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Benton WA getting sued for running a debtor's prison!


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http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/07/446681086/aclu-sues-benton-county-wash-for-operating-modern-day-debtors-prison?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=npr&utm_medium=social&utm_term=nprnews

 

Three plaintiffs have sued the county because they are afraid they're going to be arrested again for failure to pay on court costs incurred when they were arrested for actually breaking the law.

 

I kinda hope this suit gets thrown out. I mean I know how hard it is to scrabble back from the brink. I know the whoas of wondering what's going to happen to me within a week because I don't know where the next paycheck is going to come from. But these guys broke the law and all the citizens are asking is that they pay court fines and fees. So don't do drugs is what I say or legalize them or change the sentencing guidelines for drug offenses.

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Guest El Chalupacabra

Sorry, calling this debtor prison is misleading. When you fail to pay court costs and court-ruled fines, and they put you on a payment plan to help you pay it, that's not debtor's prison. That is being jailed for not following an agreement with the court. It's the same thing as not paying for a speeding ticket: a warrant can be issued for that, as well.

 

And who the eff can't afford $65 a month to stay out of jail in the first place?

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But I can't help but wonder about a system geared for rich people only.

There are payment plans, deferrals, etc. Yes, it sucks not to be rich, but it's not like there are no options available if you are poor.

 

I think a larger issue is that a lot of people without money don't know about their options and are not able/willing to properly advocate for themselves.

 

And yes, we have way too many stupid laws and sentences in this country.

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Guest El Chalupacabra

 

And who the eff can't afford $65 a month to stay out of jail in the first place?

Bad people who belong in jail.

 

I was being serious.

 

If someone commits a felony and goes to jail as a result, it's on them. If part of the conditions for that person to be released from jail is to pay a mere $65/month, then THAT should be their priority. Maybe that sounds cold, but let's not lose site of the fact we are talking about convicted felons here. The article doesn't go into detail on the breakdown of Jayne Fuentes income and her bills, but it does say she works a presumably low income fast food job (which means she likely qualifies for public assistance, so that is additional income she can avail herself of), yet she still had enough money to buy a car. If it were me, I would prioritize paying money to keep me out of jail ahead of buying a car. Yes, that is a crappy decision to have to make, but she put herself in that situation. Nobody accidentally commits a felony. These are the results of the poor decisions she made, and now she is paying for them.

 

And by the way, the fact that courts are ordering cons to pay court costs is a good thing. Not only does it allow the courts to at least partially recoup the cost of doing business (even if it is a fraction of the cost), but it holds ex-cons accountable when they are released, and gives them some kind of motivation to go out and be productive and stay out of jail.

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The NPR article actually overtly states that race issues have come up because half the fines a county collects will come from this. It mentioned Ferguson MO as getting funds through this type of penalty and may have lead to race issues. I can't see race issues in a Washington State county but I can see homeless people having issues paying court fees and fines.

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I met a guy once who would sit in jail on the weekends to "earn" his fine. He would get so much credit per day for being in jail, and I want to say he had a job while there (cook or laundry or something). So he'd work all week to pay his bills, but then work in the jail on Saturday and Sunday to pay down the fines.

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