Debtors' Prisons Return To The U.S., ACLU Finds
But it still happens. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio investigated 11 counties in the state and found debtors' prisons to be a live and well tradition in seven of them. For our Friday Lunchtime Live video series, AOL Jobs spoke with Mike Brickner, one of the lead ACLU investigators, to find out the extent of the problem, and what people can do if they find themselves under arrest for a debt they can't pay.
"Everyone had been incarcerated multiple times," Brickner says about the people who had been through this system, "and everyone in these communities knew someone who had been affected."
The ACLU estimates that possibly thousands of poor Americans in Ohio alone have been thrown into jail for not paying debts, causing them to lose their jobs and more. When money is particularly tight, John Bundren, one of the individuals interviewed by the ACLU, will pay the fine of Samantha Reed, the mother of his child, (pictured above) instead of his own, so that she can stay home with their infant.
That's $950 of costs for a $300 fine. "It's not just an illegal policy; it's a stupid policy," Brickner says.
"The sad thing is that we really think these seven courts we found are just the tip of the iceberg," he adds. "That there are many, many, many courts around the state that are doing this."
Watch the highlights reel below and the full video here. And if you have had an experience with a debtors' prison, or know someone who has, the ACLU of Ohio invites you to visit its website here to tell your story.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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