Michigan Using Debtor Prisons To Punish Poor Who Cannot Pay Fines
Debtor prisons can be added to the long list of anachronistic cruel punishments coming back into fashion as a tool to incessantly harass the nation's cash-strapped, because there is nothing more fun if you are a "downer nation" these days than the needless humiliation of your own struggling populations. In the jobless state of Michigan, a pissy judge saw fit to imprison an out-of-work young father for the crime of being unable to pay his fine for bass fishing out of season. We will randomly estimate this process cost 26,034 times the actual $215 of the original ticket.
Kyle Dewitt spent three days in jail because he was too poor to pay a fishing fine. Last spring, Dewitt was ticketed and fined $215 for fishing smallmouth bass out of season (Dewitt disputes the charge).
But Dewitt, 19 years old with a fiancée and a nine-month-old son, lost his job at a grocery store in 2010 and has been out of work ever since. He couldn’t afford the $215 fine. Instead he offered to pay $100 up front, and repay the rest in a month. But Judge Raymond Voet of Ionia, Mich., refused. The judge sentenced Dewitt to three days in jail.
The American Civil Liberties Union paid to break Dewitt out. Now the group is suing on behalf of Dewitt and four others in Michigan who were jailed because they were too poor to pay misdemeanor fines.