One of our first projects seeks to make it easier for citizens to navigate the municipal courts systems of the St. Louis region, so that fewer citizens are caught in a fine cycle and unnecessary legal debt.
St. Louis County alone has 90 municipalities and 81 judicial courts. They all speak a different language, adhere to different data standards, and operate with different processes. There are instances of municipalities in St. Louis County earning over 20% of their revenue from citations, which the U.S. Department of Justice have reported do not actually benefit public safety. The same report shows that black citizens are stopped, searched, and ticketed at rates double those for white citizens. Of people arrested on warrants, 96% were black. Upon the latest count (June 30, 2014), there were 453,157 outstanding warrants for citizens’ arrest in St. Louis, largely due to failures to appear in court or inability to pay accrued fines. Because of inefficiencies, confusion, and paper processes, the ultimate consequence is citizens getting further entrenched in debt to the legal system. Because these citations have been shown to over-burden people of color, the problem is one of social justice.
The CTDC is a group of organizations who are committed to equity in the municipal justice system and believe that transparency and user-centric technologies are one piece of a solution.