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.
An indigent's equal protection rights are violated when defendants can avoid prosecution by paying a fine, without determining an individual’s ability to pay the fine.
In Bearden v. Georgia, the Supreme Court held that courts may only revoke probation and/or sentence the defendant to imprisonment if the defendant willfully refused to pay.
Petitioner’s due process rights were violated because he is entitled to a hearing before a disinterested and impartial judge in the first instance. The mayor was neither.