We’re fighting a racist, predatory system; and we’re winning: a look at the numbersCash bail in St. Louis is unconstitutional
Did you know St. Louis jails Black people eight times more than white people in a city that is only 47 percent Black? The average bail is $25,000 in a city where the median income is $25,000. People in the medium security Workhouse jail, who have not been convicted of a crime and are presumptively innocent, sit for an average of 291 days before their case is resolved, mostly because they cannot afford their bail.
But this is changing, with your support!
Advancement Project National Office is proud to fight alongside organizers from the Close the Workhouse campaign against a horribly racist and predatory legal system that obviously doesn’t care about poor people and Black people. This campaign seeks to end wealth-based pretrial detention, close a notoriously inhumane local jail, and reinvest those funds in the communities most impacted by mass incarceration.
In January 2019, we, along with co-counsel from ArchCity Defenders, Civil Rights Corps, and Georgetown Law, sued the City of St. Louis. And the warden. Also the sheriff. And the judges, too. We sued on the grounds that these players practiced an unconstitutional use of unaffordable cash bail in St. Louis.
This month, the federal court issued its order on our motion for preliminary injunction, telling the warden he could no longer hold people on detention orders that didn’t meet the constitution. St. Louis court officials, feeling the heat from the litigation and the campaign, held a massive number of hearings – hearings they should have held months ago but did not until the court forced their hand. Take a look to see how things have changed.
Though we haven’t yet closed the jail, we continue to work with the Close the Workhouse campaign and are making impactful strides with our litigation. Our lawsuit against the City of St. Louis has had a genuine, material impact on people’s lives. People are going home. They are being reunited with their families, getting back to work, and trying to find housing and support. Most importantly, they are free. After being caged for months in horrible conditions because of their poverty, they are getting back a sense of dignity and freedom.
In Advancement Project’s true spirit of movement lawyering, movement building and true grassroots partners, our Justice Project team members have been in the trenches supporting the campaign for the month of June alongside the Close the Workhouse team. We knocked on doors to get out the word about the campaign. We trained residents on court watching to hold the judges accountable. We helped develop campaign strategy and leveraged volunteers to support people being released from jail. We coordinated a press conference featuring Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s who, on the steps of St. Louis’s City Hall called on white people to join the fight. We worked with Ben & Jerry’s CEO to publish his op-ed which called for the Workhouse to be closed. We helped shape Ben & Jerry’s full-page ad in the City’s major newspaper and Black publication to alert residents on the need to Close the Workhouse.
Though there’s more work to be done, we are ecstatic to continue to provide support and resources to our partners to make a strong impact with grassroots campaigns like this around the country in the name of racial justice. With your support, we can continue this work. Not only can we reimagine justice – we can make racial justice a reality.