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Critics are calling the practice the new “debtors’ prison” — referring to the jails that flourished in the U.S. and Western Europe over 150 years ago. Before the time of bankruptcy laws and social safety nets, poor folks and ruined business owners were locked up until their debts were paid off.
Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it’s been reborn in local courts which may not be aware it’s against the law to send indigent people to jail over unpaid fines and fees — or they just haven’t been called on it until now.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law released a “Tool Kit for Action” in 2012 that broke down the cost to municipalities to jail debtors in comparison with the amount of old debt it was collecting. It doesn’t look like a bargain. For example, according to the report, Mecklenburg County, N.C., collected $33,476 in debts in 2009, but spent $40,000 jailing 246 debtors — a loss of $6,524.
The ACLU found that seven out of 11 counties they studied were operating de facto debtors’ prisons, despite clear “constitutional and legislative prohibitions.” Some were worse than others. In the second half of 2012 in Huron County, 20 percent of arrests were for failure to pay fines. The Sandusky Municipal Court in Erie County jailed 75 people in a little more than a month during the summer of 2012. The ACLU says it costs upwards of $400 in Ohio to execute a warrant and $65 a night to jail people.
This sounds like it could be very beneficial to the homeless in our country! Minor offense, unpaid fine = 3 squares, warm shelter and a hot shower...plus indoor plumbing!
Guess we need to build more prisons now......
This crap started in that wonderful police state we call Florida, and because it was successful here other states pick up on it.
Debtors Prison Again
The problem is that Florida makes about $30 million a year in fines, restitution, and the like, so they were not going to allow anyone to get away without paying. The problem of course is that when you start policing for profit, you have a vested interest in making criminals out of all your citizens.
And THAT, dear friends, is NOT justice.
Jail time for being broke is no way to help people get back on their feet after a run-in with the legal system. Judges should be exercising the option in state law that allows them to convert court-ordered obligations into community service. But with the Florida Legislature looking for revenue to fund the courts and other state services, judges are under pressure to wring every available penny out of those who owe.
And it cost nearly the same amount collected, so in the end, it does nothing for the state coffers to put people in jail, except cause much more hardships on families who are already struggling to survive.
While that's true the idea here was to establish case law in support of this, then when you go after the majority of people who do have the assets, they will be afraid to not pay. Again the whole thing here is police for profit as we do not have state or city taxes.