Suit takes aim at ‘debtors’ prisons’ in St. Louis County cities

The suit accuses these municipalities of “terrorizing” plaintiffs and “many hundreds of others through a deliberate and coordinated scheme established and implemented to fill the municipalities’ coffers by extorting money.

Audio, News Story (Missouri)

Jason Rosenbaum, Liz Schlemmer
St. Louis Public Radio
August 10, 2016

Tags: Debtors Prison

Organizations mentioned/involved: ArchCity Defenders (St. Louis)


The 13 cities in the suit are: Bel-Ridge, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Beverly Hills, Calverton Park, Cool Valley, Edmundson, Normandy, Pagedale, St. Ann, St. John, Velda City, Velda Village Hills and Wellston. Lawyers with St. Louis-based Arch City Defenders and Washington, D.C.-based Arnold & Porter filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday.

Thomas Harvey is an attorney with Arch City Defenders, which provides legal services to homeless people and the working poor throughout St. Louis. He said the suit is part of a broader effort to transform criminal justice in St. Louis County.

When Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson in August 2014, his death sparked immense focus and scrutiny on that city. This international spotlight culminated in a scathing Department of Justice report about the town’s criminal justice practices — and a federal consent decree aimed at altering how the city operates.