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Traffic violators are being held in grotesque conditions in de facto Missouri debtors’ prison

The city of Florissant, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, is being sued by five named plaintiffs and others who have been targeted by the city’s de facto debtors’ prison system. Those targeted most often tended to be black and poor, and are arrested using trivial municipal codes and petty justifications.

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2008 - Brian Sterner broke his neck almost 14 years ago and is a quadriplegic. Sterner, who can drive, was arrested on a traffic violation. When he was booked into the Orient Road Jail last month, Sterner couldn’t believe what happened.

He says a deputy looked at him and didn’t believe he was a quadriplegic. She walked behind him, took the handles on the back of the hospital-grade wheel chair and dumped it forward.

Sterner says he tried to roll as he was going down, but hit so hard he thought he had broken two ribs. Then, while he was on the floor, deputies frisked him and tried to get him back into the chair.

Sterner says it’s incredibly degrading and it’s an example of how poorly trained the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office is. He adds, if they’re trying to figure out if somebody needs to be in a wheelchair or not, there are many other ways to do it than to dump somebody on their face. [video]