NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Debt imprisonment is rising in America as poor people unable to pay fees are jailed, two advocacy groups said Monday.
Reports by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Brennan Center for Justice say many states across the country, strapped for funds, are aggressively going after poor people who have already served their criminal sentences. This makes it harder for them to re-enter society and ultimately costs much more.
"Incarcerating people simply because they cannot afford to pay their legal debts is not only unconstitutional but also has a devastating impact upon men and women, whose only crime is that they are poor," said Eric Balaban, senior staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project.
The ACLU report, "In for a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons," and the Brennan Center report, "The Hidden Cost of Criminal Justice Debt," found that states and counties are imposing financial penalties on defendants beyond their criminal sentences as a way to raise revenue.
Incarcerating indigent defendants for failing to pay legal debts ends up costing states and counties much more than they can ever hope to recover, the ACLU said.
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