NCLEJ Fights Peonage and Debtors’ Prisons in Montgomery, Alabama

NCLEJ represents seven Black residents of Montgomery, AL who filed a class action lawsuit against the City and Judicial Correction Services, Inc. (JCS) to challenge an unlawful peonage and debtor’s prison scheme. Under this system, the City forced people who couldn’t afford to pay traffic tickets onto “probation” with JCS, a for-profit corporation. JCS provided no services but charged predatory monthly probation fees, impeding people’s already-limited ability to pay off their fines and court costs. When people ran out of money to pay their fees, JCS had them arrested and brought to City Court, where the judges jailed them–without consideration of their inability to pay—to “sit out” their debts at the rate of $25 or $50 per day. Once jailed, our clients—and thousands of other low-income people of color jailed under similar circumstances—performed unpaid labor to work off their debts and get out of jail sooner. Some of our clients spent weeks or months in jail for unpaid tickets. They could not care for their dependent children and loved ones, and they lost jobs and educational opportunities.

Our plaintiffs and thousands of other individuals harmed by Montgomery’s debt collection system seek redress for the City’s and JCS’s wrongful practices and to ensure that the City of Montgomery meets the mandate of the Thirteenth Amendment and the anti-peonage laws passed in its wake to end all forms of indentured servitude in the United States.

NCLEJ brings this action with our co-counsel Martha Morgan, Chestnut Sanders & Sanders, and Dentons. 

The case has received news coverage here.