A couple weeks ago, the New York Times reported on a recent phenomenon happening around the United States: Imprisonment for debt. Here's a segment from the story:
The article later concludes:
"Here is a tale that sounds like it comes right from the pages of “Little Dorrit,” Charles Dickens’s scathing indictment of VictorianEngland’s debtors’ prisons. Unfortunately, it is happening in 21st-century America.
Edwina Nowlin, a poor Michigan resident, was ordered to reimburse a juvenile detention center $104 a month for holding her 16-year-old son. When she explained to the court that she could not afford to pay, Ms. Nowlin was sent to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which helped get her out last week after she spent 28 days behind bars, says it is seeing more people being sent to jail because they cannot make various court-ordered payments. That is both barbaric and unconstitutional.In 1970, the Supreme Court ruled that it violates equal protection to keep inmates in prison extra time because they are too poor to pay a fine or court costs. More recently, the court ruled that a state generally cannot revoke a defendant’s probation and imprison him for failing to pay a fine if he is unable to do so."
"Prisoners’ rights advocates worry that in these hard times, when government budgets are under pressure, courts and prisons will get even tougher about forcing indigent defendants to pay costs and fees, and will imprison more of them if they cannot come up with the money. The government should be helping people on society’s margins build productive lives. Throwing them in jail for being poor makes that much more difficult."This is a scary and sobering story, of which its main example inexcusably comes from our state! I always assumed this was one of our most basic rights; I guess some governmental bodies are in disagreement, brought on by very desperate times. I hope we can get past these archaic methods - jailing someone impoverished is a quick way to inflame the problem, not a solution to state budget woes.
It certainly serves as an example, albeit an extreme one, to the complexity of economic struggles in both our state and America as a whole. We need to pull together our resources now and unite, not fight the poorest population for every last dollar.