Alabama Judge Shuts Down Private Debtors Prison
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Harpersville Mayor Theoangelo Perkins
The Alabama town of Harpersville has been accused of running a “debtors prison” and using its courts to commit extortion.
Circuit Judge Hub Harrington said he was appalled after finding out that the Harpersville Municipal Court and a private probation company, Judicial Corrections Services, were responsible for jailing people for failing to pay court fines and fees.
Having reviewed the lawsuit of Dana Burdette, an individual caught up in the legal web, Harrington put a stop to the practice, which he said amounted to a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” Besides ending up behind bars, a person who failed to pay a $200 fine on time could end up owing $2,100.
In addition to taking over all cases in Harpersville involving people jailed for failing to pay court fines and fees, Harrington ordered the city’s mayor, Theoangelo Perkins, and its four other town council members to attend an injunction hearing next month and future court hearings in the case.
“Most distressing is that these abuses have been perpetrated by what is supposed to be a court of law,” Harrington wrote. “Disgraceful.”
The judge ordered the city to give defendants at least 30 days to pay initial fines and fees, and that he must approve all future orders to jail defendants.
To Learn More:
Judge Halts 'Debtors Prison' By Harpersville City Court, Calls It 'Judicially Sanctioned Extortion' (by Eric Velasco, Birmingham News)
Dana Burdette v. Town of Harpersville (Circuit Court, Shelby County, Alabama) (pdf)
Supreme Court Takes a Step Closer to Debtors’ Prison (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Debtors’ Prisons Make a Comeback…in the U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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