Most people believe the concept of “Debtors’ Prison” is an 18th Century relic. Sadly, that belief would be incorrect since it still exists in many modern forms.
In 1846, Dred Scott began his infamous legal battle in what is now called the “Old Courthouse” in downtown St. Louis. Scott had traveled with his master from Missouri to Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory, neither of which recognized slavery. Having lived for an extended period in free territory, Scott argued that state law supported his claim to freedom. But the Missouri Supreme Court disagreed. The court’s message to Scott was clear: Perhaps you can live freely elsewhere, but not here.More than a century and a half later, at least in St. Louis it appears with its current legislation and processing of certain individuals to be a region that continues to distinguish itself as one that is hostile to its poor African-American residents.