jail bars

Great news for Alec Karakatsanis (a member of our Board) and a step toward justice in Velda City, Missouri. From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Velda City can no longer jail people in lieu of cash bail for municipal offenses, a practice that defense lawyers said essentially punished people because they were poor, under a settlement filed Wednesday in a federal lawsuit.

The lawyers who filed the suit, the first such case settled in the area, hope the settlement changes the bail system here and across the country.

“I’m really hopeful that this case will force people to confront what they’ve been doing,” said Alec Karakatsanis, an attorney with Washington-based Equal Justice Under Law, one of two groups that filed the suit in April. “It’s just bad policy to spend all of this money to lock up these people because they are poor.”

The settlement states: “No person may, consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, be held in custody after an arrest because the person is too poor to post a monetary bond.”

* * *

Thomas Harvey of ArchCity Defenders, the other group that filed the suit, said the previous policy essentially followed the idea that “we should be throwing human beings into a cage because they are poor.”

People who didn’t have money to pay bail usually didn’t have money to get their car out of an impound lot, and if they spent a few days in jail they would usually lose their jobs, he said.

He said he thought the new policy Velda City adopted is “fantastic. It will really just change the lives of so many of our clients.”

The attorneys filed a similar suit against the city of St. Ann last week.

Read entire article.