Debtors Prisons On The Rise! What Happened To The 14th Amendment?
|Debtor Prisons Where Suppose to be Outlawed In America|
"A debtors' prison is a prison for people who are unable to pay a 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 leniency 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 Arab Emirates, Greece, Switzerland and the United States. Then Since the late 20th century, the term debtors' prison has sometimes come to be applied when a court sends someone to prison over criminal duties that would usually be imposed monetarily, but cannot be paid. For example, in some jurisdictions within the United States, people can be held in contempt of court and jailed for non-payment of child support, garnishments, confiscations, fines, or back taxes. The charge for contempt of court is going to jail. The reason for the contempt of court charge is negligent non-payment, obstruction, or fraud." [See Source]
For over 20 years now, debtors’ prisons have been deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean that they do not still exist. In simplistic terms, the reasoning behind this decision came from the realization that incarcerating someone for a debt was in breach of the 14th Amendment.
"For example, in some jurisdictions within the United States, people can be held in contempt of court and jailed after non-payment of child support, garnishments, confiscations, fines, or back taxes. The charge for going to jail is in contempt of court. The reason for the contempt of court charge is negligent non-payment, obstruction, or fraud."All this boils down to is mercantile for the lawyers and the local and state governments. It’s a booming business. People who have got caught up in this snare know the system is rigged, and our judicial branch has become a pay as you go franchise. These so-called fines and fees are nothing more than a tax on the human condition. Also, makes a great revenue stream for the growing ” Prison for Profit” trending across America. Additionally, though adequately served civil duties over private debts in nations such as the United States will merely result in a default judgment being rendered in absentia if the defendant willfully declines to appear by law, a substantial number of indigent debtors are legally incarcerated for failure to appear at civil debt proceedings.
Who is fooling who here? The powers that be know that an enormous amount of these cases will result in default judgments for failure to appear. They keep stats on these type of things derived from the court's public record of litigated cases. With the practice of austerity and the cutting of tax revenue in states across America and largely in the ” Red States,” we are seeing a new explosion of non-violent offenders entering into the correctional system.
The legal arguments are mounting against this ever-increasing practice. Many legal scholars and advocacy groups are now starting to question the legitimacy of using the "contempt of court,” dogma as the justification to detain someone for merely owing a debt. There has been a very gross over-reach or overlook of the key prevailing legal terms involved with being in contempt. Willful non-compliance and negligent non-payment.
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Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it’s been reborn in local courts that may not be aware it’s against the law to send indigent people to jail for unpaid fines and fees — or they just haven’t been called on it until now.[See Source]
WELL ITS TIME TO CALL THEM ON IT.
Here are some bullet points that this activity fails the 14th Amendment constitutional test.
- In 1970, the Court ruled in Williams v. Illinois that extending a maximum prison term because a person is too poor to pay fines or court costs violates the right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
- During 1971 in Tate v. Short, the Court found it unconstitutional to impose a fine as a sentence and then automatically convert it into a jail term solely because the defendant is indigent and cannot forthwith pay the fine in full.
- And in the 1983 ruling for Bearden v. Georgia the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment bars courts from revoking probation for a failure to pay a fine without first inquiring into a person's ability to pay and considering whether there are adequate alternatives to imprisonment.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer resources, and it undermines the integrity of the justice system,” Carl Takei, staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told Fox News.com.“The problem is it’s not much of a money-making proposition … to throw people in jail for fines and fees when they can’t afford it. If counties weren’t spending the money jailing people for not paying debts, they could be spending the money in other ways.”
For example, according to the report, Mecklenburg County, N.C., collected $33,476 in debts in 2009, but spent $40,000 jailing 246 debtors — a loss of $6,524.[See Source]
But there is a more recent prime example of this. The push to have welfare recipients drug tested. There was a significant cost overrun for the States, which netted a single digit positive drug test result. When you are convicted of a crime courts, impose a fine and link that to a conviction no matter the infraction or classification of the offense. Fees are all those extras tacked on by the court to fund administrative services. These costs are ambiguous from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
The 14 Th Amendment was enacted post Civil War as a stopgap measure to reduce the overwhelming human rights violations going on in the Slave owner South.
There have been studies conducted in several states with high prison populations that suggest the following.
A year-long study released in 2010 of fifteen states with the highest prison populations by the Brennan Center for Justice, found that all fifteen states sampled have jurisdictions that arrest people for failing to pay debt or appear at debt related hearings. Aside from citizens being jailed without legal counsel the study identified four causes that lead to debtors’ prison type arrests for debts;
- State laws that attempt to make criminal justice debt a condition of probation, parole, or other correctional supervision with failure to pay to result in arrest and re-imprisonment.
- State laws that consider incarceration as a penalty for failure to pay criminal justice debt. These actions are seen as a civil contempt of court charge, thus technically not in violation of state constitutions that prohibit debtors’ prisons, but for the same reason those incarcerated must be released immediately if they either pay or prove themselves unable to do so.
- Citizens are choosing jail time under state programs where incarceration is a way of paying down court-imposed debt.
- States that regularly arrest citizens for criminal justice debt prior to appearing at debt-related hearings, leading in many cases to multi-day jail terms pending an ability to pay to hearing.
During 1971 in Tate v. Short, the Court found it unconstitutional to impose a fine as a sentence and then automatically convert it into a jail term solely because the defendant is indigent and cannot forthwith pay the fine in full.[Source: Wiki]
There are so many examples how inequality plays out in the hum-drum of everyday life. We must call these forces out that would detain a person from freedom to move to and fro for non-willful, non-negligent, non-repayment of debt. The practice is a balance sheet nightmare and a big loss to the taxpayer.