St. Louis, MO: Bail

In January 2019, Civil Rights Corps joined a lawsuit challenging the unconstitutional money bail system in St. Louis, Missouri. This lawsuit was filed in partnership with ArchCity Defenders, the Advancement Project, and the Georgetown Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP). Our clients and named plaintiffs were all detained in the Workhouse, a local jail in St. Louis notorious for abusive treatment by guards and inadequate medical care.

Approximately 96 percent of people charged with a crime in St. Louis are assigned money bail amounts higher than state and national averages. Judges do not inquire about a person’s ability to pay, and do not explore alternatives to money bail. As a result, thousands of poor people, a majority of them black, are left to languish in jail cells prior to trial.

The lawsuit is a part of the larger Close the Workhouse campaign, a grassroots collaboration between the people directly impacted by the Workhouse and the lawyers and activists committed to ending mass incarceration.

In June 2019, a Federal Judge issued a preliminary injunction striking down the St. Louis money bail system. The ruling requires the City of St. Louis to fully consider a person’s ability to pay their assigned money bail within 48 hours of arrest, and requires new bail hearings for people currently being held in jail prior to trial.