Debtors’ prisons are an injustice
Have you ever inadvertently walked across someone else’s lawn? Did you play loud music outside? These are torts under Delaware law. If you are found guilty, you risk both a fine for the offense and costs for several court services. This can turn a $ 100 charge into a $ 500 liability for you. If you don’t pay, you can be arrested and put in jail, and your driver’s license will be suspended. Does that sound correct to you?
While you can personally afford it, many people cannot. According to the Federal Reserve, 12% of all Americans cannot afford an unexpected expense of $ 400. The percentage of defendants in Delaware in this situation is probably much higher, as 85% are destitute. Does it make sense to put a needy person in prison? What about preventing them from going to work to earn money and pay fines and fees?
It is not an academic problem. In 2017, Delaware issued 44,889 warrants solely for non-payment of court costs. Over 56% were issued to blacks. In the first half of 2018, Delaware sentenced 129 people to jail just because they couldn’t afford court costs. In 2017, 20,679 Delawareans had their licenses suspended for unpaid fines and fees. Driver’s licenses should not be suspended for anything other than misconduct.
Tell your senator and representative from Delaware that you want fines and fee reform now, and that this “debtors jail” system needs to be addressed in the current legislative year.
What greater goal and what greater meaning than to work together to create a world that guarantees the health of the Earth and the well-being of families and communities?