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Miss a Traffic Ticket, Go to Jail? The Return of Debtor Prison (Hard Times, USA)

Thought debtor prison ended in the 18th century? Think again.

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For the rich, it’s a different story. “Pay-or-stay sentences are no choice for the poor,” the  ACLU’s Michael Steinberg told The Detroit News. “They translate to rich people writing a check and going home and poor people going to jail. It's a modern-day debtor prison. This two-tiered system of justice is shameful, it's a waste of resources, it is unconstitutional, and it must be changed.”

Additionally, the two-tiered justice system means that poor people often have to pay even more than their initial fees and fines, due to additional booking and jail fees. This leads to a toxic cycle where poor people are arrested for fees they can’t pay and are then walloped with even more financial obligations. And going to jail disrupts life for these poor people, making it even more difficult to find a job that would help them pay off their debt. 

 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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