Personal Narrative: Nikita

Related: Mahoney et al v. Derrick, No. 60CV-18-5616 (Cir. Ct. Pulaski Co. 2018)

Nikita is a Certified Nursing Assistant and mother of four children, ages 8-14. She works two jobs because her husband is incapacitated by a rare disease and lost his well-paying job. Since his illness, the family has been homeless, lived on food stamps; they even had to pawn their wedding rings.

Nikita was held for 42 days on a cash bail of $1315 because she was unable to pay a failure to appear charge. The charge was later dropped.  However, to avoid imprisonment on a contempt charge, she pled guilty and this resulted in $20,000 additional debt.

On Nikita’s court date, her husband was arrested on a warrant for failure to pay.  He drove on a suspended license and their car was impounded. His first appearance was four days later. He explained that he and wife were both in jail and the children were with family. Judge Derrick refused to release him or reduce bail and detained him for another 25 days until arraignment.  He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, and given 28 days’ credit for time served, with new fines imposed. Together, they owe $300 per month for court debt. Their children were reported abandoned and taken into protective custody. At the time of this complaint, Nikita and her husband were still trying to regain custody of their children.