The municipal court judge in Ferguson, Mo. ordered the withdrawal of all arrest warrants issued before December 31, 2014, CNN reports.
Judge Donald McCullin announced the drastic court system changes Monday, which included a change in conditions for pretrial release and defendant penalties. Defendants will now be given a new court date and face payment plans or community service instead of jail time, CNN writes.
The changes come a year after the death of Michael Brown Jr. — the unarmed 18-year-old fatally shot by former Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson — and year-long protests that often ended in arrests. A Justice Department report released earlier this year revealed the city disproportionately doled out tickets and arrest warrants for minor offenses in an effort by the courts to collect fines for city revenue. But despite the damning report and a list of recommendations, a CNNMoney analysis confirmed the city was still issuing thousands of arrest warrants for minor offenses.
McCullin’s move is being touted as an attempt to remedy that issue.
Those caught for minor traffic violations should be less likely to end up behind bars because of McCullin. Under the new policy, they won’t be arrested but instead will be released on their own recognizance and given another court date.
One woman active in the protest movement said she thinks Monday’s actions by McCullin show the demonstrations made a difference. “As an activist you are going to stay mad because you are not going to always get all that you want,” said Patricia Bynes, the Ferguson Township Democratic committeewoman. “But because of the pushing and the pressure that protesters put on Ferguson, I am considering it a win and a very big win. It’s an olive branch.”
The withdrawal will certainly wipe the slate clean for many minorities targeted with fines, many of whom cannot pay, but not all are convinced the order is enough to rectify the deep-rooted issues of biased policing and criminal justice practices that for so long have affected minorities in Ferguson.
Arch City Defenders, a nonprofit legal aid group that has sued Ferguson over its ticketing practices, doesn’t think the judge went far enough.
“There are real questions about the legitimacy of the stops in the first place brought up by the DOJ and Arch City Defenders as well,” Arch City Executive Director Thomas Harvey said. “If they want to do something in the interest of community healing they should just get rid of those cases. Blank slate. Start over. And move on.”
The city has pumped out more than 2,300 arrest warrants in 2015 alone.
SOURCE: CNN | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: NDN
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