This Alabama Appleseed report stems from a survey of 1,011 justice-involved Alabamians. The author provides recommendations for lawmakers, programs, and courts to follow to improve the effectiveness and fairness of diversion.
This class action alleges that Alabama’s driver’s license suspension practices violate equal protection and due process because people are being punished without any determination of their ability to pay.
Defendants in the Gardendale Municipal Court are placed on probation when they are unable to pay court fines and fees in full. Professional Probation Services, Inc. (PPS) is the sole probation provider through a contract with the City and the Municipal Court judge. PPS charges a $40 monthly fee which is paid before the court’s fines and fees.
Kevin Cox lives in a rural town in Alabama and is disabled. He relies on his monthly disability check to support him and his partner. He could not afford car insurance, but he continued to drive since there are no other viable options for transportation where he lives. After he was ticketed for lack of insurance, his license was suspended and his fine only compounded the thousands of dollars in court debt he already owed.
This report examines in detail the collateral consequences of Alabama’s court debt system and explores the ways in which it undermines public safety and drives the state’s racial wealth divide.
Wilson owes Alabama thousands of dollars for a crime which she served her sentence for more than 10 years ago. Her license is suspended and she can’t afford to get it re-instated.
Angela Dabney, 40, of Montgomery, is terrified of law enforcement. A single mother of three children, she has three outstanding Failure to Appear warrants for traffic tickets she cannot afford to pay. She says she has never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, but she does not have the money to pay her tickets or even afford to keep up with the payment plan she was assigned.
Teon Smith, a mother of six, lived in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2018, she was pulled over because one of her tail lights was out. When the officer came back after running her driver’s license through the database, the officer told her that her license had been suspended for about three months by that time because of unpaid tickets.
This suit against Judicial Correction Services in Alabama alleges that people were placed on probation without adjudication of their guilt nor sentenced to serve jail time.
This video provides an overview of the history of debtors’ prisons in the U.S. and features compelling commentary from citizens describing how our current system of court fines and fees put them in difficult situations and made them resort to desperate measures for survival.