Arch City Defenders
report on St. Louis Municipal Courts and their pattern of using traffic fines both as steady cash generators and as gateways for criminalizing the poverty of their citizens
We observed over 60 different courts during our court watching program and obtained sworn statements from clients and individuals we encountered. Three courts, Bel-Ridge, Florissant, and Ferguson, were chronic offenders and serve as prime examples of how these practices violate fundamental rights of the poor, undermine public confidence in the judicial system, and create inefficiencies. [...]
[F]or many of the poorest citizens of the region, the municipal courts and police departments inflict a kind of low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay without a meaningful inquiry into whether an individual has the means to pay. [...]
Another group of defendants waiting outside of a municipal court noted that there were no white individuals waiting with them. In fact, one said, ““You go to all of these damn courts, and there’s no white people,” while another defendant even ticked off specific municipalities that he thinks engage in racial profiling. He said, “In Dellwood, Ferguson, basically in North County, if you’re black, they’re going to stop you.”
In addition to dramatic differences between the rate of traffic stops and subsequent arrests for black and white residents, the report outlines illegal steps taken by the courts, such as barring public entry, and notes a recurring theme of violators not being properly informed of their right to an attorney.
Defendants are also sentenced to probation and to the payment of unreasonable fines without a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of defendant’s right to counsel. Despite their poverty, defendants are frequently ordered to pay fines that are frequently triple their monthly income.
According to the report, Ferguson makes 2.6 million dollars a year from court fees. In 2013, the court "disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.
There's your smoking gun. If it seems the town of Ferguson sees protesters as something less than human and more like cattle that have escaped their pen, it may be because the town has been "farming" their mostly-black population as a vital source of revenue for a good long time. In Ferguson, a ticket for jaywalking can be the gateway to repeated jail stays, homelessness, and a lifetime of poverty.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003—What "compassion" means to Bush:
|Hey everyone, check out Bush's definition of "compassion".
Apparently, it means talking to black people.
(Thanks to reader K.Y. for catching this "disturbing trend".)
Update: From Lis in the message boards:
Looking at further photo albums on the site makes it more clear how anomalous the Compassion section is.
But the only non-whites in 15 Homeland Security images and 16 National Security are Powell and Rice, and I think there's one African American park ranger off to the side in one photo of the 16 on the Environment.
In contrast, of 20 photos illustrating Compassion, 17 prominently show non-Caucasians; the other three are solo photos of Bush, but two of those are before the National Urban League and in front a map of Africa.
And RonK emailed to remind that Slate's Will Saletan noted a short while back that when Duhbya calls somebody "gifted", "He doesn't mean exceptional. He means ethnic."
Saletan provides chapter and verse re blacks, Iraqis, Palestinians, Hispanics, Chinese, Russians, Irish, Cubans, and South Koreans.
Tweet of the Day
On today's Kagro in the Morning show
: Ferguson, day 12, gives us cause to compare the treatment open carry protesters get from cops. Is it the cameras? Because they don't solve everything. Top MO Republican finds Ferguson voter registration drive "disgusting." Would it be out of bounds to say so if there were a clear & definitive constitutional right to vote? Breitbart
says the famous photo of a protester throwing back a canister of tear gas is their evidence of "Molotov cocktails." Google data finds two different Americas, and so did The Upshot
. The click-bait headline everyone's talking about: "I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me." Another new gun violence study.
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