Debtors Prisons

Across the country, in the face of mounting budget deficits, states are more aggressively going after poor people who have already served their criminal sentences and jailing them for failing to pay their legal debts. These modern-day debtors' prisons impose devastating human costs, waste taxpayer money and resources, undermine our criminal justice system, are racially skewed, and create a two-tiered system of justice.

Court-Sanctioned Extortion by Private Probation Companies: Modern Debtors' Prisons

Court-Sanctioned Extortion by Private Probation Companies: Modern Debtors' Prisons

By Nusrat Choudhury, Staff Attorney, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 10:46am
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch released Profiting from Probation, a report that confirms the ACLU's worst fears about the privatization of probation services: for-profit companies are increasingly working with county and city courts around the country to extort poor people for money, including by illegally jailing them simply because they are too poor to pay court-imposed fines and fees. While poor people suffer and taxpayers foot the bill for hidden costs, private companies make big money—to the tune of an estimated $40 million in revenue in Georgia alone, according to the report.
Still Locking People Up for Being Poor? Really?! It's 2014.

Still Locking People Up for Being Poor? Really?! It's 2014.

By Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio at 2:43pm

Debtors' prisons sound like ancient history, right? Unfortunately, they're all too common across the United States. In spite of the Constitution, case law, and common sense, low-income people are routinely jailed in places as far-flung as Georgia…

The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio’s Debtors' Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio’s Debtors' Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

By Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio at 11:44am

They are unconstitutional. They are against state law. And yet, debtors’ prisons – jailing people because they are too poor to pay their court...

Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

By Alex Stamm, ACLU Center for Justice at 2:26pm

Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, our imprisonment rate is the highest it’s ever been in U.S. history. And yet, our criminal justice system…

Courts Should Stop Jailing People for Being Poor

Courts Should Stop Jailing People for Being Poor

By Carl Takei, ACLU National Prison Project at 3:02pm

Across the country, cash-strapped cities and counties are throwing poor defendants in jail for failing to pay legal debts that they can never hope to manage. On Monday, the New York Times told the story of Gina Ray, whose $179 speeding ticket…

The $270 Million Lockup: Will New Orleans' Sheriff Stand in the Way of Rebuilding a Smaller and Smarter Orleans Parish Prison?

By Carl Takei, ACLU National Prison Project at 3:12pm

New Orleans' incarceration rate is the highest in the country — the city locks up three times more people than the national average. The city jail, Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), holds nearly 3,200 prisoners and remains the largest per-capita…

Sending Your Kid to the Wrong School Could Land You Five Years Behind Bars

By Inimai Chettiar, ACLU & Rebecca McCray, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project at 5:34pm

Last Tuesday, something happened in Ohio that should shock the conscience of every American. After a seven-day jury trial, Kelley Williams-Bolar was found guilty of two third-degree felonies — with a sentence of five years in prison each.…

When Being Poor Is a Crime

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 3:47pm

Sean Matthews is a homeless construction worker who was convicted of marijuana possession in 2007, and was assessed $498 in legal fines and costs. He was arrested two years later after being unable to pay that $498, and spent five months in jail…

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