Skip to main content
Edit Page Style Guide Control Panel

Alternatives to Modern-Day Debtors Prisons

April 22, 2016

In an excellent op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Texas Judge Ed Spillane explains that judges in jurisdictions across the country are failing to follow rules that prohibit the jailing of people simply because they are too poor to pay legal financial obligations (LFOs). There are a number of causes for this. Many judges are “overworked”; others are “under pressure to generate revenue through fees”; and others still are “skeptical of defendants’ claims to poverty or simply ignorant of the law.” Whatever the reason, Judge Spillane persuasively argues that there are alternatives to jail, and “courts and judges are not powerless to fix the system.”

Terrell Marshall Law Group attorneys Toby Marshall and Elizabeth Adams are currently working with the ACLU-WA to prosecute a civil rights class action against Benton County, which Judge Spillane notes has a history of jailing poor people “for nonpayment of fines and court fees.” As a result of the lawsuit, Benton County recently agreed to stop this practice.

For more information on the class action against Benton County, click here.