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Qiana Williams: Surviving 20 Years of Debtors’ Prisons

October 20, 2017

Today we filed a debtors’ prison lawsuit on behalf of Qiana Williams, against the City of Arnold, a majority white city located in Jefferson County, just south of St. Louis.

For two decades, Qiana survived the deep poverty caused by the predatory system of revenue based policing, over-ticketing, cash bail, debtors’ prisons and excessive fines and fees.

Throughout it all, Qiana’s priority has always been her daughter Royal. A couple of years ago, Qiana and Royal lived in their car and parked on the school parking lot just to ensure that Royal’s education wasn’t interrupted by their homelessness.

In the past few years, through holistic legal advocacy, ArchCity Defenders has worked to resolve Qiana’s warrants from traffic tickets, has helped her transition from homeless to housed, and has employed Qiana as a Paralegal and Civil Rights Advocate. In December of 2015, Qiana spoke at the White House about her lifelong experience surviving debtors’ prisons, cash bail, and fines and fees.

Between 2012 to 2014, Arnold’s court collected $3,246,681.


Qiana’s story shines a light on the unlawful and predatory practices that have long plagued our region. Her story also reminds us of the ongoing support required to escape from the type of deep poverty caused by the criminal legal system.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.


Media Contact:
Z. Gorley, Communications Director at ArchCity Defenders