ACLU keeping options open about what's next with "debtors' prisons"

During six-month period, 22 percent of bookings in Huron County Jail involved warrants for failure to pay fines.
Cary Ashby
Apr 11, 2013

The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hopes its research into suspected "debtors' prison practices" -- which is believed to be statewide -- will allow courts to "take this opportunity to enact reform and put an end" to the problem.

The results of an investigation by the ACLU charges Huron County, specifically Norwalk Municipal Court, with being one of 11 counties that jails people for being too poor to pay their legal fines.

"We will be sharing this information with the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, who has expressed interest in meeting to discuss this issue. We are scheduled to meet on Thursday, April 18, 2013," said Jocelyn Rosnick, an ACLU policy researcher and post-graduate legal fellow.

The ACLU investigation looked at Huron County bookings from May through the end of October 2012.  "Over a six-month period, approximately 22 percent of the total bookings in the Huron County Jail were related to warrants issued for contempt for failure to pay fines," Rosnick said.

A story about this subject, including the responses of local officials, was published in Friday's Norwalk Reflector. So you don't miss stories such as this one, sign up for home delivery by calling 419-668-3771 or subscribe to the e-paper (a complete digital replica of each issue) for less than $1 per week and read the full-version of the stories online.

Comments

onegirlarmy

22% is a good chunk of change when you tack on the court costs for that.
Hey....double or nothing!!

Now The Rest of...

Third rehash of same article, circulation & advertisement dollars that bad?

It's just more ...

Agree it is a rehash, but at least the Reflector has a little more journalistic integrity than the Register which is always trying to sensationalize its rehashes.

Now The Rest of...

Reflector is now the Register Light....

It's just more ...

LOL - Or the Register minus Matt Westerhold. By the way, what did you think of my little script I posted under the Register's story? I felt a little creative last night.

bama

You do realize that they are the same company, right? Just a different name.

dontcare

Individuals who receive fines are given extreme leeway in repayment. For instance 5 dollars per month. If the person decides to buy a 12 pack or pack of cigarettes in instead of paying on the 5 dollar a month fine, they should go to jail.

I would like to see one example from the ACLU where an individual was sent to jail because they truly could not afford to pay the fine. As far as I know the court has always made arrangements for repayment. At least some responsibility lies with the offender.

Making people responsible to pay fines instead of self indulgent behavior or out right defiance doesn't equate to a "debtors prison".

betrump

Yes, because everyone only spends their money on a 12 pack and cigarettes.

arnmcrmn

I agree dontcare........What it comes down to is people just CHOOSE not to pay and think they can get away with it and now the good ole ACLU is backing them up. This is what our country is coming to. Dont want to work.....dont worry, the government will take care of you. Break the law and don't want to pay your fines....dont worry the ACLU will back you up and most likely you will be forgiven of your fines. The payment system is so lenient that in order to go to jail for not paying a fine, one simply has not made ANY effort and has countless warnings sent to them.

Accountability for your actions is a term that is LOST in America anymore.

Brock Lee

man up an pay

onegirlarmy

lol...you sound like Judge Joe Brown Brock Lee.

happyfeet64

Re:Don't Care= you are incorrect. Norwalk Municipal Court does not offer agreements as low as $5 monthly.The minimum offered is between $25-$35.As for the assumption that the court would not incarcerate you if you truly couldn't pay your fine-please! I've been homeless living at the shelter in Sandusky(because job prospects were better there than in Norwalk) and have been arrested for failure to pay fines and incarcerated for 10 days. Judge Ridge had a system where every other time you were behind on your fines,you were incarcerated for 10-20 days,next time he would set up a new payment arrangement, which never decreased your payment-it would increase your payment.Add to that, the increased amount if a warrant was issued($50-$75) and fees to transport you from Muni court to the jail $5-$10 more. It was a racket. And don't start your self righteous ranting of I deserved it because I bought smokes or beer or drugs instead of paying my fines. I was a single mom who was trying to support myself and 2 children on min. wage at jobs that were seasonal with part time hours. Because of Ridge and Cardwell(yes him also), I lost my job, my kids and my home 2-3 times and have had to start over.Which I have and have succeeded in providing a home for myself and my family where I will NEVER be placed in their courts again. Oh, and before you make any assumptions that any of my stuff was drug or alcohol related, it wasn't. I had a citation for dog at large with no tags(just bought him on a Sunday and he ran out the door when I got him home), driving under suspension(my employer who I drove a landscaping truck for had purchased an SR-22 insurance policy on me without telling me which cancelled my insurance)when I was laid off I was stopped by NPD who informed me I didn't have insurance.And a bad check for $19.99 at IGA. So don't tell me! It was a racket to make money and they got caught.Plain and simple!Thank you ACLU!

onegirlarmy

Hang in there Happyfeet...atleast you are trying.
Sometimes the harder you try the harder life kicks you in the a$$.
Sometimes the hardest lessons happen to those with the biggest of hearts.
No one is perfect...we are all human.
Keep doing your best...life will still happen.
Have a good day.

dontcare

happyfeet64 says "I had a citation for dog at large with no tags JUST BOUGHT HIM ON SUNDAY and he ran out the door when I got him home),"

I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you. Also if you wrote a bad check you get ample time to pay for it. If you ignore the warning eventually charges may be filed. I'm guessing you shouldn't be bothered with having to repay the bad check either. Just out of curiousity would the price of the dog, along with it's care have paid for the bad check and the fine? I apologize.... that was insensitive.

happyfeet64

That wasn't insensitive-it was just plain ignorant. I paid ALL my fines off. And at the time with the dog, I thought I had a secure good paying job-IPC anyone? yeah I was one of the lockouts. And I'm sssooo happy you've never faced ANY hard times in your life a**h**e. I have and got through them. Even with my health problems( Hep c, insulin dependent diabetes and neuropathy affecting 3/4 of my legs and feet) I put myself back through school, obtained a great job in social services to help others with my knowledge and experience so they don't have to go through the crap I went through! I won't get rich but the bills are paid, I have a mortgage I can afford and a 401k plan to help me when I retire. And I put deposits into the Karma Bank everyday- do you? So bite a big one!

dontcare

I'm glad you're doing better.

Kelly

Here's a thought. Don't break the law and you won't have to worry about paying any fines. Bunch of criminal crybabies.

Delazia

Don't you get it? Judge Ridge is breaking the law. That's why all of those people had their fines and court costs drop. It's absolutely ridiculous for you to say "don't break the law" when the judge is breaking the law on a far larger scale than most of the people he has put in jail. Focus for crying out loud.

bennigan

**The thing is, wait until it's actually YOUR hardworking tax dollars to pay to house these people. YEAH, about 97% of the a**hols in there actually DID do something criminal to get in there/deserve a fine. But what about hard working people getting locked up for a mistake made by their kid (who obviously ISN'T aspiring to get a job), by the courts (for the rare and few that are ACTUALLY innocent) or by CSEA? They come and arrest you at work when you're paying for a whole other kind of mistake? Make you lose your job? So, WHY ARE PEOPLE expecting ME (and us, if anyone feels the same)to pay and support the jail system and their inmates and employees, just because some jackhole can't pay their fine? Because we think that the proper punishment is JAIL. Just like they always say, people learn in different ways. Keep throwing someone who doesn't pay their fine in jail and they will just learn to suck up the ??? days in jail for non-payment and continue to not pay it.......

bama

I would agree that there are some people out there that are trying to make right on what they did wrong and just can't catch a break. I also know that there are those who play the system as well and don't intend on paying their fines for the crimes that they have comitted and thanks to the ACLU, they will have the means to keep on not paying what they owe. What about those who owe fines but receive public assistance and have the gigantic TV in the livingroom with all of the trimmings including expensive game systems, etc. They are "too poor" to pay their fines but they can afford these things while draining the public assistance programs. So what if the courts revised their way of handing these types of cases. File suit in civil court and they still won't pay. What then? You can't garnish their wages cause most likely they aren't working or they are and it's under the table so their is no money reported and I am truly sure they care about their credit score. I guess I will go out and do something, plea guilty and not pay the fine and wait for the warrant to come out so I can be picked up and incarcerated. Thanks to the ACLU, I will then have the means in order to hire a attorney and sue so I can hit my lottery pay day. You know that's next.

Delazia

ITS THE LAW!!! It is not thanks to the ACLU. It is thanks to the constitution of ohio. You may not agree with that particular law but you can not pick and choose which laws to follow. If you do YOU ARE A CRIMINAL! It is basic stuff. We all have to follow the laws. Even Judge Ridge. He has been breaking the law and now he has been exposed. Suck it up and stop making excuses.

dontcare

Where in the Ohio Constitution does it say you can ignore court fines?

bennigan

Completely agreed; NOT EVERYONE should be made an acception, but they should state that child support and certain other specified fines be excused. One things for sure, I DON'T want to add to the cesspool leaching off of our government because they got arrested. Also, though, I DON'T want people to feel like they can get away with any crime. >> A little off subject, but CSEA is sooo corrupted (or at least it seems wayyy more corrupted around here than it ever did in other counties I've lived in).

ClarkeWDawley

This is getting old! Listen, you do the crime..get caught...you do the time whether that is jail time or a fine. IF, and I say IF the court is nice enough to grant you payments..yes, as low as 15 or 20 dollars, you pay them! Ok, go recycle some cans,rake some yards,if partying is your life, then quit throwing money you don't have, towards the partying.. but respect what the court has granted you. Better yet, be responsible about your actions, and be accountable. Funny...some of these offenses go back years, should've been paid off long ago, but the courts still patronize the "victims"..those that still haven't paid. Listen, if you had/have a job, and have made arrangements through the good graces of the court, then they'll accept what you can give..call them, drop off a payment, do something other than nothing. What does the ACLU have to do with it? Are their clients being treated wrongly? How so? If the defendant has a job, then that 15-20 dollar a month payment shouldn't be delinquent. If they don't have a job, are they supposed to be forgiven of the fine? NOT! By the way, I have a right to speak my opinion. So, what does the ACLU mandate? Erase all fines and punishments? Isn't it an ethical, and moral agreement between the defendants and the courts, that the defendant must take some responsibility to at least keep the court updated on status...or changing status? Sounds like lawsuit seeking deadbeats are seeking..well...undeserved compensation! But, thats my opinion, and I'm entitled to it! Norwalk Municipal Court, and Judge John Ridge...don't sway from the course...many of us respect you!

betrump

So everyone that has ever received a fine drinks too much and smokes weed? Thanks for your opinion. It's certainly contributed to the conversation.

Cliff Cannon

May I do my CliFF Claven impression ? " It's little known fact, that if YOU win a judgment in 'small claims court' that the defendant doesn't automatically have to PAY YOU.


No you have to chase them, cajole them, then finally if ---You are lucky enough--- the conscience less person your chasing,will have a job so you can garnishee the cheater's wages. Incredibly, I have seen cheats & losers, quit their jobs and go on welfare rather than pay their debt.


And that's only the frustrations of the civil sector. Now multiply the problem to the degree our local muni court see's. Wanna bet you'd seek some way to get the criminals, cheats and losers to pay ? Thought so.


So personally, despite knowing there are extenuating circumstances in many cases where the convicted is truly trying to straighten their lives up, yet they don't have the money to pay, so they need an extra break.


I for one am grateful for Norwalk Muni court's attempt to collect fines from our local criminal's. It's just to dam bad our constitutional laws no longer require common sense, morals, decency as well as honor to be imposed.


Sickeningly, those laws now days require only a shyster lawyer and a lack of conscience to be twisted in favor of the criminal. Here's hoping the ACLU rots in hades

happyfeet64

I agree that if you have a fine/court costs then you pay. I attempted on numerous occasions to pay only part of the balance but that wasn't sufficient for the courts. Now to the other posts-as someone said, not everyone is smokig pot or on assistance and have large tvs etc. There are the ones who use the court as a swinging door and playing the system. Although I don't believe in drug testing recipients of assistance, I do think that if they have broke the law and owe the court, then they should be sanctioned. If the assistance is only for the child, then have a payee appointed to pay the bills instead of the parents. Also, I do have to give credit to Judge Ridge because he had reset my jail date a few times and granted me an extension. But, the only reason he did that was because I have major health problems and the county didn't want be financially responsible for my care.It was also around the time the ACLU was nosing around to complete their investigation. They should also investigate Judge Cardwell because he does the same thing. One of the occasions that I was in jail I met a woman who every- months she would have to do 15-30 days because her son at the age of 17 got into major trouble and the financial responsibility fell on her. Her son was 19 at the time I met her with no job and living at home. Although she attempted to pay when she could, her employment was not continuous because of the incarcerations. Cardwell had levied over $3,000 on her because of her son.Personally, I would have kicked his a** for putting me in that situation in the first place and he sure as heck wouldn't be living with me,unemployed while I was struggling to pay off the court! although there are lazy a**es that will use this to their advantage, not all are like that. If they would have had a hearing to determine my ability to pay and allowed me to suspend my payments during periods of unemployment, then my children would never had to experience being homeless or knowing their mom was in jail or being placed in the foster care system. Those are things NO child should have to deal with. I accepted the responsibility of my actions and was able to work through it but to incarcerate me and have me lose everything is inexcusable.

NeverSpeechLess

Every person that receives any sort of government assistance should be drug tested. How stupid are people? I work my butt off over 40 hours every week and it sickens me to think of all the people getting welfare that shouldn't be. I totally support welfare for those who really, really need it. But I also support those people then having some sort of a community job that actually makes it worth them receiving money. Drug testing for all assistance recipients!

happyfeet64

And you're whining about working and paying taxes and it is being used for all those lazy people to sit at home and partying? well sweetie where do you think the $$ come from to test all of them? And if they test positive, how are the kids going to be taken care of? My suggestion is alot more practical- if you get into any sort of drug or alcohol related trouble then the cash aid is diverted into a payment/voucher for bills, rent and necessities at the store(TP,soap,etc.) California has been doing this for years for their GR program and it works!!!!

NeverSpeechLess

The money for their testing can come from the amount they would receive. Or from all of the savings the govt would have. For goodness sake, drug testing is not that expensive. Even retailers pay the cost to have employees tested before hiring. I think the welfare should only be used for food and necessities. I watch people use their damn ebit cards to buy more expensive brands then I buy myself. I have the money to purchase more expensive items but I also have the common sense to purchase just what I need. As far as the children of the system, they will be able to eat the food purchased by their families and (again) the necessities. Oh and to take it a step further, I'm all for free birth control for all. If you can't afford kids you shouldn't have then.

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