A circuit judge in Marion, Alabama, is bleeding defendants dry – or tossing them in jail.
Judge Marvin Wiggins' recent decisions are raising ethical questions about sentencing someone to a medical procedure when he told offenders who owed the court money that they could either donate blood if they didn’t have the funds or face jail time.
It’s no secret that thousands of people all across the United States end up in jail for either failing to pay their bail money or the inability to cough up fines for minor offenses. While a logical decision would be to sentence minor offenders to community service or something similar, asking them for their blood is downright preposterous.
“For your consideration, there's a blood drive outside,” Wiggins told offenders who showed up in his courtroom on Sept. 17, according to a newly released recording by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If you don't have any money, go out there and give blood and bring in a receipt indicating you gave blood… For those who had no money or did not want to give blood the sheriff has enough handcuffs.”
The offenders' alleged criminal offenses ranged from “hunting after dark, assault, drug possession and passing bad checks,” according to The New York Times, and dozens of people charged dutifully filed out of the courtroom to a mobile blood bank parked in the street.
The receipt they showed to the clerk was supposed to get the defendants a $100 credit toward their fines and set free. Although records show that no one was taken into custody that day, SPLC claims not everyone received the credit.
Moreover, some of the older men who gave blood passed out.
Since sentencing someone to a medical procedure that does not benefit them is unconstitutional, Wiggins' shocking compromise has landed him in great deal of trouble. SPLC also noted in its complaint that the debtors who were afraid of imprisonment traded their blood for freedom – which is technically accurate. It is also a matter of body integrity.
All defendants reportedly owed thousands of dollars to the court even years after making payments – including the fees for their court-appointed lawyers.
“It's an example of what we've been concerned about for a while — Alabama's two-tiered system of justice," explained Sarah Zampierin, a staff attorney with SPLC. The two tiers apparently consist of "one set of penalties for those who can pay and another for those who can't afford to pay.”
Judge Wiggins refused to comment, but the Life South Community Blood Centers – the blood bank on hand that day – said it quarantined and tested all of the blood and later threw a great deal of it away.
Listen to the recorded proof of Wiggin’s outlandish decision in the video below: