Debtor’s Prison Served No Purpose in 1830 and Serves no Purpose Today

Debtor’s prisons date back to the 1800s, but if you look in the jails today, you’ll find inmates who are serving time because of unpaid fines associated with misdemeanors who simply cannot pay them, and as they are incarcerated, the fines keep accumulating with additional costs.

Some of those in “debtors prison” today have accounts that have exceeded $10,000. and when they are in jail, they have no way to pay the courts. Many inmates have recurring sentences because of nonpayment, and some have been given up to a year in prison.

Without an income, the inmates don’t have anything to give, so the system is punishing minorities and the poor at taxpayer’s expense. On the average, it costs $64 to house one inmate for one day, so the public is supporting prisoners solely because they can’t pay fines, not for violent issues.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that people are to be jailed only when they refuse to pay, not when they are unable. Safeguards protect the homeless, so they are not using the system for housing,

In the last 25 years, overcrowding and extensive incarcerations have become the norm in U.S. prisons, and it is increasingly costly. Many courts have shifted the added costs to criminal offenders by special fees and surcharges. In Nevada, there are 66 different kinds of fees that criminal defendants can be assessed.

As a solution, courts could reduce these fees if private collection companies that added to the original fine were discontinued and if fines were limited to a percentage of the defendants’ income.