The system weighs most heavily on the poor, who are less likely to have legal representation. Those without attorneys are more likely to be swept into the cycle of accumulating fines and arrest warrants. And of course, those fines and court costs amount to a much higher proportion of a poor person’s income. Compounding all of this, most municipalities in the county derive most of their revenue from a sales tax. Poorer towns are less likely to generate revenue from a sales tax. That makes them more reliant on the municipal courts for revenue.
Now the nonprofit organization Better Together has put out a report offering a lot more detail on all of this. As the name suggests, Better Together advocates merging the city of St. Louis with St. Louis County, or at least merging many of the services between the two entities. In the past the group has been more about producing data and research than advocating explicit policies, although this report does more of the latter. The group’s data and work also suggest support for the idea of merging or eliminating a good number of St. Louis County’s tiny towns.
The report begins with an overview of the problem: