A debtors’ prison

15 minutes

Court fees and minor fines are leading to debilitating cycles of incarceration in the US

In St Louis County in Missouri – and, indeed, across much of the United States – court fines and fees for minor traffic violations can quickly mount, leading to jail for those unable to pay. This is a crisis hidden in plain sight, with non-white communities disproportionately targeted for police stops. A Debtors’ Prison tells the story of two women, Samantha Jenkins and Meredith Walker, who became plaintiffs in a landmark $4.75 million illegal jailing case. Set in the hometown of Michael Brown, the African-American teenager killed in the notorious 2014 police shooting, this short documentary by Todd Chandler and Brett Story examines the inherent inhumanity of a punitive criminal justice system that places inordinate burdens on the poor.

Directors: Brett Story, Todd Chandler

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on
Human Rights
Speaking on behalf of …

In the tapestry of diverse social groups, the loudest and most extreme get heard. To whom should we actually listen?

Holly Lawford-Smith

Gender & Sexuality
Black. Queer. Born again

Black life is world-making, born of gaps and dislocations, imaginative leavings and returns, generative escapes and arrivals

Ashon Crawley