell knows that the solution to drug addiction is treatment, not incarceration. Prisons are ill-equipped to treat addiction. Presently, only 15% of offenders in St. Louis County are provided the opportunity to participate in drug court treatment programs, which highlights the shortcomings of the current system — drug addiction is being punished and not treated. As Prosecuting Attorney, Wesley will expand St. Louis County’s drug and mental health court capacity and increase opportunities for diversion, allowing those arrested for drug possession or for minor offenses due to addiction to get the treatment they need instead of incarceration.
STOP CASH BAIL IMPRISONMENT
The use of Cash Bail criminalizes poverty. Many of the people held in St. Louis County Justice Center have not been convicted – they simply are too poor to afford bail, often as little as $1000. In the meantime, wealthy individuals who are charged with the same offense are able to buy their freedom. While suspects who pose a danger to others or who may not return for trial will still be held, Wesley will implement alternatives to cash bail for those charged with nonviolent offenses, including pre-trial GPS monitoring, and regular check-ins.
REVIEW PAST CONVICTIONS, FREE THE WRONGFULLY CONVICTED
Wesley is dedicated to ensuring no one spends time in prison for a crime they did not commit. Wesley will ensure all potentially exculpatory evidence (evidence that potentially shows innocence) is shared with the defense, as well as create a task force to identify factors leading to wrongful convictions and develop a report on remedial action plans and their success. Wesley will also fully staff a Convictions Integrity Unit that will require ‘open file’ transparency with defense and innocence organizations to ensure that all barriers to fair prosecution are identified and remediated.
TARGET CRIME THAT MATTERS MOST
FOCUS ON SERIOUS CRIME
Too many resources are being used to prosecute minor property and drug offenses, often related to addiction. Meanwhile, too many serious crimes, often homicide cases, do not end up in a proper conviction. Wesley will push for more proactive, intelligence-based, community policing and will focus prosecutorial resources to focus on the most serious crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking, and murder. Those who harm our fellow community members will be held accountable.
TREAT VICTIMS WITH RESPECT AND SENSITIVITY
There is no justice without transparency. For too long, the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office has prioritized conviction rates over victims’ rights. Victims of violence need to be the focus of the Prosecutor’s office. Wesley will expand victims’/witness services and use a modern, best practices approach to improve services for victims, especially those involving sexual assault and domestic violence, and to improve communication and education with victims and family members.
REFUSE TO CHARGE (AND DISMISS) MARIJUANA POSSESSION CASES
Prosecuting the majority of marijuana possession cases is a drain on law enforcement and prosecutor resources and does not make the community any safer. While violent drug dealers will still be prosecuted, Wesley will refuse to charge (and dismiss pending) low weight marijuana cases that do not involve other violent crime.
FIGHT FRAUD AND CORRUPTION
A Democracy cannot operate effectively when we turn a blind eye to fraud and public corruption – it undermines public trust in government and exploits the most vulnerable in our community. Wesley worked with the Obama DOJ to reform the Ferguson Courts and Police Department in the wake of the Ferguson Uprising. Wesley will work with the community and law enforcement to charge and convict those who criminally defraud the public or abuse public office for personal gain.
ENGAGE THE COMMUNITY TO BUILD TRUST THROUGH TRANSPARENCY
CHANGE THE CULTURE OF PROSECUTION IN ST. LOUIS COUNTY
Prioritizing harsh sentencing and high conviction rates have been proven ineffective at reducing crime. Wesley will fundamentally change the culture of the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office to a data-driven, a restorative model of justice, that seeks alternatives to incarceration when proven more effective at ensuring the safety of St. Louis County.
REQUIRE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF POLICE MISCONDUCT
As the son of a retired police officer, Wesley knows the vast majority of police are professionals who respect the rights of the public. However, abuses of authority still occur. These divisive few make us less safe, divide the neighborhoods they protect, and make police work more dangerous. In instances of police misconduct, Wesley will assign an independent special prosecutor in order to hold police equally accountable as the general public.
CONTINUE THE SUCCESS OF COMMUNITY POLICING INITIATIVES
Wesley was instrumental in the creation of the North County Police Cooperative, which is grounded in a break-through community partnership. The Co-Op’s officers participate in mentoring youth and coaching sports, as well as providing full public safety and police services to multiple municipalities in north St. Louis County. Wesley will promote the successful aspects of the Co-Op’s model for other areas of the county. Wesley’s office will hold town hall meetings with community members and police to gather information from citizens about what public safety issues are most important where they live.
IMPLEMENT COMMUNITY EVALUATION COUNCIL & FIELD PROSECUTORS
To assess the effectiveness of the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, Wesley will develop a Community Evaluation Council, made up of community stakeholders. Wesley will make himself accessible to the community and also assign field prosecutors to geographic areas to ensure the office is in sync with public safety needs and progress is visible to the public.
END THE DEATH PENALTY
WESLEY BELL WILL NEVER SEEK A DEATH SENTENCE
Wesley Bell is the only candidate running for Prosecuting Attorney who explicitly pledges to never seek the death penalty, and has done so throughout his campaign. He knows that capital punishment is expensive, ineffective at deterrence, and is also racially biased. Since 1976, there have been 157 individuals in the United States sentenced to death and later exonerated. Thus far, four of these exonerations occurred right here in Missouri. Furthermore, decades of data and information determine that Capital Punishment is not a deterrent for violent crime. Exercising his discretion as Prosecuting Attorney, Wesley will never seek the death sentence.
RESIST THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
PROTECT IMMIGRANTS WHILE PROTECTING EVERYBODY
Wesley Bell is dedicated to fighting President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda and increasing trust between immigrants and police — because cooperation is essential to law enforcement. As Prosecuting Attorney, he will work to cooperate with federal authorities only to the degree required by law. Because legal proceedings can affect the status of immigrants and therefore relations between communities and law enforcement, Wesley, and his Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys will be well trained in immigration law so they fully realize the effects of their decisions as prosecutors.