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ACLU urges Ohio Supreme Court to end 'debtors' prisons'

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] on Thursday urging the Ohio Supreme Court [official website] to bring an end to the state's practice of jailing people who cannot pay their court fines. The ACLU alleges that this practice is used in seven of the 11 counties investigated. The report claims that "there is no evidence that any of these people were given hearings to determine whether or not they were financially able to pay their fines, as required by the law." The report calls on the Ohio Supreme Court "to institute administrative rules to ensure that all courts properly determine whether a person can afford to pay her criminal fines, in order to ensure that those who are unable to pay are not incarcerated for these debts."

Thursday's brief reflects the findings of an ACLU investigation launched in 2012. In 2010, the ACLU released a report entitled "In for a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons" [text, PDF] profiling five states, including Ohio, which participate in the practice of so-called "debtors' prisons." Under this system, individuals who fail to pay their sentenced fines and court costs are assigned a monthly payment plan. If he or she does not make these payments, an arrest warrant will be issued, and the individual will be incarcerated for 10 days without bond.

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