In the end, she was encouraged to plead guilty to a probationary sentence of one or two years. But now she has to go back to court every month and start paying back fines and court fees and accommodation expenses. The judges act as debt collectors for the county government. And if the guilty party doesn’t show up or make monthly payments, she often finds herself back in prison, with her debt growing even higher. As Messenger writes, “In most jurisdictions, the largest of these fines is a bill for jail time, as if a person had spent a year in a hotel.” Charles Dickens has written about the prisons of such debtors in 19th-century England, and Messenger’s book shows them living well in 21st-century America.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/for-poor-defendants-minor-crimes-can-lead-to-devastating-debts/2021/12/22/3bfa297a-5c45-11ec-bda6-25c1f558dd09_story.html Book review “Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice” by Tony Messenger.
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