Police AccountabilityThe NorthSider

Groups sue to end cash bail system in city

DOWNTOWN — A partnership of three non-profits unsheathed their legal swords in a federal lawsuit challenging St. Louis City’s cash bail system. The class action lawsuit also demanded the immediate release of the four plaintiffs bringing their case before the court.

On January 28th, ArchCity Defenders, the Advancement Project National Office, Civil Rights Corps, and Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), sued the City of St. Louis, Sheriff Vernon Betts, judges from the 22nd Judicial Circuit, and Commissioner of Corrections Dale Glass, all of whom are accused of using a cash bail policy that impinges the civil liberties of those whom are too poor to pay their bail.

Filed in the United States District Court for Eastern Missouri, the suit’s class action complaint is a no holds barred rally against the cash bail system.

The suit reads, in part: “every day in the City of St. Louis, presumptively innocent individuals remain in jail simply because they are too poor to pay for their freedom. Hundreds of people-the vast majority of whom are poor and black—are condemned to remain confined in jail for weeks, months, or even years.”

According to the suit, the plaintiffs, David Dixon, Aaron Thurman, Jeffrey Rozelle and Richard Robards, represent a larger majority of victims whose economic status has rendered them powerless against the cash bail system and therefore, are being held in violation of their civil rights.

Amongst those leading the charge to end the cash bail system is Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, who addressed the failure of the cash bail system in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “For years, St. Louis City’s poor, and majority Black, residents have been denied their right to pretrial liberty due to an unconstitutional bail system and it’s time to correct this injustice.”

Strode added, “a presumptively innocent person is caged in the Workhouse on average 291 days because they simply cannot afford bail. This is time missed from work, school, family that is lost forever.”

Unified in bringing a new vision to St. Louis’ criminal justice system, several organizations launched the “The Close the Workhouse Campaign,” an initiative that included both a call for the mayor, Board of Aldermen and the Circuit Attorney to close the jail and a report recommending a revamping of the justice system that created it.

Rob Levy

Rob Levy is a writer, blogger and podcaster who has been published in several local print and online publications including St. Louis Magazine, ALIVE Magazine, The Riverfront Times, Eleven, Playback, The St. Louis Business Journal, The Max Magazine, Noisy Paper and Night Times. He has also written about popular culture, music, film and television for several websites and publications. Since 1995 he has hosted Juxtaposition on KDHX Radio.

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