National Task Force on Court Fines & Fees: Don’t Jail Poor Solely for Court Costs
Williamsburg, Va. (March 20, 2017) — The National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices today released a statement responding to a recent settlement in Alexander City, Ala. In that settlement, the city compensated nearly 200 poor people it had jailed for failure to pay court costs.
“No one in America should be sent to jail — or threatened with jail — solely because they are poor. In too many instances, judges are ignoring fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, while local politicians treat the court system as an ATM for their spending priorities. This must change, and this task force is committed to taking steps to ensure justice for all,” said co-chair Maureen O’Connor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio. The task force is co-chaired by Laurie K. Dudgeon, the Director of the Administrative Office of the Kentucky Courts.
A national public opinion survey on behalf of the task force indicates strong opposition to so-called “Debtors Prisons.” According to that poll, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of imprisoning defendants who are too poor to pay court fines and fees. The same survey shows strong public support for alternatives to incarceration, with 93 percent supporting community service and a similar 93 percent supporting court-mandated training or certification.