BREAKING: Multiple US Cities Rounding Up Blacks and Locking Them in ‘Debtors Prison’

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Joe Harris | Courthouse News Service

A federal class action accuses 13 St. Louis County cities of putting black people in de facto debtors’ prisons because they can’t afford to pay traffic tickets and fines for other petty offenses.

Quinton Thomas and 12 other named plaintiffs sued St. Ann, Edmundson, Normandy, Cool Valley, Velda City, Beverly Hills, Pagedale, Calverton Park, St. John, Bel-Ridge, Wellston, Velda Village Hills and Bellefontaine Neighbors. All are in north St. Louis County.




“In 2015 alone, the defendant municipalities issued an average of 1.7 arrest warrants per household and one (1) arrest warrant for every adult, mostly for allegedly unpaid debt in connection with tickets supposedly involving traffic violations and other petty offenses,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs say they were “locked in a cage” solely because they couldn’t afford cash payment for minor violations.


“And each was left to languish in filthy, often overcrowded jail cells because he or she could not afford to pay the jacked-up fines, penalties, and other charges that defendants assessed,” the complaint states. “Defendants did not inquire about, much less accommodate, the hardships their extortionate demands placed on plaintiffs and their families. Nor did defendants offer to provide plaintiffs with counsel who could advise them of their rights or otherwise protect them from defendants’ predatory scheme.”

The lawsuit mirrors a class action filed in February 2015 against nearby Ferguson and Jennings. Those class actions spurred reforms in those cities’ courts.

The Ferguson and Jennings class actions were filed by an attorney with Equal Justice Under Law, in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with , St. Louis-based ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit, and by St. Louis University School of Law.





This latest class action was filed by Thomas Harvey with ArchCity Defenders.

All the class actions stem from the protests after Michael Brown’s death. Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, on Aug. 9, 2014. Protesters voiced concerns about policing in black communities and the cities using the court system as a revenue generator on the backs of poor black people.

The latest class action says this “extraordinary abuse of government authority” starts with the over-policing of poor black communities, which causes excessive citations for traffic and other municipal violations.





The citations are followed by “arbitrary fines, penalties, surcharges, and interest charges that pile up like debts to a loan-shark, arrest warrants auto-generated without good cause or even a semblance of due process, and imprisonment — imposed without assistance of counsel — in squalid debtors’ prisons,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs claim the system disproportionately targets blacks, places their jobs at risk and leaves their children without supervision.

They seek unspecified damages and an injunction.

Published by Courthouse News Service.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 3374 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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  • Forrest Carlton Lackey

    I think the police are trying to start a race war, almost as much as the left. I wonder if they’re going to piss off minorities so much, and then point at the white middle class, so the WASP middle class pays for what the establishment does, then joins the fascist establishment to protect themselves from minorities, even though the establishment shits on them, too, AND set them up to get blamed for their leadership’s failures.
    Hey, while the peasants fight, the King is pleased.
    Any leftist or revolutionary group will be infiltrated by the establishment-IE controlled opposition. A catalyst. Kind of like the Separatists in Star Wars prequels.
    What’s the solution? Expose how the police state is going to exterminate whites and Christians once they’ve used them up. Expose how homeschooled kids, veterans, gun owners, and certain Christians are on terror watch lists right next to muslims and minorities. Expose how the police have brutalized many Constitutionalists and veterans. The cop suckers need to know they’re about to get stabbed in the back. It’s the morally right thing to do, as well as militarily pragmatic.
    And then expose to the minorities how they’re leaders are controlled opposition.
    Sorry to sound like an asshole, but this is how I see it.

    • Sarahmjones

      <<hp. ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★::::::!ir129m:….,…

  • S.Evans

    What? So Jamming Tickets is ok when they do it to white folks, just not blacks? They did up two of my godkids like that and no army of black protestors was at the jail saying “Yo, they ain’t got any money!”

    The only thing regulating this behavior is that you can’t get money out of people you’re holding in jail . . .

    • jsy

      How many protests have you been to? To have a friend you gotta be a friend. Ferguson built it’s economy on victimizing black people. Including prison sentences of 1 year so that they could not vote. They were the majority, but they could not elect or defeat anyone. That ever happen to you? Anybody you know?