Ohio: Reviving Debtor’s Prison, ACLU investigates


A new ACLU report accuses Ohio courts of imprisoning people who are unable to pay court fees. The group, which claims to have found evidence in seven counties, likened the practice to a resurgence of debtor’s prisons – which were outlawed by the 1830s.

Entitled “The Outskirts of Hope,” the report also accuses Ohio judges of consistently denying those locked up in such circumstances court hearings to prove their financial status.

Supreme Court precedent and Ohio law make clear that local courts and jails should not function as debtors’ prisons,” said American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Carl Takei. “Yet many mayors’ courts and some municipal courts jail people without making any attempt whatsoever to determine whether they can afford to pay their fines.

Being poor is not a crime in this country,” said ACLU staff attorney Richard Goodman, who was quoted in the group’s announcement. “Incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay fines is both unconstitutional and cruel – it takes a tremendous toll on precisely those families already struggling the most.”

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