Equal Justice Under Law

 

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Shutting Down Debtors’ Prisons

 

Privatizing prisons and probation makes profits for companies at the expense of communities.

Although debtors’ prisons were banned in the U.S. in 1833, Equal Justice Under Law has uncovered modern-day debtors’ prisons that target people who are poor. Cities are unconstitutionally using local courts and jails to generate millions of dollars in profits off the backs of residents who are poor.

Equal Justice Under Law has won settlements in Montgomery, Alabama; Jennings, Missouri; and Jackson, Mississippi that benefited thousands of class members, while our lawsuits in Ferguson, Missouri and New Orleans, Louisiana are on track to help thousands more.

Privatization of our justice system prioritizes profits over people and violates constitutional rights.

 

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Fant v. City of Ferguson

Date Filed: february 8, 2015

The Plaintiffs in this case are each impoverished people who were jailed by the City of Ferguson because they were unable to pay a debt owed to the City from traffic tickets or other minor offenses. In each case, the City imprisoned a human being solely because the person could not afford to make a monetary payment...

 

Jenkins v. City of Jennings

Date Filed: february 8, 2015

Plaintiffs  were threatened, abused, and left to languish in confinement at the mercy of local officials until their frightened family members could produce enough cash to buy their freedom or until City jail officials decided, days or weeks later, to let them out for free...

 

Mitchell v. Montgomery, Alabama

Date Filed: May 23, 2014

The Plaintiffs in this case are each impoverished people who were jailed by the City of Montgomery because they were unable to pay a debt owed to the City from traffic tickets. In each case, the City ordered the Plaintiff either to pay the City immediately or to “sit out” his or her debt in the City jail at a rate of $50 per day....

 

Pierce v. Velda City, Missouri

Date Closed: April 2, 2015

The use of a secured bail schedule to set the conditions for release of a person in custody after arrest for an offense that may be prosecuted by Velda City implicates the protections of the Equal Protection Clause when such a schedule is applied to the indigent...

 

Cain v. City of New Orleans

Date Filed: September 21, 2015

Despite longstanding Supreme Court precedent that the Government cannot imprison people just because they are poor, New Orleans officials routinely use jail and threats of jail to collect court debts from thousands of the City’s poorest people. The result is an illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust modern debtors’ prison....

 

Varden v. City of Clanton

Date Filed: June 12, 2016

The City of Clanton keeps its poorest citizens in jail because they cannot afford to pay a monetary fee...

 

Martinez v. Dodge City

Date Filed: October 21, 2015

This case is about Dodge City’s wealth-based post-arrest detention scheme, which operates to jail some of Dodge City’s poorest residents solely because they cannot pay an arbitrary amount of money. Named Plaintiff Lawrence Martinez was arrested yesterday and is currently imprisoned in the county jail solely because he is too poor to pay the amount of money generically set by the fixed “bail schedule” used by Dodge City....

 

Powell v. City of St. Ann

Date Filed: May 27, 2015

This case is about the City of St. Ann jailing some of its poorest people and the poorest people in the St. Louis region because they cannot pay a small amount of money. Kellen Powell was arrested on May 21, 2015 and iscurrently imprisoned by the City because he cannot afford to pay the amount of money generically set by the City of St. Ann and its police department...

 

Snow v. Lambert

Date Filed: aUGUST 25, 2015

Rebecca Marie Snow was arrested on August 24, 2015, and is currently detained by Defendant Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey F. Wiley because she cannot afford to pay the amount of money generically set by the secured “bail schedule” issued by Ascension Parish Court Judge Marilyn Lambert...

 

Thompson v. Moss Point

Date Filed: June 12, 2015

In Moss Point, most people arrested for traffic or misdemeanor offenses are released immediately upon payment of a small amount of money.  If a person is charged with multiple offenses, the fixed amount for each offense is added together to determine the total amount of cash required for release. Those arrestees who are too poor to afford to pay remain in jail  because of their poverty for up to a week without seeing a judicial officer...

 

Cooper v. The City of Dotham

Date Filed: June 16, 2015

This case is about the City of Dotham jailing some of its poorest people because they cannot pay a small amount of money. Anthony Cooper is a recent arrestee who is currently imprisoned by the City because he cannot afford to pay...