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Sun Feb 10, 2013, 06:58 AM

Miss a Traffic Ticket, Go to Jail? The Return of Debtor Prison (Hard Times, USA)

http://www.alternet.org/miss-traffic-ticket-go-jail-return-debtor-prison-hard-times-usa



Kawana Young, a single mother of two kids, was arrested in Michigan after failing to pay money she owed as a result of minor traffic offenses. She was recently laid off from her job, and could not pay the fees she owed because she couldn’t find another source of employment. So a judge sentenced her to three days in jail. In addition, Young was charged additional fees for being booked and for room and board for a place she did not want to be. In total, she has been jailed five times for being unable to pay her debts.

“It doesn’t make sense to jail people when they can’t pay because they definitely can’t pay while they’re in jail,” said Young.
Debtor prisons seem to belong in America's past. But if you think the existence of prisons for people who can’t afford to pay their debts in the past, think again. Young’s ordeal, profiled in an American Civil Liberties Union report, began in 2005, after she was ticketed because she was driving without her license. It all came to a head in 2010, when Young was arrested because she did not pay off all of her debts from traffic violations. That arrest led to the judge ordering Young to jail due to her inability to pay off the money.

Prison time for poor people in debt remains something that is practiced throughout the United States, despite the fact that a 1983 Supreme Court decision ruled that a prisoner on probation who could not afford to pay his debts could not be thrown in jail for that reason. The practice of imprisoning people for debt is being fueled by the economic crash that has decimated state and city budgets. Debtor prisons are also on the rise thanks to the zeal of private companies that “file lawsuits against debtors and often fail to serve them with notice of court dates or intentionally serve them at incorrect addresses,” as the Brennan Center for Justice’s Inimai Chettiar noted. “When debtors do not show up, agencies procure arrest warrants from courts, leading to incarceration of the debtors. Bail is usually set at an amount equal to or higher than the original fees and fines they defendants couldn’t pay in the first place. All this has amounted to a return of debtors prisons.”

13 replies, 1376 views

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Reply Miss a Traffic Ticket, Go to Jail? The Return of Debtor Prison (Hard Times, USA) (Original post)
xchrom Feb 2013 OP
KG Feb 2013 #1
maggiesfarmer Feb 2013 #2
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #4
Oilwellian Feb 2013 #5
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #10
maggiesfarmer Feb 2013 #13
madville Feb 2013 #3
Ter Feb 2013 #6
Lurker Deluxe Feb 2013 #7
Ter Feb 2013 #9
Lurker Deluxe Feb 2013 #12
Earth_First Feb 2013 #8
upi402 Feb 2013 #11

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 07:26 AM

1. autoxchromeDURec

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 07:48 AM

2. Essentially, you're advocating that monetary fines not be used as a punishment.

I'm not sure the alternatives are better:
1. not enforce traffic laws (imagine the chaos)
2. punish offenders of traffic laws directly with jail time
3. punish offender of traffic laws with fines, but do not enforce non-payment (non-payment currently enforced w/ jail)
4. punish offender of traffic laws with fines, but enforce some other way???

I'm open minded, but I don't read the linked article or the OP offer suggestions to the alternative. If someone advocates an alternate enforcement system for traffic laws or for non-payment, I'll give it due consideration. I'm not willing to advocate that as a society we simply stop enforcing traffic laws or stop responding to non-payment. I'm also not ready to remove fines as a penal consequence, especially considering current over-crowding of prisons.

no offense to the OP, but the points in the linked article offered nothing as an useful alternative. If the overriding point was supposed to be about imbalance of wealth distribution, they could have picked a more better point of argument than non-payment of traffic tickets.

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Response to maggiesfarmer (Reply #2)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 08:58 AM

4. Wait, what?????

" Essentially, you're advocating that monetary fines not be used as a punishment."
I see nothing in the OP that says monetary fines not be used as punishment.
Nothing.
The article points to one way of enforcing non-payment of fines....debtor's prison.
The fines have already been levied as punishment.

"I don't read the linked article or the OP offer suggestions to the alternative. "
Neither the OP nor the article have to come up with alternatives.
Posting articles and info. here on DU does not demand coming up with different points of view in the OP, altho that is the choice,
but not the requirement of posting.

" I'm not willing to advocate that as a society we simply stop enforcing traffic laws or stop responding to non-payment."
That's good to hear, since the article did not seem to be about not enforcing traffic laws, or not responding to non-payment"

"If the overriding point was supposed to be about imbalance of wealth distribution...."
it seemed to me the point was about debtor's prisons on the rise.



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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:38 AM

5. Thank you

That was one of the more twisted replies to an OP that I've ever seen on DU. Thank you for pointing out its absurdities.

There are other ways the state can collect the fines they impose. Putting the debtor in prison is counter productive and Draconian.

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Response to Oilwellian (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:56 PM

10. Sometimes I find myself thinking

is reading comprehension a lost art?

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #4)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 07:47 AM

13. ok, fair enough. however,

Perhaps the OP wasn't advocating to stop using fines as a means of enforcing traffic laws, but note the article did make a point of suggesting the current system was , comparing levying and enforcing traffic fines to debtor's prison (which may or may not be a fair comparison). The lack of a suggested alliterative, coupled with the pejorative description of the current state, does beg the question of what the suggested alternative may be. Lacking that suggested alternative, we're left with nothing except the message of "get rid of the current system" which, in this specific case, is "stop enforcing traffic laws with fines" or possibly "stop enforcing non-payment of traffic fines" (essentially the same position, IMO). Glad to hear that's not what the OP intended.

It's easy to whine and bitch and say "I don't like the current system". It's far more interesting and constructive to come up with a suggested alternative. You're absolutely right, there is nothing in the terms and conditions of DU that requires someone to do more than complain about the current state. My point is that there doesn't seem to be a proposed alternative on the table that's easily implementable in our current penal model.

So, since the OP didn't ask the question, what are DU's suggested alternatives? should we consider some method other than monetary fines as a consequence of breaking traffic laws? should we consider some method other than jail time for non-payment of fines? What about the more general case of someone not complying with court orders (non just traffic fines)?

Like I said, I'm open minded and willing to listen.

peace

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 08:40 AM

3. Maybe the judge should sentence her to

Driver's education classes. Might help her avoid more tickets/violations.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:44 AM

6. States that jail people for minor traffic offenses are abusive

 

NJ does this. In NYC, they do not. If you get a $50 ticket there, it just goes up every couple of months a bit until it's paid. Arresting is ridiculous.

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Response to Ter (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:55 AM

7. Really?

Are you suggesting that if you do not pay your traffic tickets in NYC a warrant is not issued for your arrest?

The second case in the article cites a failure to appear, surely you would issue a warrant for that?

Most of the cases I have heard about where someone is jailed over a traffic ticket has to due with failure to appear or the pay scheduled fees. Applications for extensions to pay tickets are granted the majority of the time without question.

There are simply some people who can not take care of their business and always pay bills late or bounce checks, there are penalties for these actions.

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Response to Lurker Deluxe (Reply #7)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:36 PM

9. Yes

 

In NYC, it just keeps going up every 6 weeks or so. I once didn't pay in years when I lived there a few years ago. However, if it reaches a certain amount ($300 I think), they can come tow your car, if a police officer happens to run your plate or you get pulled over. You then have like 10 days to pay the $100 or so toying fee and your tickets in full, or they can auction your car.

As for failing to appear in court, depends. If I appeal a speeding ticket and I don't show to my court date, I automatically lose. If I'm drag racing and charged in criminal court, I would certainly have to show up.

NYC only jails over serious driving offenses, like drag racing, and possibly extreme reckless driving. If you get a seat belt, or speeding, no headlight, red light, or cell phone ticket, they will never take you to jail or issue a warrant if you don't pay it.

I thought most places were like this and NJ was just extreme. Are you saying NYC not issuing warrants is the rarity?

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Response to Ter (Reply #9)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 02:35 PM

12. Yes

It would be rare for a municipality to not issue warrants for these things.

http://www.trafficlaw411.com/Practice-Areas/Bench-Warrants.aspx

It would seem that this also happens in NYC, or these traffic lawyers would be out of business.

I think you may be talking about a parking ticket, pretty sure that if you get a ticket for running a light in NYC and do not pay the fine a warrant will be issued.

http://www.4dmv.com/ny_ticketsnviolationmc_warrants.php?state=New_York

"or if you have failed to pay your traffic tickets, you could have a warrant without even knowing"

Pretty much anything else that I can find is if you do not pay your traffic ticket in NYC they suspend your license, and then if you are pulled over you are arrested and charged with unlawful use of a motor vehicle. So, in addition to the ticket you now have another charge. Either way, they enforce their traffic laws with the threat of jail, just like everyone else.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:01 PM

8. ...and while there you can assemble products for Microsoft, Starbucks and Costco!

Just don't expect to be compensated.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:59 PM

11. Forced labor for Prison Inc


I want my country back.

I want a choice and my vote counted.

Corporations are NOT persons.
Propaganda writ large is not free speach.

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