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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Report: Ohio Is Illegally Throwing Poor People In Jail For Owing Money


The Americans Civil Liberties Union on Friday revealed that courts in Ohio are illegally throwing poor people in jail for being unable to pay off a debt.

In a report titled, “The Outskirts of Hope,” (PDF) the ACLU shines a light on a harrowing “debtors’ prison” system in Ohio — one that violates both the United States’ and the Ohio constitution. Ohioans are being jailed for “as small as a few hundred dollars,” despite the constitutional violation, and the economic evidence that it costs the state more to pay for their jail sentence than the amount of the debt.

In its report, the ACLU details the stories of several people sent to debtors’ prison. Jack Dawley owed $1,500 in “fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court,” and was behind on child support payments, leading the Ohio courts to send him to prison in Wisconsin for 3 and a half years. He still struggles with trying to repay the fines. Another victim of the system, single mother Tricia Metcalf, was taken to jail each and every time she wasn’t able to make her $50-a-month payments on fines for writing bad checks. Megan Sharp, whose husband is currently in jail on overdue fines, was unable to pay $300 in fines for driving on a suspended license and went to jail for 10 days. When she got out, she owed $200 more on top of the original amount. Both she and her husband are unemployed.

The AP has a round up of the charges that the ACLU levels against Ohio, writ large:

— In the second half of last year, more than one in every five of all bookings in the Huron County jail — originating from Norwalk Municipal Court cases — involved a failure to pay fines.

— In suburban Cleveland, Parma Municipal Court jailed at least 45 defendants for failure to pay fines and costs between July 15 and August 31, 2012.

— During the same period, Sandusky Municipal Court jailed at least 75 people for similar charges.

Court officials have pledged to look into the accusations.

In 2011, ThinkProgress reported on how the deep recession and loss of employment had led to a return of debtor’s prisons. People were reportedly put in jail for something as small as missing a single furniture payment.

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If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

by on Apr. 6, 2013 at 9:29 AM
Replies (11-20):
Themis_Defleo
by Bronze Member on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:21 AM
3 moms liked this
They owe the money because they committed crimes. They agreed to pay fines to stay out of jail. These are not Visa card bills.

Quoting brookiecookie87:


It is a criminal act to owe money now?


Quoting Woodbabe:

THIS

Quoting Themis_Defleo:

These fines were part of sentences for criminal acts that carry jail time. Often fines were levied with jail suspended on condition fines are paid. If the fines are not paid, then the suspended jail time is invoked because the criminal is not in compliance with his sentence.





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brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Ah-I see what you mean. Still seems like a good system for Private Prisons.

Because I imagine those fines are no where near the cost of keeping them in jail, and fed. I think community service would make more sense.

But that's just me.

Quoting Themis_Defleo:

They owe the money because they committed crimes. They agreed to pay fines to stay out of jail. These are not Visa card bills.

Quoting brookiecookie87:


It is a criminal act to owe money now?


Quoting Woodbabe:

THIS

Quoting Themis_Defleo:

These fines were part of sentences for criminal acts that carry jail time. Often fines were levied with jail suspended on condition fines are paid. If the fines are not paid, then the suspended jail time is invoked because the criminal is not in compliance with his sentence.







Join us on the 99% Moms group!
The Ninety-Nine Percent Moms   

If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

Themis_Defleo
by Bronze Member on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM
Most of my defendants don't want to do service. They agree to fines then go to jail because they don't pay.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

Ah-I see what you mean. Still seems like a good system for Private Prisons.

Because I imagine those fines are no where near the cost of keeping them in jail, and fed. I think community service would make more sense.

But that's just me.

Quoting Themis_Defleo:

They owe the money because they committed crimes. They agreed to pay fines to stay out of jail. These are not Visa card bills.



Quoting brookiecookie87:


It is a criminal act to owe money now?



Quoting Woodbabe:

THIS

Quoting Themis_Defleo:

These fines were part of sentences for criminal acts that carry jail time. Often fines were levied with jail suspended on condition fines are paid. If the fines are not paid, then the suspended jail time is invoked because the criminal is not in compliance with his sentence.









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Kylie819
by Bronze Member on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:35 AM
Yep

Quoting Themis_Defleo:

These fines were part of sentences for criminal acts that carry jail time. Often fines were levied with jail suspended on condition fines are paid. If the fines are not paid, then the suspended jail time is invoked because the criminal is not in compliance with his sentence.
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brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:41 AM


So Option A) Arrest-> More tax payer dollars. The person spends time in jail possibly losing whatever job they have. The jail time reflects on them making it harder for them to land a future job.

B) Community Service. The person pays back the fine with time and work. Helps out the community. Possibly gets a reference for a future job and gets to keep his/her current job (If he/she has one).

One has a bunch of negatives one has a bunch of positives.

Though one does make people a lot of money (Private Prisons) and one doesn't.

Quoting Kylie819:

Yep

Quoting Themis_Defleo:

These fines were part of sentences for criminal acts that carry jail time. Often fines were levied with jail suspended on condition fines are paid. If the fines are not paid, then the suspended jail time is invoked because the criminal is not in compliance with his sentence.



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If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:47 AM
2 moms liked this

I can't be outraged because people who committed crimes go to jail for not paying a restitution they've agreed to pay. I would be in shock if a person who received medical care was jailed because that person could not pay their medical bills.

macbudsmom
by Silver Member on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Hey don't like the punishment don't do the crime.

DACIA79
by on Apr. 6, 2013 at 11:50 AM
2 moms liked this
If only they took collecting child support that seriously.
momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Apr. 6, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Maybe they need to add a community service barter option, but if you commit a crime and agree to pay the fine in lieu of jail, then don't, I don't see the alternative.   I am not sure about how legal or ethical it is to still owe the fine after the jail time--I thought they were substitutes for each other.  

GeekMommi
by on Apr. 6, 2013 at 12:17 PM
That's the same system we have here in Colorado, like someone mentioned before... it usually starts with an offense like driving we no insurance. What I find ridiculous about Colo. We have people in jail for their dogs running loose.
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