OPELIKA, Ala. — The Latest on a lawsuit alleges Alabama county has debtors’ prison (all times local):
A federal judge has ordered the release of a woman jailed in Alabama because she couldn’t afford to pay bail.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says U.S. District Chief Judge W. Keith Watkins granted their request for a temporary restraining order that immediately freed 29-year-old Kandace Edwards, of Roanoke, Alabama.
Edwards is the named plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday by the SPLC and other civil rights groups accusing Randolph County’s judges, sheriff and circuit clerk of violating the constitutional rights of people charged with misdemeanors and felonies by jailing them if they can’t afford to pay bail.
Edwards was arrested Wednesday for forging a $75 check and jailed because she couldn’t afford to pay $7,500 in bail. She was released late Thursday.
An Alabama county’s judges, sheriff and circuit clerk have been sued for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of people charged with misdemeanors and felonies by jailing them if they can’t afford to pay bail.
The lawsuit notes that those who face the same charges but can afford the bail amounts are freed until trial.
The federal class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Opelika, Alabama, by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama and the Civil Rights Corps. The defendants are Randolph County Sheriff David Cofield, Circuit Clerk Christopher May, Jill Puckett, magistrate of the county’s district court and District Court Judge Clay Tinney.
A telephone message seeking comment from the county commission’s office was not immediately returned.