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Debtors' Prison for Kids: Poor Children Incarcerated When Families Can't Pay Juvenile Court Fees


Debtors' Prison for Kids: Poor Children Incarcerated When Families Can't Pay Juvenile Court Fees

Nika Knight, staff writer

Many states are incarcerating poor children whose families can't afford pay juvenile court fees and fines, a report published Wednesday finds, which amounts to punishing children for their families' poverty—and that may be unconstitutional.


The evidence mounts daily that this is no longer America.
Just what it is we'll have to ask the Republicans.


Lets be reeeal, the American system, or way of life does not give a damn about children anywhere on this Earth, unless your above it all ( Wealthy Moms and Dads). What can be done? Don't have children. Two, If you do, keep a close eye on them, protect them, and love them. Three, If you can move out of the country, pacific islands nations, for their approach to children is love.


How else are the Politicians , Judges and Prosecutors to make a return on investment with their prison industry stocks?

Do keep in mind that many of the contracts signed by the State with the private prison industry have clauses that state that the State will guarantee 80 percent of the beds filled.

This market based solution to every problem is so dumb and stupid , I cannot accept they being made for any other reason BUT to line pockets with filthy lucre.


For non-Americans like myself, the US "justice" system constantly amazes me. What is surprising that it goes on, often without critical comment from the authorities and even less from ordinary folk.


Actually we here in America have two separate and distinct justice systems.
One for the wealthy and one for everybody else.
Take a look around and you'll see that there are very few wealthy folks in jail so that system seems to be functioning quite well.
But if you're not rich, you'd better be damn careful about how you act and what you say or else you'll find yourself mired in the other justice system. And good luck with that system.


Not just the Repubs.... the Dems have been in charge for 8 years.... why is anyone (especially children) going to jail for being poor?

That's also not the only way poor are being discriminated against.....


Thanks C/Dreams for publishing this article.

This issue "Debt Prison" may be unconstitutional though in my opinion is definitely an abuse of human rights. Millions of Americans are living in hardship, most are working poor. It is always the most vulnerable who are hit hardest. Here are excerpts from another comment I posted recently:

Globally there are billions of people living in hardship, famine, disease and unending wars is the result due to centuries old malevolent dominant ruling class (oligarchy,plutocracy) --- They seem to be immune, too big to fail, too big to jail. It's the most vulnerable i.e. the working poor class that is subjected to abuse of human rights. For example, yet another case that sees a cancer sufferer incarcerated for not being able to pay their medical bills.

For far too long the U.S. (and other countries) has and continues be entrenched in oligarchy dominance, that has infiltrated the highest level of government and military. Violations of international laws and human rights abuses is rampant. Both major parties are poisoned by the wealthy few (oligarchy class) who seem to be immune (too big to fail, too big to jail). These wealthy few gladly profit from such atrocities, they have no shame.

Gary Johnson offers no better, his policies will compound issues such as hardship for millions of Americans, many are working poor.

There is a solution, stop being duped into believing that voting for the Green Party is a wasted vote. This ideology is the biggest con of the century, much like the trickle-down economy is the biggest con of the century that has seen an alarming rise of inequality, and the destruction of the environment. Trade deals that give big corporation power to profit from such atrocities, off the backs of the working poor.Gary Johnson is no better, his policies will see further destruction of the environment and hardship for millions of Americans. There are many more teetering towards homelessness, many children and students caught up in this malevolent path.

It be wise if most Americans accept the only party that is part of a growing global movement with core principles that actually, genuinely respects all life and the environment. Yes, Jill Stein is the only candidate who is far more intelligent and knowledgeable, with sensible solutions that begins on path to defeat the filthy rot (malevolence) that has gone on for centuries.

The best principle to follow is to respect the Bill of Rights, human rights and international laws. In the most simplistic terms "Do No Harm" regarding all life and the environment. Vote for Jill Stein.

Stop being duped by major news groups that are controlled by oligarchy (plutocrats). These low-life filth continue to engage heavily in propaganda and gerrymandering to protect their own wealthy interests. They have have no respect for human rights and international laws, and they do not care about the environment.....

After many decades of horrendous abuse not only regarding human rights, but also the environment. This is definitely a threat to life, lives have been cut short (and species gone extinct), and remains the worse threat to future generations. I am genuinely, deeply concerned. Please Read This Article published by Common Dreams regarding the Anthropocene. This is no right-wing conspiracy, it is instead one of many credible articles published by C/Dreams.


The preying on the poor, regardless of color, started when the prisons became saturated with black people. There is a need for a new revenue stream. Justice (now that's a misnomer) has been contracted out! That includes the probation system that is now the standard in state, county and city courts and is indictive of the rot in America.


This is prevalent in 50 states? My what a wonderful, exceptional nation the US is. NOT!


This is reminiscent of the workhouses of Charles Dickens time, I thought we had progressed beyond a system that punishes the poor for their impoverishment, which only makes them poorer.
George Santayana said: if we cannot learn from our history then we are condemned to repeat it.
Also in the same Dickensian era was the French Revolution, wherein an impoverished and censured lower class rose up against a better equipped and better fed army and tore it down.
If people have nothing left to lose then they have everything to gain, no matter how risky.
It would better serve the interests of the state to help rather than punish.


I've sometimes wondered if the general population has any idea of just how brutal this country has become toward our poor. If they knew, would they care? Even liberals restrict their "inequality" discussion to the gap between the better off (those who are able to work, and who have jobs) and the very rich. We're 20 years into our war on the poor, during which time the poor have been stripped of a list of fundamental human and civil rights. Today's generation seems OK with this.


Why would you think that? Surely you know that whatever progress was made in the area of socioeconomic issues from FDR until Reagan/Clinton has been reversed. The poor can't afford things like comprehensive legal assistance, and they obviously have no representation in government today. Over the past 20 years, we have even stripped our poor of the most basic human rights (UN's UDHR) of food and shelter.

What did people think the consequences would be?


Because I believed in progress. Apparently, I was mistaken. Thank you for driving the point home with such finesse. Have you considered a career in waterboarding?


Too bad you chose to focus on the minor aspects of my commentary, the ones that showed my lack, instead of those relating to a larger context; the consequences of these horrid abuses. I guess I make an easy target for you.


This article makes me want to puke. The US always sells its kids to the lowest bidder. School lunches suck. Public education sucks. Teachers in the trenches get screwed more every year with smaller budgets and bigger class sizes. I knew our juvenile injustice system sucked too, but seeing just how bad it is in black and white is just sickening. Incarcerating children for being too poor to pay ridiculous fines that shouldn't be imposed in the first place makes me want to scream! I feel helpless. I don't know what to do about the hideous situation our children have been inflicted with in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. I'm doing what I can, but most of my conversations about it falls on deaf ears. My family is like most of America - ignorant, arrogant, and apathetic to most of what I talk about. I'm campaigning and voting for Jill Stein, but I'm certain if she had more than a snowball's chance in hell to get to the White House, they'd do to her what they did to all of the folks who could have affected real change. She'd be disappeared by a lone, crazed gunman or a mysterious plane crash.
Thanks for speaking truth to power, Common Dreams. You give me a modicum of hope that people out there care about such issues as child debtor prison. My heart goes out to those incarcerated kids and their poor families. Maybe they should ask Trump to help make America great again by paying some of their fines and allowing them to live their lives without being punished because they're poor. Not everyone can be born with a silver spoon in their big, fat, arrogant mouths.


DN had a story about a lady who bounced a $29 check-she spent 30 days in jail and paid continuous fines. And this is in Arkansas-----

Why is there no mention of Haiti when people discuss the Clinton foundation?????? The propaganda being put in our heads is that the Clinton foundation does so much good.

I see nothing about Apple, a corporation that tries to pay no taxes-a corporation that uses cheap labor to make billions-----and how many Americans buy these products???????

And yes these are all related to the industrial prison system.


In the past, in some countries, hungry children were incarcerated for stealing an apple, In prison those children worked long hours. Slavery had many faces; so we should be careful not to repeat the errors of the past


The other day I received a recruitment letter from a private school in Asheville, North Carolina who was looking for a new CFO/Operations Officer. The school only serves 285 students from 20 states and 16 foreign countries. It has an operating budget of $12.5 million dollars and an endowment of about $50 million dollars. When we divide that among the student population, that translates to an annual expenditure of $43,860 per student! The endowment takes care of most of the infrastructure expenses so that's over $43K PER STUDENT in direct educational investment!

The national average per pupil spending is $11,009 according to the Census Bureau, a good 20%-40% of which is spent on infrastructure expenses such as building maintenance, debt management and administration expenses. The Census Bureau further breaks down per pupil spending by state, with Utah scoring dead last and New York spending the most. However, this aggregate includes both "wealthy" and "poor" school districts and we all know that if you live in a poor school district, the majority of the meager funds they do receive are used to simply keep the lights on and the aging buildings heated, while their Superintendents bring home salaries comparable to a Vice President of a Fortune 100 Company.

How can these teachers and school administrators sleep at night knowing that they spend over 4-times the national average to educate less than 300 children, many of whom aren't even American citizens, knowing that children as young as 12 and 13 years of age are spending the most formative years of their lives behind bars because their families can't afford a $500 truancy fine?

It makes me sick just thinking about it, and no, I didn't even grace the email with a response.


How are all these layers of government working out for us?


What an evil thing is government. The Libertarians are right. It always turns into tyranny, no matter how well intention-ed from the outset. This is why people left England: to get away from debtors prisons and big corporate monopolies and their captured governments.

"The best government is that which governs least" - Founding Fathers