What does Pro Se mean?
Pro Se is is rooted in Latin, and means "for oneself" or "on behalf of oneself." In this case, it means to advocate for ones self in a legal context.
What is a pro se guide?
A Pro Se Guide gives people the basic tools to defend and advocate for themselves throughout various interactions with police, courts, and jails within the criminal legal system.
This Pro Se STL Guide is designed to support ongoing efforts to end systemic oppression of poor people and people of color.
Why do we need a Pro Se Guide?
People who are most likely to be targeted by police, courts & jails have the least resources to defend and advocate for themselves.
Individuals arrested and ticketed by the police for low-level crimes often never have an opportunity to see a lawyer. Over 90% of people in municipal court are forced to appear and defend themselves with limited resources. This leads to people pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit, agreeing to pay fines and fees they cannot afford, and often ending up in jail.
Historically, municipalities in St. Louis have generated millions of dollars through racial profiling, revenue based policing, and excessive court fines and fees. These practices are exacerbated by the fact that the vast majority of people impacted by these unjust systems are unrepresented and do not know their right or how to navigate the criminal legal system. As a result, thousands of people have lost jobs, vehicles, time with their family, spent nights in jail and fallen into deeper poverty.
Bottom Line: Whether someone is in court because of a municipal, civil, or criminal legal issue, there is a lack of adequate, affordable legal representation is available. Increasing access to accessible legal education can help empower our communities in their interactions with the police, in jail, and in municipal court, and play a role in undoing unjust practices in the policing and criminal legal system.