debtors'-prison

A mid-Victorian depiction of the debtors’ prison at St Briavels Castle
A debtors’ prison is a prison for people who are unable to pay debt. These prisons have been used since ancient times. Through the mid 19th century, debtors’ prisons were a common way to deal with unpaid debt in Western Europe. Though increasing access and lenience throughout the history of bankruptcy law have rendered debtors’ prisons irrelevant over most of the world, as of May 2013, they persist in countries such as the United States, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, and Greece.

Equal Justice Regardless of Wealth - Tell Congress to End Cash Bail!

The use of cash bail to release inmates from jail is an unfair and ineffective practice. People with money and connections can simply go free, while inmates who can’t afford it must sit behind bars awaiting trial.

Sometimes, this can take years, and results in missed education and lost jobs. Parents can’t care for their children, and may lose them. And in extreme cases, non-violent people accused of minor crimes suffer severe trauma and violence simply because they or their families cannot afford to post bail.

Clearly, cash bail punishes the poor without improving public safety. It is time to even the playing field so that all inmates are treated equally before their trials. Washington, D.C. has no cash bail system, yet their release rates, court appearance rates and public safety rates are very high.

Demand equal justice regardless of wealth! Sign the petition to urge Congress to phase out cash bail and use more effective, unbiased measures like risk assessment, supervision, and monitoring to ensure justice and protect public safety while the accused await trial.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/tell-a-friend/14987063#bbtw=473051277

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: The Great Fire of London (2nd September 1666).

“The fire raged until 5th September. By the time the winds subsided, the City – from the Tower to the Temple – and as far north as the city wall was burnt. St Paul’s Cathedral, 87 churches, 6 consecrated chapels, 52 livery companies’ halls, the Custom House, the Royal Exchange, Blackwell Hall, Newgate prison, Bridewell, two debtors’ prisons, the Sessions House, and 13,200 houses were destroyed and the Guildhall was gutted. At least 65,000 and perhaps almost 80,000 Londoners were made homeless; for many of them the destruction of their homes was a shattering blow.”

The story of The Great Fire of London is one of over 230 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.

Part of the reason the US can’t compete with Scandinavia et al on all those metrics of education and income equality and police behavior is that we’re a very locally-run country in a lot of ways.

Police, fire departments, ambulances, public schools, drinking water–all those things are maintained by local funds. Local taxes.

If you have a poor neighborhood that can’t afford to pay much in taxes, that has low property values so not much will be assessed in taxes… Then you end up with situations like the debtors’ prison system run by the police and courts in Ferguson. You end up with the water crisis in Flint. You end up with no ambulances or fire trucks–with 911 calls unanswered or with several-hour wait times–like in parts of Detroit.  You end up with one school offering a slew AP classes and another, five miles over, not even offering trigonometry.

This systemic inequality that says where you were born is who you’re destined to become, that goes hand-in-hand with racism and lack of social mobility, is baked right into the entire tax system.

Arkansas judge’s ‘debtors’ prison’ court jailed cancer patient over unpaid bills: lawsuit

Sherwood District Court Judge Milas “Butch” Hale’s conduct while leading the court’s “hot checks division” is the focus of a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. Acting in this capacity, Hale sentenced Lee Robertson to 90 days in jail for owing the court $3,054.51. Robertson has been living with pancreatic cancer since 2009, which has affected his ability to pay back past debts.

“People are doomed for failure when they appear before the court, and most significantly trapped in this never-ending cycle of expanding debt,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “With the resurgence of debtors’ prisons, we will continue to see people cycle in and our of jails and prisons across our country merely because of their inability to pay fines and fees tied to low-level, nonviolent offenses.”

Sherwood District Court Judge Milas “Butch” Hale’s conduct while leading the court’s “hot checks division” is the focus of a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. Acting in this capacity, Hale sentenced Lee Robertson to 90 days in jail for owing the court $3,054.51. Robertson has been living with pancreatic cancer since 2009, which has affected his ability to pay back past debts.

But according to the suit, Robertson and his fellow defendants unknowingly sign away their right to an attorney in order to be let into the courtroom. The court also bars defendants’ family and friends from witnessing the proceedings, and no transcripts are kept of the hearings.

“A single bounced check written 10 years ago for $15 can be leveraged into a debt of thousands and thousands of dollars in fines and fees for inability to pay the original check and then inability to pay the payments that were set up,” state ACLU executive director Rita Sklar told KATV-TV.

The Associated Press reported that the city raised $2.3 million from fines and forfeitures issued in Hale’s court, accounting for 12 percent of the city’s budget.

Robertson is one of four plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit. Another plaintiff, 40-year-old Nikki Petree, has paid at least $640 in fines to the city in a case that started over a bounced check for $28.93. The suit stated that she was arrested seven times over that check and was also jailed for at least 25 days.

Hale denied any wrongdoing in a statement to KATV, saying, “We do not run a so called ‘debtor’s prison’ in Sherwood. If a defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty, of writing a hot check we set up a payment plan. It is only after the third or fourth time that they fail to comply with a court order that we incarcerate.”

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Debtors’ Prisons: Life Inside America’s For-Profit Justice System (Part 2/2)

In part two of VICE’s investigation into modern-day debtor’s prison practices, we explore the phenomenon of private probation companies. To avoid paying for probation services, thousands of courts currently outsource probation to for-profit companies which charge people exorbitant fees for their own probation. Failure to pay is treated as a violation of probation, punishable by jail time, which extorts cash from already-struggling people. VICE meets Thomas Barrett, a formerly homeless man who paid thousands in probation fees over the theft of a two-dollar can of beer.