From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, many United States cities operated what is known as “debtors' prisons.” These facilities were designed with the sole intention of jailing negligent monetary borrowers - some of whom owed incredibly measly amounts of money. As the years progressed, debt among Americans increased, causing many to deem the law the law as absurdly outdated. So, in 1833, Congress rules these practices as unconstitutional.
Although these prisons have been technically abolished, the practice of incarcerating people for their inability to pay fines hasn't necessarily gone away. In fact, The Department of Justice has had to reaffirm this said ruling several times since, sending letters to every court in the nation as a reminder.
A Dauphin County, PA offender is a testament to the prominence of debtors' prisons today. He, who remains anonymous, got a call from his probation officer that he had missed a couple of payments in the last six months and that he is in danger of violating probation.
Most people may not be aware that incarceration is just one of various legal penalties offenders endure. After serving their time, ex-cons are slapped with huge bills compiled of mounting expenses - court costs, transportation, sheriffs costs, booking fees - the list goes on and on. This man owed Dauphin County about $2,300, while his overall fees totaled to approximately $13,000 altogether.
These fines are considered to be a much more insidious punishment than incarceration to some, especially considering the circumstances surrounding them. The existence of a conviction itself already severely limits job opportunities. And when they do find a job that will hire them, they get paid minimum wage or close to it, which isn't nearly enough money needed to support themselves, let alone a family or other obligations.
But this doesn't matter to the county; they want their money and they want it on time. And when these requirements aren't met, offenders face a warrant for their arrest and re-incarceration. The court even extends probation time until all the fines are paid, which means that one could go back to jail several times for unpaid debts.
Jailing people for not being able to afford county expenses is counterproductive and a nightmare for ex-cons who truly want to move on.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
A significant part of being adequately prepared for your case entails seeking the help of an experienced attorney. A legal professional who defends criminal defense cases will know the ins and outs of the process and can get you on a course of action that ideally fits your needs. Attorney Joseph D. Lento brings a wealth of experience to the table, as he's successfully handled numerous cases just like yours. But most importantly, his familiarity with the overall process can be a source of comfort for you in one of the most stressful times of your life. For more information about his representation or how he can help you, contact him online or by phone today at 215-535-5353.
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