Stop Jailing Innocent People for Court Fees


Target: Senator Cam Ward (R-AL)

Goal: Stop using private collection companies to jail innocent people

Thousands of innocent people are being jailed because they cannot afford to pay court fees for trials in which they were found not guilty. These states are using private collection companies that add on extra fees in repayment and make it even harder for these innocent people to pay off a debt that they clearly didn’t deserve in the first place. This is not only wrong, but unconstitutional. Action must be taken now to ensure that innocent people are not sent to jail and made to feel like criminals.

A perfect example of this is the case of Tim Fugatt, a native of Childersburg, Alabama. Mr. Fuggat had an extremely ill child in the hospital who he visited daily. One day, upon returning from the hospital, he was stopped by police for having an expired license. He was then taken to court and found not guilty because of his circumstances. However, he was unable to pay the fees for the trial as he could not hold down a job with all of his time spent at the hospital. His case was sent to a private collection company that added more money to his bill. When he could not pay, he was arrested.

This is nothing short of having a debtor’s prison. When someone is forced to stand trial, the Constitution requires that a serious inquiry be made about whether or not they can pay the fees. No such thing was done for Mr. Fugatt and the same is undoubtedly true for others. Something must be done to ensure people’s Constitutional rights and to protect the innocent from being made to feel like criminals. Please sign below to demand that Alabama, and states like it, stop using private collection companies and ensure that innocent people are not put in jail.


Dear Senator Ward,

It has come to my attention that your home state of Alabama is jailing innocent people for being unable to pay their court fees. While this is not only poor policy, it is also unconstitutional as a serious inquiry into whether or not people can pay is not made. The reason that this inquiry is not made and the proper steps are not always followed is that parts of your state, and other states for that matter, have turned to using private collection companies in place of the state-run apparatus.

I am writing to demand that this practice cease immediately and to demand that innocent people are not treated like criminals. What is the good in forcing innocent people into an already-overcrowded and morally bankrupt prison system? Please take the proper and necessary steps to cut out these private collection companies and to make sure that all of the necessary inquiries are made into whether or not a person can pay their court fines before they are put in jail.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Philip Larson via Flickr

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