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Wed Jun 8, 2016, 07:35 PM

 

This Infuriating Story Shows How Debtors Prisons Are Still A Reality In America

Jailing people because they canít pay off their debts has long been acknowledged as a terrible idea. However, that hasnít stopped some cities or counties from using debtorsí prisons as ways to extract revenues from people.

The Los Angeles Times has a really infuriating report about debtorsí prisons in America that brings us the story of Jayne Fuentes, a Richland, Wash. resident who was recently offered the choice to either stay longer in jail or spend days on a work crew due to unpaid debt. Essentially, Fuentes couldnít pay off court fees that she racked up after being convicted of theft and drug possession, and was given an ultimatum to pay up or stay in jail. Thankfully for her, a lawsuit she filed along with two other debtors and with the help of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union ended the practice of debtorsí prisons in her community.

All the same, the ACLU says that the practice of jailing people who canít pay debts remains shockingly common throughout the country. In Fuentesí own Benton County, an estimated 320 prisoners were jailed over a six-month period for not being able to pay off debts. Whatís more, an ACLU lawsuit in Colorado Springs, Colo. revealed 800 cases of people who have been sent to prison for an inability to pay off fines related to minor violations.

The full Los Angeles Times report on debtorsí prisons is well worth your time and can be found at this link.

MORE...

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/06/this-infuriating-story-shows-how-debtors-prisons-are-still-a-reality-in-america/

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Reply This Infuriating Story Shows How Debtors Prisons Are Still A Reality In America (Original post)
Purveyor Jun 2016 OP
Igel Jun 2016 #1
Volaris Jun 2016 #2
JayhawkSD Jun 2016 #3

Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Wed Jun 8, 2016, 09:12 PM

1. Not the usual meaning of "debtors prison."

Used to be that if you owed me $500 and couldn't pay it I could have you thrown in jail.

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Response to Igel (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 9, 2016, 01:16 AM

2. I agree with you that it isn't the traditional definition of debtors prison...

But if the Court is offering time served in lieu of fines paid, then that time should be worth at least the hourly minimum wage that I would get if I decided to go work instead.

Using the Judiciary as a mechanism for community revenue extraction because the Legislature is too politically chicken-shit to raise taxes to buy the stop lights they need, is however, complete bullshit and should be unacceptable to any thinking rational person in a democracy anywhere.

Sadly, that's not most of America.

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Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Thu Jun 9, 2016, 01:52 AM

3. There is a difference between "debts" and "fines."

 

If you commit an infraction of the law you muct pay a penalty for committing that infraction. That penalty may be financial, in the form of a fine, or it may be temporal, in the form of time served in jail. If you cannot pay the fine then you must serve the time in jail. That is not "debtor's prison."

Why should a person be released from any penalty for commiting an infraction of the law merely because he has no money to pay the fine? If he cannot serve the penalty in one form then he must serve it in the other.

The orig post says that the person in question was given a choice to "either stay longer in jail or spend days on a work crew due to unpaid debt."

That turns out to be a bit of a misleading narrative, because the "unpaid debt" turns out to be "court fees that she racked up after being convicted of theft and drug possession," which would not be owed if she was not stealing and using illegal drugs and getting caught doing so.

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