The NorthSider was among the winners in the Arch City Defenders’ Excellence in Poverty Journalism Awards, presented on Sept. 4th. Ashley Winters’ story “Freed from jail, trapped by monitoring fees” took home the award for best digital/print short.
Arch City Defenders is a nonprofit civil rights law firm based in St. Louis. The awards, in their third year, are designed “to recognize and honor in-depth reporting on race, class, and poverty, and to inspire more coverage on topics impacting families throughout the St. Louis region.”
Winters’ report highlighted the practice of courts’ ordering defendants who have not been convicted of a crime to pay private monitoring companies monthly fees for ankle bracelets in order to stay out of jail while awaiting trial.
Gerald Wortham was released from the Workhouse on bond, court ordered to sign up for EMASS, and required to pay $300 to sign up for the monitoring services. If Wortham couldn’t make the payment, he would be in violation of the judge’s order and a warrant would be issued for his arrest.
“I feel like they are setting people up to go back to jail just because of you being poor or less fortunate than others, you don’t have another way to keep yourself out of jail, basically. That’s what EMASS is doing,” Wortham said.
The story was published in January 2019.