Recently, the City of Jackson, Mississippi settled a federal class action lawsuit that challenged the use of debtors’ prisons. The civil rights group Equal Justice Under Law and the Roderick and Solange Macarthur Justice Center of the University of Mississippi School of Law filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven plaintiffs.
The previous system jailed people who were unable to pay court imposed fines and fees without assessing their ability to pay. Those people were credited a rate of $25 a day for general incarceration or $58 a day for work at the Hinds County Penal Farm. After the settlement, individuals who cannot pay their fines in full have the option of paying $25 a month or performing community service that will credit their debt at $9 an hour.
State Losing Money By Jailing Debtors
Not only was the prior practice of jailing indigent citizens unconstitutional, it can also cost the state more money than it would ever have gotten had the fine been paid to begin with. According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, it costs roughly $35 a day per prisoner. By jailing an individual for the inability to pay a fine and crediting that debt with days in prison, the state loses revenue from the fines and incurs the cost of imprisoning the debtor. While the cost to the state is something to consider, especially in Mississippi, the unconstitutional jailing of an indigent citizen for their inability to pay a fine is far worse.
If you find yourself unable to pay your debts, regardless of type, please contact our office nearest you to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.