Mississippi City Sued For Unjustly Jailing The Poor

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Hundreds of poor people in Biloxi, MS are being jailed for days and weeks at a time because they can't afford to pay outstanding court fees.

We don’t know what’s going on in the South, but there seems to be some kind of “war on the poor” happening.

Impoverished people in Biloxi, Mississippi are being arrested because they can’t afford to pay court fines and fees related to traffic citations and misdemeanors, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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"People are being jailed because they're poor," said ACLU attorney Nusrat Choudhury. "There's no chance for them to explain that their inability to pay is because of poverty."

handcuffs

The ACLU claims that the city of Biloxi jails hundreds of debtors each year for days, sometimes weeks with no access to a lawyer or court hearing, which is a blatant violation of their constitutional rights.

“I hope that everybody knows that the system is trampling on poor people, and it’s not fair,” plaintiff Qumotria Kennedy reportedly said. Kennedy is a single mother of two who said she spent five nights in jail last year after being arrested for unpaid traffic fines, Aljazeera reports.

As a result, Kennedy said she lost her part-time job and fears being arrested again if she can’t keep up with her monthly court payments.

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A city spokesman Vincent Creel spoke out against the ACLU’s claims (of course…) saying that the city of Biloxi, "treats all defendants fairly under the law." Creel also said the courts order community service for people who can’t pay their fines and maintains that the ACLU is mistaken about the unfair arrests.

Perhaps it would be easier to trust what the city is saying if this were the first time a “debtors’ prisons” scandal was revealed. The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center have investigated other cities and towns that have been increasingly trying to get revenue by collecting unpaid court fees by any means necessary.

As we all know, it’s always the most vulnerable people with no voice who get mistreated in society. Anything that makes you apart of the minority — whether it’s the color of your skin or economic status — will undoubtedly be used against you by power players. But no one ever said life was fair, right?

At least there are organizes like ACLU fighting for the rights of those unable to fight for themselves. 

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Banner Photo Credit: Pixabay user AlexVan

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