The Criminalization of Poverty in the Court Systems

A step in progression is being taken in the justice system as The Justice Department discourages state court systems not to sentence jail time to those who fail to pay fines or fees. It has been said that resulting in jail time for those who are in debt will do nothing but continue creating a revolving door for those in poverty inside jails. Alternatives should be offered, such as community service, for those who are in poverty who remain in debt to their fines, states a letter sent to the state court administrators on Monday. The letter also addresses the willfulness of some to pay, where some people may not be able to pay fines due to poverty, and that should be examined before reaching a ruling that sentences jail time.

A meeting in December brought together by the Obama Administration worked to discus the issue of crippling fees being given to those who cannot afford to pay them, and as a result, end up in jail. The criminalization of poverty has not only been deemed unlawful, but unnecessary, as it sets back a citizen’s ability to provide for their family, or even have trust in the system that was built to protect them.

The same issue arises when jail bonds are set- those who are living in poverty don’t get out of jail on bail because it’s too high of a number for them to afford. This issue is being asked to be examined, as it is not fair to charge the poor with expenses they cannot afford in exchange for their freedom, especially when the reason they’re in ail is because they were too poor to pay fines or fees. The practice of ordering those in poverty to pay outrageous fees has been deemed not to help the flow of public safety, but is for increasing revenue in the court system- something the Justice Department aims to change.

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