Ferguson, Missouri, Agrees To Pay $4.5 Million To Settle 'dEbtors' Prison' Lawsuit

FILE - Protesters march in the street as lightning flashes in the distance in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 20, 2014, following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen, in the St. Louis suburb on Aug. 9. A legal nonprofit announced Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 that Ferguson has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a so-called debtors' prison lawsuit that accused the city of making money for its coffers over fines and court costs. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
FILE - Protesters march in the street as lightning flashes in the distance in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 20, 2014, following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen, in the St. Louis suburb on Aug. 9. A legal nonprofit announced Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 that Ferguson has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a so-called debtors' prison lawsuit that accused the city of making money for its coffers over fines and court costs. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that accused it of operating a so-called debtors' prison.

The legal nonprofit ArchCity Defenders announced the settlement Tuesday with the city of Ferguson, Missouri. The preliminary agreement calls for the money to be paid out to more than 15,000 people who were jailed between Feb. 8, 2010, and Dec. 30, 2022, for failing to pay fines, fees and other court costs.

Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014, during a street confrontation. Wilson was not charged, but the shooting led to months of protests and prompted a Department of Justice investigation.

The Justice Department in 2015 accused Ferguson of racially biased policing and using excessive fines and court fees. A year later, Ferguson and the agency reached an agreement that required sweeping reforms.

Meanwhile, lawsuits were filed against Ferguson and several other St. Louis County cities over policing and municipal court practices. ArchCity Defenders said preliminary settlements have been reached in seven class-action cases, with total payouts of nearly $20 million.

The lead plaintiff in the Ferguson lawsuit, Keilee Fant, died before the case was settled, as did another original litigant, Tonya DeBerry.

“The harsh reality is that, oftentimes, those most impacted by injustice do not live long enough to see the seeds of change bloom,” ArcyCity managing attorney Maureen Hanlon said in a news release. “But this settlement would not be possible without them.”

Ferguson admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. Phone and email messages left with the city were not returned.