ArchCity Defenders

ArchCity Defenders (ACD) is a 501(c)3 non-profit civil rights law firm providing holistic legal advocacy and combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color. ACD uses direct services, impact litigation, and policy and media advocacy as its primary tools to promote justice, protect civil and human rights, and bring about systemic change on behalf of the poor and communities of color directly impacted by the abuses of the legal system.

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Address: 1210 Locust Street
St. Louis, MO 63103
Phone Number: 855-724-2489 ext. 1025
Fax: 314-925-1307
ArchCity Defenders was started in 2009 with the goal to break the cycle of "revolving door justice" in the St. Louis metropolitan area. We strive to provide holistic criminal and civil legal services to the homeless and working poor in the St. Louis Region.

Who We Serve:
Whether they come to us personally, are referred to us by one of our community partners, or are identified by our team in the courts, our clients are the often-overlooked individuals in our criminal justice system. Not eligible for the services of other organizations and still unable to afford private counsel, our clients represent the people who commonly fall through the cracks:
Those with mental and physical illness
Veterans who are homeless
Immigrants and Refugees
People with substance abuse disorders
Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
Families facing eviction

ArchCity Defenders fills in this legal services gap by providing free and holistic legal representation to individuals who would otherwise not have access. While, in theory, everyone has the same legal rights, in practice attorneys are required to ensure those rights are administered equally. Gaining an attorney's assistance is frequently not a problem for people with adequate means, but civil rights are often compromised for those without funds. At ArchCity Defenders, we aim to reverse this denial of basic civil rights by offering legal services to those who cannot otherwise afford them.

Justice should not be about if you can pay. In our client's experiences, their poverty and the color of their skin is routinely and inescapably criminalized. As a result, our clients lose their homes, vehicles, jobs, and overall stability. Through our holistic legal advocacy, ArchCity Defenders not only represents someone and advocates with them, we also accompany individuals and families as they rebuild their lives. Finally, we file civil rights lawsuits to challenged the systemic abuses that perpetuate their poverty.
For two decades, Qiana survived the deep poverty caused by the predatory system of revenue based policing, over-ticketing, cash bail, debtors' prisons and excessive fines and fees.

Throughout it all, Qiana's priority has always been her daughter Royal. A couple of years ago, Qiana and Royal lived in their car and parked on the school parking lot just to ensure that Royal's education wasn't interrupted by their homelessness.

In the past few years, through holistic legal advocacy, ArchCity Defenders has worked to resolve Qiana's warrants from traffic tickets, has helped her transition from homeless to housed, and has employed Qiana as a Paralegal and Civil Rights Advocate. In December of 2015, Qiana spoke at the White House about her lifelong experience surviving debtors' prisons, cash bail, and fines and fees.

In 2017, we filed a debtors' prison lawsuit on behalf of Qiana, against the City of Arnold, a majority white city of 20,00 people located in Jefferson County, which is south of St. Louis. Between 2012 to 2014, Arnold's court collected $3,246,681.

On both direct and systemic levels, Qiana's story is one of many which shine a light on the unlawful and predatory practices that have long plagued our region and remind us of the ongoing support required to escape from the type of deep poverty caused by the criminal legal system.