America’s criminal justice system does not merely fail the poor – it actively targets them. Poor people, particularly people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested and incarcerated for minor offenses.
Once snared within the criminal justice system, they face continual and unrelenting barriers to freedom. Those who cannot afford bail or are too poor to pay court-ordered fines and fees often find themselves behind bars, separated from jobs, family and communities.
We oppose the criminalization of poverty by representing those directly affected by discriminatory practices and through litigation demanding accountability and reform.
Cash Bond Class Action (Robinson v. Martin) That Led to Widespread Changes in Cook County Bond Court Dismissed on Legal Technicalities
Class Action Lawsuit (Nelson v. Constant) Against Gretna, Louisiana for Using “Mayor’s Court” as Modern Day Debtor’s Prison to Balance Books
Federal class action (Caliste v. Cantrell) against Orleans Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell for using pre-determined cash bail to bolster Court’s budget
Little v. Frederick
Lafayette Parish, Louisiana is operating a wealth-based detention scheme by relying on pre-determined cash bail amounts without giving any consideration to what any individual can afford to pay or to alternative, non-financial conditions of release. The MacArthur Justice Center, Civil Rights Corps, and William P. Quigley, a veteran litigator and professor at Loyola University New...
Brown v. Corinth
The MacArthur Justice Center, in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), filed a federal class action lawsuit targeting the City of Corinth, Mississippi for operating a modern-day debtors’ prison, unlawfully jailing poor people for their inability to pay bail and fines. As a result of the settlement, the City will ensure that defendants arrested without a warrant see a judge within 48 hours, will stop jailing defendants who cannot afford to pay a fine or money bail, will release most people on their own recognizance following arrest, and will allow defendants who are unable to pay their fine in full to choose between a $25 monthly payment plan and community service.
In the news
The judge whose bail requirements leave cash-strapped defendants in jailThe Guardian February 3, 2020
Civil rights lawyers in federal bail suit ask judge to hold New Orleans Magistrate Harry Cantrell in contempt of courtJanuary 22, 2020
FEDERAL JUDGE: One Louisiana Magistrate can’t jail people just because they can’t afford bailKTVE June 14, 2019
Federal Judge Enters Consent Judgment Prohibiting New Orleans Magistrate from Jailing People Simply Because They Can’t Pay BailPress Release