Blake Strode is the Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights law firm in St. Louis, Missouri providing holistic legal advocacy and combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color. Blake is a native of the St. Louis region and joined ArchCity as a Skadden Fellow and Staff Attorney following his graduation from Harvard Law School in 2015. Blake attended the University of Arkansas and majored in International Economics and Spanish. Blake helped to establish the Civil Rights Litigation unit at ArchCity, which has brought challenges to a variety of unlawful and predatory practices including debtors' prisons, police misconduct, and inhumane jail conditions, among others. In the past few years, Blake and his colleagues have filed more than 30 civil rights cases in state and federal court, impacting upwards of 40,000 people in the St. Louis region. Blake also played a significant role in the class-action debtors' prison case against the City of Jennings, Missouri that reached final settlement in December 2016. The landmark case provides a blueprint for permanent legal reform in the region's courts and afforded monetary relief to hundreds of individuals who were jailed because of their inability to pay court debts.
Blake has spoken at conferences and panels throughout the country and recently authored a column in the St. Louis American, entitled “What can we expect from all of this black representation?”, and a column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Jailing people for their poverty is wrong, cruel and illegal.” Blake also co-authored, "Debtors' Prison in 21st-Century America,” which appeared in The Atlantic in February of 2016