Jenkins v. City of Jennings

Eight Plaintiffs filed suit against the City of Jennings. The complaint alleged that impoverished city residents were jailed solely because of their inability to pay court fines and fees from traffic and other municipal violations. No meaningful inquiry was made of their ability to pay, and the City officials arbitrarily decided how much a particular debtor should pay before being released. The City never provided attorneys for the plaintiffs, who were indigent. The plaintiffs alleged that they were taunted daily by jail guards, were forced to clean the jail without monetary compensation to get extra food, and that the cells were filthy and overcrowded. Despite passing all the relevant exams, one plaintiff is unable to join the Navy because of her outstanding fines and fees.

Settlement: December 2016
  • Class defined as people incarcerated for nonpayment of fines and fees from 2/8/10 – 9/16/15.
  • Settlement Fund: $4,750,000.00.
  • $10,000 to each class representative.
  • Per Diem damage award for each day spent in the Jennings Jail for class members: $416.61.
  • Class members court fines and fees forgiven.

You can find a detailed summary and case documents via the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse.

Related: Watch an Aeon documentary that shares the perspective of plaintiffs in this suit.

42 USC § 1983, alleging due process and equal protection violations, Sixth Amendment (alleging right to counsel and inadequate waiver of the right to counsel) and Eighth Amendment (alleging cruel and inhumane punishment)
4:15-cv-252 (E.D. Mo.)
February 2015
ArchCity Defenders, Civil Rights Corps, Equal Justice Under Law