VIDEO: Ohio counties, courts sending jobless to 'debtors' prisons

Report from Ohio ACLU says some jail practices violate U.S. and state constitutions.
Register
Apr 4, 2013

 

The American Civil Liberties Associated asked for action from the the Ohio Supreme Court and appeals courts to stop illegal practices.

Click here to watch videos interviews with Ohioans who were incarcerated after failing to pay debt.

Click here to read the report. 

The ACLU sent the following news release with the report:

The U.S. Constitution and Ohio state law prohibit courts from jailing people for being too poor to pay their legal fines, but in several Ohio counties, local courts are doing it anyway. The ACLU of Ohio today released The Outskirts of Hope, a report that chronicles a nearly yearlong investigation into Ohio’s debtors’ prisons and tells the stories of six Ohioans whose lives have been damaged by debtors’ prison practices.

“Being poor is not a crime in this country,” said Rachel Goodman, Staff Attorney at the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “Incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay fines is both unconstitutional and cruel—it takes a tremendous toll on precisely those families already struggling the most.”

The law requires that courts hold hearings to determine defendants’ financial status before jailing them for failure to pay fines, and defendants must be provided with lawyers for these hearings.  If a defendant cannot pay, the court must explore options other than jail.

“Supreme Court precedent and Ohio law make clear that local courts and jails should not function as debtors’ prisons,” said Carl Takei, Staff Attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project.  “Yet many mayors’ courts and some municipal courts jail people without making any attempt whatsoever to determine whether they can afford to pay their fines.”

Beyond the questions of legality, debtors’ prison practices make no financial sense since courts routinely spend more to jail defendants than they would recover in fines.

“Not only are these courts violating the law, they are actually losing money doing it,” said ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner. “In every case we profiled for The Outskirts of Hope, the county spent more money than it collected to incarcerate people for failure to pay fines. In many cases, it spent more than the defendant owed in the first place.”

“These practices are legally prohibited, morally questionable, and financially unsound. Nevertheless, they appear to be alive and well in Ohio,” added Brickner. “It’s like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.”

In conjunction with the release of The Outskirts of Hope, the ACLU has sent letters to seven Ohio courts, calling for an immediate end to these illegal debtors’ prison practices. In response to a letter sent by the ACLU, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio expressed appreciation for the investigation and indicated interest in meeting to discuss the issue.

Comments

Outspoken1

SR - Keep these articles coming! People need to know what is going on.

Centauri

"The law requires that courts hold hearings to determine defendants’ financial status before jailing them for failure to pay fines, and defendants must be provided with lawyers for these hearings. If a defendant cannot pay, the court must explore options other than jail."

The simpletons and those who don't care remain silent while the powers that be do their deeds.

http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-ri...
"SANDUSKY, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter today to Erie County Municipal Court Judge Paul Lux questioning recent reports that he has imprisoned people who are unable to pay court costs and fines. In an article in the Sandusky Register, Judge Lux admits he imprisons people who are unable to pay court costs and fines, known as debtors’ prison."

"Ohio Revised Code 2947.14 and state constitution strictly prohibit judges from incarcerating people who are unable to pay court costs. State law does allow a judge to imprison a person who fails to pay a court fine associated with a criminal conviction, so long as they are given a hearing to prove they are not indigent. The law also mandates that defendants are credited $50 per day they are imprisoned. In the news report, Judge Lux stated that he does not apply this credit for defendants in his courtroom. In its letter, the ACLU asked Judge Lux to clarify his policy on imprisoning those who cannot pay court costs and fines."

eriemom

"The law also mandates that defendants are credited $50 per day."
So, we have a judge not following the law. How long has this been going on? Anyone know?

goofus

Don't do the crime if you can't pay the fines!!!

Now The Rest of...

Another reason that ACLU=All, Criminals, Loves, Us. They have the money for booze and drugs but not to pay the fine to the taxpayers who then pay the tab for their welfare which allows them to buy the booze and drugs, it's their version of the circle of life. When you can't get a real job in the legal profession, you work for the ACLU.

eriemom

I get pretty irritated when I see hypocrisy. Why is it that the Constitution is used to defend gun ownership and states rights (only when convenient), and when we see something this cut and dry some think that they can just ignore it. You want your Constitutional and civil rights, yet it does not apply to the poor--"the least among us".