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.

UMSL students with professor Kristen Wagner surveying citizens at municipal courts.

UMSL students with professor Kristen Wagner surveying citizens at municipal courts.

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.

What’s next?

We are further developing prototypes built at GlobalHack V for piloting with St. Louis County.

We are recruiting citizens for our CivX user testing group.

We will be tracking progress on this and other projects on our blog. We want to showcase perspectives from across the St. Louis community, so please reach out if you’d like to contribute!

A sketched stakeholder map around our project.

A sketched stakeholder map.

Get involved

The Collaborative will be continually working on solutions and is open to whomever wants to contribute. The best way to stay up to date is to follow our blog and Twitter. To volunteer and collaborate, please email us at civtechstl@gmail.com.