A year after Michael Brown‘s death in Ferguson, Missouri exposed systemic inequalities in the community’s criminal justice system, officials are in the midst of talks to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit charging unchecked constitutional abuses.
The Huffington Postreports a court filing on Monday showed that lawyers for the city and civil rights attorneys, who represent poor defendants held in Ferguson’s jail, have “been engaged in meaningful settlement discussions.”
The lawsuit was filed in February by ArchCity Defenders, as well as nonprofit Equal Justice Under Law and the Saint Louis University School of Law, on behalf of 11 individuals who had been held in Ferguson’s jail, notes the report.
Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, operated a municipal court that regularly violated the rights of black citizens to fill the city’s coffers, according to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The report, released earlier this year, said that many officers and officials “appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominately African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”
The report found that the city, police and court officials have “worked in concert to maximize revenue at every stage of the enforcement process” for several years, and that black citizens were disproportionately ticketed….
Monday’s filing was the first indication that the city of Ferguson had entered into negotiations over the lawsuit, which is separate from the justice department probe. The lawsuit at issue alleged it was the practice of the city to “confine impoverished people who cannot afford their release in grotesque, dangerous, and inhumane conditions.”
Additionally, the suit claims that inmates were “denied toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap” and “subjected to the constant stench of excrement and refuse in their congested cells.”
As of late Monday, a representative with ArchCity Defenders told the HuffPo that both sides had agreed to a deadline extension in the case.