Many are now calling for “statewide reform.”
A recent report released by the American Civil Liberties Union asserts that Ohio courts are “jailing indigent defendants for not being able to pay court fines.” The ACLU accuses the courts and the state of reviving the practice of “debtors’ prisons.” The report says,
Today across Ohio, municipalities routinely imprison those who are unable to pay fines and court costs despite a 1983 United States Supreme Court decision declaring this practice to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
Based on the ACLU of Ohio’s investigation, there is no evidence that any of these people were given hearings to determine whether or not they were financially able to pay their fines, as required by the law
According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer,
Courts in Cuyahoga, Erie and Huron counties were singled out in the report as the “worst offenders.” The ACLU said a survey of booking statistics for Huron County Jail revealed that 22 percent of the 1,171 people booked between May and October 2012 were incarcerated for not being able to pay their fines. And municipal courts in Parma and Sandusky counties jailed 45 and 75 people, respectively, between July 15 and August 31, 2012.
Judge Deanna O’Donnell, from the Parma County Municipal Court told the Plain-Dealer that they had received a letter from the ACLU with the details of their findings, but the court “is treating the letter as ‘advisory’ and not a complaint.” She also said that she would be contacting the group for more information on their report. Justice Maureen O’Connor, of the Ohio Supreme Court, has also agreed to meet with the ACLU to address the issues raised in their report.