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75 Md. L. Rev. 486 (2015-2016)
Charging the Poor: Criminal Justice Debt and Modern-Day Debtors' Prisons

handle is hein.journals/mllr75 and id is 498 raw text is: 


                              NEIL L. SOBOL*

       Debtors'prisons should no longer exist. While imprisonment
     for debt was common in colonial times in the United States, sub-
     sequent constitutional provisions, legislation, and court rulings
     all called for the abolition of incarcerating individuals to collect
     debt. Despite these prohibitions, individuals who are unable to
     pay debts are now regularly incarcerated, and the vast majority
     of them are indigent. In 2015, at least ten lawsuits were filed
     against municipalities for incarcerating individuals in modern-
     day debtors'prisons.
       Criminal justice debt is the primary source for this imprison-
     ment. Criminal justice debt includes fines, restitution charges,
     court costs, and fees. Monetary charges exist at all stages of the
     criminal justice system from pre-conviction to parole. They in-
     clude a wide variety of items, such as fees for electronic monitor-
     ing, probation, and room and board. Forty-three states even
     charge fees for an indigent's 'free public defender. With ex-
     panding incarceration rates and contracting state budgets, mone-
     tary sanctions have continued to escalate. Additionally, many
     states and localities are now outsourcing prison, probation, mon-
     itoring, and collection services to private companies, who add
     additional fees and charges to the criminal justice debt burden of
       The impact of criminal justice debt is especially severe on the
     poor and minorities as they are frequently assessed poverty

© 2016 Neil L. Sobol.
    *Associate Professor, Texas A&M University School of Law; J.D. (cum laude, order of the
coif), Southern Methodist University; M.S. and B.A. (with distinction), Stanford University. I
appreciate the encouragement and assistance of my colleagues at Texas A&M including Cynthia
Alkon, Susan Ayres, Mark Burge, Patrick Flanagan, Timothy Mulvaney, Carol Pauli, Huyen
Pham, Tanya Pierce, and Lisa Rich, as well as, the research assistance of Zachery S. Brown. I am
also grateful for the feedback received following presentations at the Central States Law Schools
Association Annual Scholarship Conference at Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law
Center, ClassCrits VII at U.C. Davis School of Law, Texas A&M University School of Law, and
the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.


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