The U.S. Justice Department is “seriously examining” allegations that Ferguson, Mo.’s enforcement of minor offenses discriminated against minorities and often led to jail times and fines that lined the city's coffers, Politico reports. Department lawyers handling the ongoing investigation have repeatedly met with lawyers for a St. Louis non-profit that filed a federal lawsuit last week alleging that Ferguson and its neighbor, Jennings, were running what amounted to modern-day debtors' prisons.
The organization, Arch City Defenders, has been investigating allegations that Ferguson engaged in a pattern of discrimination and encouraged its police department to target low-income residents and jail those who could not pay the fines. Thomas Harvey, executive director of Arch City Defenders, said he and his colleagues have consulted Justice Department lawyers and that he met one-on-one with Christy Lopez, the deputy chief of the department's Civil Rights Special Litigation Section. Attorney General Eric Holder expects the investigation to wrap up by the time he leaves office, likely within the next few weeks.