US Courts Squeeze Money out of Ferguson Residents by Sending to Jail

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A co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law said the goal of the system is to extort money from people and their families by illegally threatening them with jail and illegally jailing them in order to collect money that was otherwise desperately needed by the families for food, diapers, utilities, and clothes.

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MOSCOW (Sputnik), Daria Chernyshova — In Ferguson, the courts send residents to jail in order to squeeze money out of them and their families, the Equal Justice Under Law public charity told Sputnik news agency Tuesday as 11 residents of Ferguson filed a lawsuit against city officials accusing them of building a "municipal scheme designed to brutalize, to punish, and to profit" from the poorest.

"The goal of the system is to extort money from people and their families by illegally threatening them with jail and illegally jailing them in order to collect money that was otherwise desperately needed by the families for food, diapers, utilities, and clothes," Alec Karakatsanis, a co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law which is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

On top of this mechanism, keeping prisoners in grotesque conditions, extortion and racial profiling play an enormous role in the problem.

"The vast majority of traffic stops, searches, and arrests in every major American city in which we have studied the issue are of people of color," Karakatsanis said, adding that in Ferguson, "blacks are much more likely to be stopped by the police and even more likely than whites to be searched by the police, even though whites are actually more likely to possess illegal contraband when searched."

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According to the charity, the jails stopped seeing "these impoverished people of color as human beings," as while in jail, "anything can be done to a person."

The problem drastically undermines confidence in the law among poor communities.

The mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles III dismissed the lawsuit stating that it "contains allegations that are not based on objective facts."

The Equal Justice Under Law co-founder expressed hope that the lawsuit succeeds and becomes "part of a much larger and broader movement to restore sanity to America's legal system, which has started to put human beings in cages at rates that are unprecedented in the recorded history of the world."

In August, 2014, Ferguson was the focus of global attention when a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed a black teenager, Michael Brown, sparking nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.

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