Pennsylvania State court is locking up defendants too poor to pay court fines!

Spotlighting disparities in jail stays over unpaid court fines in Pennsylvania

Image result for pennsylvania courts

A helpful reader made sure I saw this impressive piece of reporting from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazetteunder the headline “Modern-day debtors’ prisons? The system that sends Pennsylvanians to jail over unpaid court costs and fines.”  I have probably not given as much attention here as I should to reporting and complaints about persons being incarcerated for failure to pay certain fines and fees, and this story caught my attention in its discussion of disparities in how judges justify sending folks to jail for failures to pay.  Here is an excerpt for that discussion:

U.S. Supreme Court and state court precedents forbid the government from locking up defendants too poor to pay.  District judges are supposed to jail only defendants who can afford to pay but “willfully” do not.  “The Constitution is very clear, the law is very clear, you cannot be jailed for failing to pay when you can’t pay,” said David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

But data show that is not always what happens.

The Role of Jails in Combating the Opioid Crisis

Leah  Pope - Program Director
A report released today from the Pew Charitable Trusts sheds new light on
what has long been true but is often overlooked: local jails play a vital role in our nation’s health care safety net, working often as the default response to people with mental health and substance use disorders. Individuals passing through jails have high rates of chronic and infectious diseases as well as disproportionately high rates of mental health and substance use disorders compared to the general
population. Even so, jails are often ill-equipped to respond to the health
care needs of people in their custody.

Innocent and Behind Bars

Why Does Our Justice System Fight So Hard to Keep Innocent People Behind Bars?

Alcatraz_prison_block_cc_imgMark Godsey was a “prosecutor’s prosecutor” who didn’t think there were any innocent people in prison. Then he began supervising his law school’s Innocence Project, and realized his assumptions were all wrong.   By Joshua Holland



This week, Governor Cuomo outlined his FY2019 New York State Budget.

  • Governor’s full budget presentation (online video) – available here
  • Governor’s full FY 2019 Executive Budget Briefing Book and executive budget legislation
  • Criminal Justice Reform Package: Check out this link to the Article VII bill that includes the criminal justice reform package, including bail, speedy trial, and discovery legislative language (bail on pages 19-52, speedy trial on pages 8-18, discovery on pages 52-82). This Article VII Memorandum in Support has brief summaries of these bills on pages 6-10.