Stop Illegally Jailing People for Unpaid Petty Fines

jails-by-joseph-kranak

Target: Rebecca Bernhardt, executive director of the Texas Fair Defense Project

Goal: Charge Austin officials under the full extent of the law for allegedly illegally jailing poor people for unpaid petty fines without properly assessing whether they can afford to pay.

Austin’s municipal court is accused of illegally jailing poor people for unpaid petty fines without properly assessing whether they can afford to pay, joining a list of other courts across the country accused of illegally incarcerating people, defying Supreme Court rulings and state law.

Austin is accused of incarcerating debtors without either properly assessing a person’s ability to pay his or her fines or offering the person community service. Both of these processes are required by law rather than simply locking someone up.

The city is accused of punishing already vulnerable individuals who are too poor to pay their way out of petty crimes and are instead forced further into poverty through incarceration. Years ago the U.S. Supreme Court banned locking people up just because they can’t afford to pay off their debts.

This kind of classist violence is unacceptable and must be punished. If found guilty of committing this injustice against people, charge Austin officials under the full extent of the law for illegally jailing poor people.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Director Bernhardt,

You are leading the fight against Austin’s municipal court for allegedly  incarcerating debtors without either properly assessing a person’s ability to pay the fines against them or offering the person community service, which are both required by law.

This kind of behavior punishes poor people who are already suffering under the weight of poverty, and it’s completely unfair. Justice must be served. If found guilty of committing this injustice against people, I urge you to charge Austin officials under the full extent of the law for illegally jailing poor people.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Joseph Kranak

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