The settlement was announced in April of 2023, seven years after the filing of the lawsuit in 2016. The suit stated that at least 7,000 people were trapped in a debtors' prison cage. For even the smallest infractions, residents were forced to pay up or go to jail.
The economics of debtors prisons explain why these wrongful imprisonments occurred. The city gains revenue from court fees and when someone can’t pay them, it uses the debtors system as a way to extract money from prisoners.
Never has the divide been more obvious between the rich and the poor when it comes to criminalization. This country presents itself as a place of laws when it truly only applies when someone is poor.
Now Maplewood, St Louis will pay back those it jailed and over 20,000 people who paid their city fees and fines between 2011 and 2021. But after years of imprisoning poor people whose lives were shaken by being thrown in this system, is the money enough?
The system profits directly from us being policed and imprisoning our bodies. We have to hold the system accountable for using us for profit, just like the residents of Maplewood did through this lawsuit, and force the system to pay for their crimes.