Lawsuit against El Paso County for mother jailed for nearly a month for not paying $55 fee

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A woman is suing El Paso County after she sat in jail for nearly a month because she couldn't pay a $55 fee.

El Paso County Jail

Jasmine Still, 26, was arrested in January 2017 on a drug charge. Arrest papers say Still's mother reported her to police after she was found with a 0.3-gram bag of methamphetamine.

In court, a judge said told the young mother she could get out of jail without paying a bond as long as she promised to show up in court. Still had a personal recognizance bond, meaning the person does not have to pay as long as they show up to their court date. Instead, she was jailed for 27 days for her Pretrial Services fee.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) is now involved in a lawsuit on her behalf. They say she ended up pleading guilty just to avoid a trial so she could finally be released.

“Every day I was in jail, I thought there had to have been some kind of mistake. I didn’t think you could jail someone just because they were poor,” said Still in a release by the ACLU. “I am fighting back not just for me, but for all of the other people who El Paso County has kept in jail because they couldn’t scrape together $55.”

"The county says that it costs $88 a day to house a prisoner, so that's $88 a day simply because the jail won't waive the $55 fee," said Colorado ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein. "We believe that there could be as many as 300 defendants who have had to spend the time in that jail only because they lack $55."

The ACLU says with those amounts, it costs taxpayers more than $266,000, versus a cost of $16,000 to let the defendants go free.

The county says they can't comment on this case because of the lawsuit, but they do tell us they are working on improving its Pretrial Service Program.

"Pretrial Services is a way to get people out of jail who are waiting for trial, and it's a way to lessen the impact on the accused and also reduce the cost of overcrowding and reduce the cost of operating the El Paso County Jail," said El Paso County public information officer Dave Rose.

The county is hoping to expand the program, pending approval by the El Paso County commissioners. If approved, the county hopes to increase the staff for the program from two people to eight, serving thousands more in the process.

"We recognize that there's an opportunity to do better with this program and certainly there are a lot of folks working right now to try to do so," Rose said.

The ACLU says they may add additional plaintiffs. If anyone believes they are a victim of a similar case as Still, call the ACLU at 303-777-5482.

To view the ACLU's lawsuit, click here.