“Witnessing a Fundamental Breach” – Testimony in Missouri
You got 20 minutes? Have you been wondering what this Ferguson thing is all about? Do yourself a favor and watch this video of three fine warriors and public defenders appear in front of of legislators and argue for justice for poor people.
You can find it at this link.
While it's a bit grainy, what you will see is NAPD Steering Committee member and St. Louis University Law Professor Steve Hanlon say that "I have never seen a court system that so systematically preys on poor people as the municipal court system in much of St. Louis County…Not in Alabama, not in Louisiana, not in Mississippi…" Later he said that "what we are witnessing is a fundamental breach in the very fabric of our society."
Watch more and you'll hear Thomas Harvey, Director of ArchCity Defenders, say that the municipal court system is "destroying our clients' lives," and that "our clients believe that they are being arrested because they are black." He tells the Senators that his clients are being thrown into jail for offenses such as "turning right on red," and then being unable to pay a fine. Those jails he describes as: "filthy, with feces on the floor, undrinkable water, no showers…" One client who had been ensnared in the system was jailed for failing to pay a fine and "by the time we got her out" she had lost her housing, missed a job interview, and her children were missing school.
And watch the end and hear Professor Brendan Roediger, St. Louis University Professor, describe a courtroom he visited where 30-40 black defendants were at the confinement docket, where the judge mocked them by saying, "what's the matter, nobody loves you" enough to pay $200? He described 453,000 outstanding warrants in St. Louis County–more than in all of Cook County, Illinois.
So do yourselves a favor. Watch three champions of justice argue for justice for our clients.