A new report shines a light on a harrowing “debtors’ prison” system in Ohio — one that violates both the United States’ and the Ohio constitution.
The Americans Civil Liberties Union on Friday revealed that courts in
Ohio are illegally throwing poor people in jail for being unable to pay
off a debt.
In a report titled, “ The Outskirts of Hope,”
(PDF) the ACLU shines a light on a harrowing “debtors’ prison” system
in Ohio — one that violates both the United States’ and the Ohio
constitution. Ohioans are being jailed for “as small as a few hundred
dollars,” despite the constitutional violation, and the economic
evidence that it costs the state more to pay for their jail sentence
than the amount of the debt.
In its report, the ACLU details the stories of several people sent to
debtors’ prison. Jack Dawley owed $1,500 in “fines and costs in the
Norwalk Municipal Court,” and was behind on child support payments,
leading the Ohio courts to send him to prison in Wisconsin for 3 and a
half years. He still struggles with trying to repay the fines. Another
victim of the system, single mother Tricia Metcalf, was taken to jail
each and every time she wasn’t able to make her $50-a-month payments on
fines for writing bad checks. Megan Sharp, whose husband is currently in
jail on overdue fines, was unable to pay $300 in fines for driving on a
suspended license and went to jail for 10 days. When she got out, she
owed $200 more on top of the original amount. Both she and her husband