A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire found that courts sent defendants to jail in lieu of paying a fine in nearly 300 cases in 2013.
The report found that when poorer defendants were unable to pay a fine, judges did not assign lawyers try to find whether they could afford it or inform them of their rights. The judges sent the defendants straight to jail.
“Being poor is not a crime in this country,” said Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “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.”
People who get jail time instead of paying fines serve off their fine at a rate of $50 per day. However, it costs $110 per day to put someone in jail. Judges are particularly harsh in these cases, one involving a 22-year-old mother of two who was displaced by a house fire. She couldn’t complete her community service and a judge sentenced her to nine days in jail.
Read the complete ACLU report below:
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