Stop Imprisoning People for Unpaid Legal Fees

Target: Mike Barrett, Massachusetts State Senator

Goal: End unjust practice of jailing defendants who cannot afford to pay legal fees and fines.

Defendants in Massachusetts, both guilty and innocent, are being jailed solely because of an inability to pay legal fees. In multiple cases, defendants who are found not guilty are imprisoned anyway because of this unfair practice.

A recent report on the Massachusetts legal system found over 100 instances for 2015 alone in which citizens were locked away for “fine time,” or a failure to pay court fines and fees. The report also determined that in 60 percent of these cases, the defendants came from low-income areas.

The many costs of enduring a trial vary, such as legal fees for court-appointed lawyers, fines resulting from the ruling of the case, and a recurring “supervision fee” for defendants put on probation.

This backwards procedure unfairly punishes poor people and must be immediately ended. If a person does not have the funds to pay legal fees, placing them in jail will only make it harder for them to work and raise money. Sign the petition below and demand that the state find alternative means of punishing and supporting defendants in this situation.


Dear Senator Barrett,

I am writing to express my indignation concerning defendants who are jailed because they could not pay legal fees and fines. More than a hundred people have fallen victim to this predatory practice in the past year alone, and these numbers will only continue to rise if immediate action is not taken.

Enduring a legal trial is a costly affair, and the jailing of defendants both guilty and innocent unfairly targets citizens with lower incomes. Furthermore, this form of punishment is entirely counter-intuitive; if a defendant does not have the money to pay legal fees, placing him or her in jail will only make the situation worse.

I urge you to end this practice and find a better, more effective means of ensuring that legal fees are paid without imprisoning innocent citizens.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Aliven Sarkar

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One Comment

  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    thats not fair to poor people!

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303 Signatures

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