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Minor Legal Issues Pose Major Barriers For Poor, Homeless

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - A group of St. Louis attorneys says the old adage “do the crime, do the time” doesn’t always make sense.

The group is called Arch City Defenders and it was formed four years ago to help people with minor legal issues which become huge barriers.

“They begin to get some stability in their lives but they find a legal issue from the past or a current legal issue prevents them from getting into housing or job training,” Executive Director Thomas Harvey explains.

Harvey says most often the barriers are caused by outstanding warrants and fines for misdemeanor traffic violations. He has seen minimum wage breadwinners lose their jobs because they were put in jail for failure to appear in court or pay a fine.

“What ends up happening is they sit in jail. They sit in jail sometimes for months on end,” he explained.

Arch City Defenders works with social service agencies to show the court an individual is trying to get back on their feet. The group’s services are free and are funded through the City of St. Louis and private social service agencies.

“If you are poor, you are at the mercy of the court,” Harvey added.

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