The City of Florissant has been sued in Federal Court in a class action lawsuit on October 31, 2016 alleging a de facto debtor’s prison system. ArchCity Defenders, a non-profit organization providing civil representation and legal counsel, joined with a Washington DC firm are representing the Plaintiffs. The lawsuit alleges Constitutional violations under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection and due process clause and the 6th Amendment’s right to counsel and the right to a hearing to determine a person’s inability to pay. Allegations include “thousands [were] denied their civil rights while Florissant made $14 million. The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division seeks injunctive, declaratory and compensatory relief for the plaintiffs and thousands of class members.
The allegations continue indicating that City officials used municipal codes and petty justifications such as unpaid parking tickets to target residents and jail them. Conditions are deplorable with inmates often kept in the same clothing for days or weeks. Women are denied menstruation products. Food quality is poor causing many detainees to be undernourished.
In 2015, Florissant collected $2.3 mill in court fines and issued 28,000 arrest warrants. Warrants can be issued for those who are unable to pay fines or miss court dates. If picked up on an arrest warrant, individuals can stay in jail until they pay a “bond.”
Florissant is a suburb in North St. Louis County.