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The return of Debtors Prisons to the USA.

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posted on May, 21 2014 @ 01:15 PM
Nearly 200 years ago the US Supreme Court Outlawed debtors prisons in the United States.

And yet since 1970 the very same US Supreme Court has ruled in three separate cases that 'Judges cannot send people to jail based on the fact that they are to poor to pay their court and legal fee's.

The Last case 31 years ago in 1983, Bearden vs. Georgia, involved the revocation of an indigent's probation for his failure to pay a fine and restitution

“Danny Bearden, a young man charged with breaking into a trailer. Bearden was fined several hundred dollars, but then he lost his factory job. He knocked on neighbors' doors asking to mow lawns. When he couldn't pay the rest of his fines, he was sent to jail. In Bearden, the Supreme Court ruled that judges can't send someone to jail simply because they're too poor to pay their court debt, only if the person had the ability to pay but had willfully refused.”

For the last couple of days I've been following a special series of stories from NPR titled “Guilty and Charged!"

“NPR looked at courts around the country and found in the three decades since Bearden, there's been an explosion in the use of fines and fees. Services long considered free now carry a charge, sometimes hundreds of dollars. NPR reviewed the laws in 50 states. Forty-three states now allow people to be charged for their public defender. When someone goes to jail, they can be charged room and board in 41 states.

When they're assigned a probation or parole officer, in 44 states they can be charged for that too. We also found wide variation in how judges determine who's too poor to pay, and so every day, all around the country, poor people go to jail because they can't come up with the money.”

Yet in the thirty one years since Danny Bearden trial the problem has only gotten worse.

In the NPR story they talk about one Stephen Papa. who served in Iraq with the Army National Guard. He returns to his home town in Michigan in 2012 but unable to find a steady work, he becomes homeless, Relying on friends to let him crash on their couches.

Anyway last August he and some friends got drunk. They found their way into an abandoned building where they were instantly arrested.
Stephen would spend 22 days in jail not for what he did, but because he couldn't pay the $50 court fee! You see The judge wanted a first payment on the $2,600 that Papa was charged in restitution, fines and court fees. But he only had $25 dollars in his pocket.

He explained to the judge that he was starting a new job and if the court could only wait a couple of weeks until he received his first check he could make good on those payments. Naturally the judge said no he wanted the money right now! Papa went on to explain that if he went to jail he might not get this new job at all! To which this judge say's Papa is still going to jail and if he cannot find and keep a steady job then Papa will go right back to jail!

If you go the NPR website you can listen to a recording of what was said between Papa and that judge.
NPR website

Then there is the case of Kyle Dewitt, also from Michigan, went to jail after he failed to pay his fines from catching a fish out of season. After paying $175 to a bail bondsman he then learns that he still owed $200 in fines. You guessed it, he didn't have it and spent three days in jail for not having cash on hand right then and there!

Also I've included their State by State comparison of fees and fines

just in case you or I ever get busted for something then we'll have a heads up for what they might make us pay for.

edit on 21-5-2014 by HardCorps because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 01:35 PM
In a companion piece
Big Fines for the Big Easy's Poorest

NPR does another take on the same story

We've been learning about the growing practice of charging criminal defendants fees to fund the justice system. An NPR investigation finds defendants and offenders are charged fees at every step of the system, from the courtroom to jail, even probation. Some say this practice violates the constitutional rights of the poor.

In the next part of the series, Guilty and Charged, NPR's Joseph Shapiro goes to New Orleans to look into one fee that may surprise you: The charge for a public defender.

BTW keep checking this site because Tomorrow in Guilty and Charged, Joe brings us the story of what happens to the thousands of people who simply can't pay their court fees...

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 01:45 PM
I think the most insidious thing about it is that it's not like it's a one time shot where they can't afford fines and get thrown in the clink for a few weeks. No, it's literally every single time they can't pay, they just go back.

I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that you could potentially be looking at life in prison over a traffic ticket with this system if your luck went bad.

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 01:48 PM
a reply to: AnIntellectualRedneck

good point...
and as in the case of the Papa guy...
every time he loses a job he'll get locked up again until he can find another...

let's just pray no one suggests these guys should pay interest on those fines too

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 01:55 PM
All it takes is a parking ticket you can't pay or don't even know you have because some clown swiped it off your windshield or it blew away.

God forbid you move in the months in takes the notices to start arriving.

Next thing you know you're looking at the inside of a cell unless you just happen to have hundreds of dollars burning a hole in you pocket.

And that's just the start of your problems.

Explain to your boss why you had to miss work sitting in a cell or explain to the landlord why your rent went to fines and bail.

Now you're unemployed and homeless because it was just so damn important for the state to punish you.

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:00 PM
a reply to: thisguyrighthere

That's just what happened to that Kyle Dewitt in the story.

When he got a summons to appear it was sent to his grandmother house

where he was living when he caught the out of season fish.

But soon after he moves in with him mom.... then moves again to stay with some friends.

he says he never got any paper work from the court but a warrant was still issued and he still went to jail...

All For Catching a Stupid Fish Out Of Season!!!!!!

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:01 PM
a reply to: HardCorps

My more thoughtful question is this: say I'm in that situation. If I know I'm going to be in and out of prison, possibly for the rest of my life, anyway, then what incentive do I have to be a productive member of society? What actual incentive do I have to follow the laws of a society that keeps kicking me when I'm down?

Why should I follow the rule of law when all it does is torment me, and my trying to get square with it is only resulting in more trouble for myself?

I'm not saying that I would encourage people to go out and seek revenge against the people perpetrating such things, in this case the judges and the police in collusion with the judge, far from it, but the question crosses my mind: what exactly would be the incentive to not do so? I mean, if you know that you're going to be spending the rest of your life being tormented like that, then how long is it going to take a man to break down and do something crazy?

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:03 PM
Why are people putting up with this!?

This isn't about locking up dangerous criminals, it could just as easily be anyone of us!!

People shouldn't just sit and moan about this, they should get active and complain very noisily! Get this into the main stream stressing it could be ANYONE!

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:08 PM
a reply to: VoidHawk

Again I have to point out the Kyle Dewitt side of the story...

Dude catches a fish out of season and ends up spending three days in jail because he can't pay the fine...

Catching a small mouth bass out of season!

forget drug dealers, murderers and rapist... Lets lock up these fisherman now before it becomes pure anarchy man!

its all about the money, esp now with all the cut backs in funding... the more they cut the more they come to us to make up the diff.

edit on 21-5-2014 by HardCorps because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:20 PM
Miss a few child support payments and it's off to jail as well.

Viscous cycle...missed payments...jail....lose job....miss payments....jail....

ugly system...

I saw this happening to friends, so I had a decision I ever kids for me!!
edit on 21-5-2014 by olaru12 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:21 PM
a reply to: HardCorps

16 trillion in debt... the US Government should get life...

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:35 PM
You guys might want to check this story out too...
From PBS News Hour

this story is about a lawsuit against Judicial Corrections Services and the town of Childersburg. The suit alleges that incarcerating people who can’t pay their fines violates the constitution.

Dinelli estimates a 1,000 people every month are going to jail in Alabama because they cannot afford to pay a fine.

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:45 PM
a reply to: HardCorps


This is the excuse TPTB give us ...

Cool Hand Luke


We need to unite in solidarity with the poor, downtrodden and one another, against tyranny and oppression!

Gang of Rhythm - Walk off the Earth

Seems TPTB don't want just a welfare nanny state they want a criminal welfare state so they can overtly punish anyone below a certain financial capacity to own land ... and so I wonder how much more the American public can take, of such blatant and obvious tyranny of discrimination based on the oppression of class warfare, before serious rebellion foments!?

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 02:52 PM
a reply to: petrockopera

Ya know.... I just don't think it's about class warfare...

Seems to me this is just another layer of control...

Now with the threat of jail time you can force poor folks to do whatever the hell they want them too.

Welcome to American where every citizen is entitled to the best legal protection money can buy.
Ask about our Bulk discounts for repeat offenders!

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 03:03 PM
Wow. Wish I would have known about this.

I can state for a fact, here in MI, my son spent 15 days, because he could not afford his 600+ fine and court cost.

So obviously nobody in the "justice" systems gives a rats behind what the supreme court ruled.

Awesome!!!!!! -sarcasm.

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 03:05 PM
I agree with debtors prisons 100% but not for the reasons the Op states. For those legal cases what they are doing to those young troubled men are criminal IMO.

The debtors prison I do agree with is one where they put you in jail for defaulting on your credit card bills. Too many folks foolishly spends all their line of credit without the means to pay it back and millions of Americans doing this have helped to run the economy into the ground. They are the real criminals.

if you are not secure enough in your finances to pay on time you have No business having any credit card Period. Especially don't foolishly use that card to run out your credit line.

Credit cards are ONLY for people to use as a convince who do already have Money - if you dont, you shouldn't have one.

They tell you oh sure, get one, open a line of credit, pay it off and build your credit higher - it's a scam. this is how they trick you.

The day my son brings home a credit card will be the day he gets the whooping of his life, even if he's 25. He knows better I hope living with me. Teach your kids the right way - ( well teach them not to use banks at all - but aside from that) if they must use a bank, teach them to use checks and not overdraw.

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 03:16 PM

originally posted by: chiefsmom
Wow. Wish I would have known about this.

I can state for a fact, here in MI, my son spent 15 days, because he could not afford his 600+ fine and court cost.

So obviously nobody in the "justice" systems gives a rats behind what the supreme court ruled.

Awesome!!!!!! -sarcasm.

Here's what we all need to remember...
if this happens to us or to someone we know... We/They should cite "Bearden vs. Georgia" and demand a hearing to review finical status. We/They should request community service in lieu of fines.

They will not tell us this because frankly they want the money. but there are other options in 99% of these cases

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 03:22 PM
a reply to: HardCorps

We/They should request community service in lieu of fines. - See more at:

Funny you mention that, because he was instantly given "trustee" status, and was allowed to "work" at the animal shelter. Maybe it was all about the free labor.

At the time, my son was homeless and jobless, so there would be no doubt about his ability to pay.

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 03:28 PM
a reply to: chiefsmom

Back in my dad's day ---the the courts could order someone to join the Army/Navy--- or go to jail.

Legally they can't do that anymore... still I've heard more than one story where a Sheriff or Judge has
suggested someone join the military right now or life was going to get rather complicated fast!

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 03:38 PM
Here is my take on this. With the Drug War quickly loosing popularity and now citizens are starting to demand changes in the laws and mandatory sentencing, this will leave many empty prison cells.

If the US was a free country this would be a great thing, less people imprisoned is something to be proud about. The US is a corporate oligarchy and for profit prisons are a giant industry, to fill the empty beds, which is loss revenue for them, the prison industry will now push for imprisonment of debtors.

The 13th Amendment did not abolish slavery, it protected and essentially monopolized slavery for the state. The 13th Amendment allows prisoners to be used for involuntary servitude.

edit on 21-5-2014 by jrod because:

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