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Middle School Students Learn About Civil Forfeiture

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Students attend a special talk on social justice and abuse of property seizures by law enforcement

About 40 Brittany Woods Middle School students interested in social justice attended a special talk Wednesday, April 15, 2019, with William Frievogel, a lawyer, journalist and journalism professor at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale who worked for more than 30 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Frievogel forfeiture 041719 NC  Frievogel talked to the students about civil forfeiture – how many millions of dollars in cash and property, including vehicles and houses, are taken and kept each year by law enforcement from people accused of being involved in a crime. Oftentimes, the value of the forfeiture far exceeds the legal fines for breaking the law, Frievogel said.

Other times, people stopped by police are never convicted of a crime, yet they do not get their seized possessions returned, including their vehicles, the contents of their cars and cash found on them during the search and seizure.

The students asked many relevant questions and also impressed Frievogel with their understanding of the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the constitution.

Frievogel and a colleague recently completed the reporting project, “Taken: How the Police Profit from Seized Property,” which was funded by the national Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

His visit to Brittany Woods was arranged through the school’s partnership with Civitas-STL, an organization that strives to build teen activism and leadership. Frievogel visited about 10 high schools for his project. Brittany Woods was the only middle school he visited.