December 14, 2017
Earlier this week we received great news about our debtors’ prison class action lawsuit against the City of Florissant. The judge denied Florissant’s attempt to dismiss the case, which reaffirms the validity of our clients’ claims and is consistent with favorable rulings in our lawsuits against municipalities in the region engaging in unlawful and predatory practices such as debtors’ prisons, cash bail, and inhumane jail conditions. The decision ensures that our clients’ voices will continue to be heard.
One year ago, ArchCity Defenders and co-counsel received final approval of a landmark $4.75M settlement with the City of Jennings in a historic debtors’ prison class action. This settlement brought forth changes in the courts, in our clients lives, and in the community.
In the courts, the settlement ended the city’s practice of jailing people who were too poor to pay their court debts and provided a blueprint for similar cases against other local municipalities including Ferguson, Florissant, and St. Ann.
For our clients, the settlement provided monetary damages for nearly 2,000 class members. For every day that someone was illegally jailed by Jennings, they received approximately $1,500 from the settlement. “If it wasn’t for ACD, Jennings would still have me locked up for traffic tickets,” said Samantha Jenkins, lead plaintiff in Jennings case.
For the community, the settlement kept open the doors of Hope House, a homeless shelter for students in the Jennings School District. Superintendent Dr. Art McCoy shared with KMOV, “If not for the settlement funds, Hope House would have had to close, and students wouldn’t have the safety and refuge they’ve come to rely on.”
More than three years after the Ferguson uprising and one year after approval of the Jennings settlement, municipalities are still on the hook for their wrongdoing and thousands of people are still waiting to receive a sense of relief and justice.
Mothers like Keilee Fant, the lead plaintiff in our debtors’ prison case against Ferguson, have had to put her dreams on hold because of the poverty caused by predatory practices like revenue-based policing, excessive court fines and fees, and debtors’ prisons. For years, she has hoped to graduate from nursing school and become a homeowner, hopes that she’s yet to realize.
It’s time to end debtors’ prisons once and for all. With your support we will win.
Z. Gorley, Communications Director at ArchCity Defenders