A mother from Colorado Springs spent 27 days in jail because she couldn’t pay a pretrial court processing fee of $55. According to the Denver Post, she was behind bars despite a judge’s order that she be released. Now, the mother, Jasmine Still, is suing.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver. The lawsuit states that El Paso County spent $2,400 holding Still. The mother is seeking compensatory and consequential damages following her incarceration.
Still was arrested in January after being allegedly caught with 0.3 of a gram of methamphetamine. After her arrest, a judge decided she should be released on her own recognizance, the Denver Post reports. But, she wasn’t.
“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,” Still said in a press release. “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 $55 pre-trial fee has kept others who were ordered to be released on their own recognizance in jail for up to 119 days, the lawsuit alleges. of Colorado attorneys Rebecca Wallace and Mark Silverstein.
“Jailing someone because of their poverty is not only cruel, it is unconstitutional,” Still’s attorney Mark Silverstein stated in a press release. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado said in a statement, according to CBS Denver, “This policy has caused the illegal imprisonment of hundreds of pretrial detainees, who are innocent in the eyes of the law and have only been charged with, not convicted of, a crime.”
Still’s three children were placed in foster care while she was imprisoned, the lawsuit says.
“She decided that, rather than wait in jail while she fought her case, she had no choice but to plead guilty so that she could get out of jail quickly and fight for custody of her children. On Feb. 6, Ms. Still pleaded guilty to felony possession and was promptly released from custody,” the lawsuit states.