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The Department of Justice Throws Its Weight Behind Ending the Jailing of the Poor for Unpaid Fines


The Department of Justice Throws Its Weight Behind Ending the Jailing of the Poor for Unpaid Fines

Nusrat Choudhury

The fight against modern-day debtors’ prisons just got a new champion: the Department of Justice.


The poor, of course, can’t pay any fines, and low-income people can’t pay excessive fines. Consider those who are arrested for being homeless (“loitering,” etc.) They do their jail time, are dumped back on the streets, get busted again, with no chance up and out of destitution. The future for the truly poor consists only of jail cells and morgue slabs.

This is what defines this generation of Americans.


Thank you for succinctly stating an irrefutable proposition.

That said… I am not surprised that more members did not comment on this article, as it underscores various societal problems and failings, e.g. poverty, public education, corporate and elitist governing, etc. Apparently, they largely comment on certain “popular” issues, especially those which they perceive (rightly or wrongly) as sufficiently and directly impacting their lives…

I vaguely remember an ancient quote, wherein the speaker stated that one judges a society by the way it takes care of its members who fall into certain [“protected”] classifications, e.g. the young, the old, the feeble, etc.


I think this is an important step for the Justice Dept. to make. Having worked on anti-poverty programs my whole career (30+ years), and having worked once for an ‘alternative to regular jail-time’ program for women, I have a bit of experience with this issue of being jailed for not paying fines and fees. Some of the women I worked with were in this situation. So, to have a template for an alternative system, and to have the ACLU bring these issues to light, is progress. (Normally I respond to issues of war and peace, labor rights, environmental degradation, racism). I think it’s all related anyway.


Extortion by the courts from the poor to pay for municipal government is a shameful thing and, when it’s done in the south, is a continuation of the practice of entitled white society being supported by black people. The fact that the poor, including non-blacks, are targeted by the police is nothing more than a demonstration that the poor are another class of people often targeted fot abuse due to a perception, in this country, that being poor is a de facto crime . Money is so often equated with virtue, especially in the strangely skewed religions of the south, and lack of money equates with lack of virtue by that thinking. Things are so out of whack in this money-worshipping society, which is why a person with no virtues other than money can run for president. As for the conduct of the police in targeting poor and black people, that unethical conduct would be criminal and be penalized and disqualify those doing it from service as police officers in a just society. But this is America, land of the free (if you have money).