Federal and local jail records show the City of Dothan has started using the signature bond system more extensively as a method for inmates to post their bail to be released from jail.
The City of Dothan recently made changes to how inmates at the city jail can be released after the filing of a class action lawsuit against the city, which included adding the use of a signature bond.
The class action lawsuit was recently filed by Anthony Cooper and his two lawyers in connection to how the city’s bail bond system had been set up for people charged with misdemeanors and traffic offenses and booked into the city jail. Records show Cooper challenged the use of fixed secured bail amounts used to detain the poor on minor misdemeanor offenses.
The lawsuit was filed by Cooper’s two lawyers, Mitch McGuire, of Montgomery, and Alec Karakatsanis, the co-founder of the Washington D.C. group Equal Justice Under Law.
McGuire said he has learned as many as 74 people have been released on a signature bond from the Dothan City Jail in the last week as a result of the filing of the class action lawsuit.
Federal court records show a filing made by Dothan City Attorney Len White claimed the city believed the lawsuit was due to be dismissed or moot because the issues had either already been addressed or were addressed with the recent changes that were made.
U.S. Judge Keith Watkins issued an order late last week which said the policies and procedures implemented by the Dothan Municipal Court, if followed by the city, satisfy the concerns raised by Cooper and his lawyers.
However, the order also noted the parties involved have not yet reached a settlement in the lawsuit and the court set another hearing to review the case on July 24. The court ordered the City of Dothan to continue to follow the new procedures it started until a settlement or final order of the court.
McGuire said they plan to ask that the City of Dothan remain under federal jurisdiction in regard to its procedures at the city jail for a number of years, leaving it subject to federal review.
According to the City of Dothan’s response to the lawsuit, the city recently made several changes in how people can be released from the city jail.
The Dothan Municipal Court began holding hearings within 48 hours for anyone who had not taken advantage of the three bail options, which included property bond, bail bonding (through a company) or a cash bond.
The Dothan municipal judge also issued a standing order allowing additional options of release for people jailed on a failure to appear in court charge. People jailed on a failure to appear can now post bail through a property bond and bail bond (company), along with the previously required cash bond.