Jennings sees changes after court debt lawsuit settlement

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JENNINGS, Mo. (AP) _ The city of Jennings is making changes to its municipal courts to keep people out of jail for court debts stemming from minor infractions.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( ) reports that the city agreed this year to pay $4.7 million in a class-action civil rights lawsuit filed by nonprofit law group ArchCity Defenders.

The city is now sending cases with uncollected court debt to collection agencies, rather than arresting people.

People whose original infractions were traffic tickets or ordinance violations were being held in custody due to their inability to pay court-related fines and fees. Critics said the court system criminalized poverty.