ArchCity Defenders won another major victory today against alleged unconstitutional practices in the St. Louis region’s courts. While the agreement is with the City of St. Ann, the case has implications for the justice system across the United States.
In May of 2015, ArchCity Defenders filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the City of St. Ann unconstitutionally held poor people in its jail solely because they were unable to pay a cash bond that had been set according to a predetermined dollar amount. The case, Powell v. City of St. Ann 4:15-cv-00840 alleged that Kellen Powell was arrested on a driving while suspended charge, jailed in the City of St. Ann, and held on a bond he could not afford for more than a week before seeing a judge. The suit alleges that this practice violates the most basic principles of the Constitution.
Today, the case was settled with the City of St. Ann entering into an agreement that mirrors previous settlement agreements obtained by ArchCity Defenders, Saint Louis University School of Law and Equal Justice Under Law in federal lawsuits against the City of Jennings and the City of Velda City. These settlement agreements pave the way for meaningful reform of the legal system in the region.
ArchCity Defenders believes that no human being should be held in a cage, before or after trial, because of his poverty. This agreement builds on previous victories that set a precedent that should be applied nationally, ensuring that no arrested person remains in jail simply because they are too poor to pay bail. We’ve simply become too comfortable with locking up poor and Black people up in America. This agreement paves the way for transformational change to a justice system both regionally and nationally. For more than 50 years in ST. Louis and since Reconstruction era Black Codes, US courts have required arrested to buy their freedom. These policies have destroyed the lives of the most vulnerable among us, exacerbated systemic racism, and caused or exacerbated homelessness. We commend the City of St. Ann for eliminating cash bail and working diligently to settle this case since the day it was filed.
Please click on this link to see the terms of the settlement agreement.