Thursday, March 10, 2016

Court to judge: Stop jailing poor people over fees

Eastpointe’s only judge has been ordered to stop jailing poor defendants simply for failing to pay court fines and fees — a practice the American Civil Liberties Union called a good first step toward ending a practice said to be common across the state.
In an order issued Tuesday, the Macomb County Circuit Court said Judge Carl Gerds of 38th District Court would have to halt “pay or stay” sentencing. The ACLU sued Gerds last year, arguing he routinely jailed people for failing to pay minor tickets and court fees.
“We are relieved to know that defendants in Eastpointe no longer have to worry about landing in what amounts to illegal debtors’ prisons,” Michael J. Steinberg, the ACLU Michigan legal director, said in a statement. Steinberg also said the court order “upholds a basic principle of fairness in our nation — that nobody should be jailed just because he or she is too poor to pay fines, fees and costs.”

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