Donyale Thomas was in the Ferguson jail for over a week before the City informed her that they would accept $200 for her release.
Roelif Carter pled guilty and was assessed fines and fees. Fear of jail coerced Mr. Carter to make the payment until he simply could not afford to do so.
Keilee Fant is a 37-year-old certified nurse assistant and single mother who was arrested for unpaid traffic tickets while taking her children to school. She was jailed over 12 times in 20 years for her inability to pay the debt.
The City of Ferguson jails people when they cannot afford to pay their traffic debt and cash bonds for other minor offenses. No inquiry is made into the person’s ability to pay, no alternatives to payment are offered to the individuals, and no counsel is provided.
Unable to pay debt from traffic tickets, impoverished defendants were given the options of paying the debt immediately or sitting out their debt in jail at the rate of $50.00 a day. Those in jail were given the further option of performing janitorial services at the rate of $25.00 a day. No inquiry was made as to the defendant’s ability to pay.
The SPLC filed a lawsuit challenging Cleveland’s and Watts’ incarceration as a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution.
Included in the appellant’s sentence was “court costs” of $234. The appellant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the amount of the costs.
This seminal report examines fines and fees practices in the fifteen U.S. states with the highest prison populations, focusing on “user fees” and their impact on individuals reentering society after incarceration.
This report examines the impact of the Florida Legislature’s decision to levy “user fees” on people accused and convicted of traffic violations, misdemeanors and felonies without providing exemptions for the indigent.
Harrison County Jail was a modern day debtors’ prison. Officers went to predominantly African American neighborhoods arbitrarily checking people to see if they had paid their court fines and fees.