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Money Bail System

Settlement Ends Mississippi City’s Jailing of Impoverished People Awaiting Court Appearances for Misdemeanor Charges

Jurisdictions Using Same Practices Have Opportunity To Change Or Face Similar Legal Challenges

Moss Point, a small city in Jackson County, Mississippi, has agreed to stop the practice of jailing impoverished people for up to a week while they wait to appear in court on misdemeanor cases.

The federal civil rights lawsuit challenged Moss Point’s use of money bail without any individualized assessment of a defendant’s ability to pay or the reasons for detaining or releasing the defendant. Under the challenged system, two defendants charged with the same alleged offense were treated differently based only on their wealth: those who could afford to pay a predetermined amount of money were released from jail with the requirement to appear in court at some later date, while those who were too poor to pay remained imprisoned at the City’s expense.

The lawsuit alleged that this practice resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of indigent defendants for up to a week while they waited to see a judge in misdemeanor cases such as disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

Several cities in Mississippi use similar money bail systems, and could face similar class action lawsuits.

News release HERE »

Thompson v. Moss Point complaint HERE »

Moss Point declaratory judgment HERE »

Moss Point final judgment HERE »

Updated 11/16/15