Ferguson, MO: Debtors' Prison

Civil Rights Corps, in partnership with ArchCity Defenders and the Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics, filed a landmark challenge to the City of Ferguson’s conversion of its legal system into a mechanism for generating revenue.  When we filed the lawsuit, the City of Ferguson used its police, municipal court, and jail to extort millions of dollars every year from its most impoverished citizens, trapping them in a brutal cycle of jail and debt for years.  With the aid of experienced lawyers at White & Case LLP, our team is seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief for thousands of people in Ferguson, mostly of color.  

Unlike its neighbor, the City of Jennings, which settled our case against it by paying $4.75 million to almost 2,000 people who were illegally jailed and by reforming its entire municipal court system through a federal consent decree, Ferguson continues to fight us in federal court.  Meanwhile, progress continues in the shadow of our lawsuit: according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, total municipal court revenues for the entire St. Louis region are down from $54 million in 2014 to $29 million in 2016. More tellingly, overall traffic tickets in Ferguson are down 85% and overall arrests there are down 86%.