El Paso County passes settlement to compensate citizens held in jail for not paying small fees

Published: Aug. 14, 2018 at 10:34 AM MDT
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El Paso County commissioners formally approved a settlement to compensate 184 people held in the El Paso County jail because they couldn't pay a small fee.

Among those to be compensated is 26-year-old Jasmine Still, who as 11 News previously reported was

because she could not pay a $55 fee, and ended up pleading guilty to drug charges just to avoid a trial so she could finally be released.

I am grateful that this case is finally over and that I can tell my children that I was part of something bigger than just me -- that I stood up with the ACLU to fight for the rights of 183 other people,” Still said in a news release from the ACLU. “El Paso County did something I didn’t expect -- they stepped up to make this right. I hope this case will make other places think twice before they lock people up just because they can’t pay.”

According to the ACLU, the settlement will reimburse $60,000 for Still’s damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as compensate the others based on a rate of $125 per day of incarceration. The county's attorney, however, said it wasn't a done deal for the other 183; they would have to apply for compensation on an individual basis.

"From the county's point of view, this is a good settlement. It avoids future litigation. It avoids a whole lot more in attorneys' fees. And I am pleased the board approved this," attorney Lisa Kirkman said.

“This lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg,” said ACLU of Colorado staff attorney Rebecca Wallace. “Across Colorado, every day, thousands of individuals are incarcerated pretrial only because they can’t pay a money bond set by the court. In this irrational system, people with money to pay their bail go free, keep their jobs, and prepare their defense -- regardless of the crime they’ve been charged with or their likelihood of fleeing prosecution. Those without money, on the other hand, languish in jail, often losing their jobs, their homes or custody of their children. Many, like Jasmine Still, feel forced to plead guilty just to get out of jail. This modern-day debtors’ prison in Colorado’s overcrowded jails is cruel and costly. It must end.”

Our reporter at the Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday says the settlement passed quickly with no objection.