Lawsuit tackles bond and jailing policies in City of St. Ann

A local legal defense organization has sued the City of St. Ann for jailing poor defendants because they cannot pay their bond.

The lawsuit, brought by ArchCity Defenders and Washington-based Equal Justice Under Law, was filed this week in federal court and seeks class action status.

If defendants cannot pay bond amounts ranging between $150 to $350, they have to spend several days in jail, the suit alleges. It further states that St. Ann does not release people on their own recognizance or with an unsecured bond – an allegation the city has denied.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kellen Powell. Powell was arrested in St. Ann after being pulled over for allegedly failing to display a license plate and driving with a suspended license. The suit states that Powell was told to pay $300 to be released or he would have to stay a week in jail. At the time, Powell was working a job that paid him very little.

As of September 2014, St. Ann had more than 14,000 outstanding warrants, yet its population is only 13,000 residents. The city had filed over 28,000 ordinance violations in 2013.

ArchCity Defenders recently filed a similar suit in nearby Velda City, and federal lawsuits in Ferguson and Jennings alleging that they were run like debtors prisons. Several other suits have been filed against nine other St. Louis County municipals.

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