Hot Topic: Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons: The Criminalization of Poverty and Those Who Profit from It (D4)

Date/Time: Monday, July 16, 2018: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Speakers: Avery Le, Emory University School of Law; Mark Engsberg, Emory University; Sara Totonchi, Southern Center for Human Rights; Neil L. Sobol, Texas A&M University School of Law

The exorbitant fines and fees imposed after an arrest can be extremely burdensome for low-income people to pay off. The criminal justice system enforces penalties as severe as jail time for failure to pay (which equates to a violation of probation), creating a revolving door at the courthouse for the indigent, and disproportionately affecting vulnerable minority communities. Moreover, being unable to make bail or afford proper legal counsel, or having to choose between losing one’s job or missing a court date, can present impossible situations for those already at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder—especially if they are also the sole financial provider for dependent family members. With many local courts hiring private, for-profit probation companies and granting them law enforcement authority to collect these debts, the indigent can face physical threats, intimidation tactics, as well as an increased risk of incarceration for failure to pay. Learn what efforts are being made to end these abusive practices and enact policy reforms that protect low-income individuals who must appear in court.

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