August 1, 2010
Judge Mary Alice Palacios of Precinct 4, Place 2 is accused of sending kids to jail for months at a time, because they couldn’t pay their truancy fine.
Palacios is being charged with official oppression and was given a $2,500 PR bond, after an Hidalgo grand jury handed down an indictment against her Wednesday.
Palacios has been under fire for her truancy practices in the past, but this is the first time she’s actually been charged.
Judge Palacios is also facing a federal lawsuit filed against her by the ACLU for several kids she allegedly put in jail for unpaid truancy fines.
ACLU Sues Hidalgo for Jailing Teens Over Unpaid Tickets
July 27, 2010
Francisco De Luna got his first ticket at school just after his father died, when he was 13. “Failure to comply,” it read. The boy “did not want to learn.” He would rack up many more for such crimes as baggy-pants-wearing, teacher-cursing and general disobedience.
In 2007, his mother, Elisa De Luna anxiously signed a document agreeing to pay off one ticket per month, plus court costs, for the next 11 months — a bill that then amounted to between $257 and $383, quite a bit more than she could afford on her sub-$20,000 annual pay. After more court actions and missed payments, the debt climbed to more than $11,000 for 24 school-related offenses spanning five years, according to a lawsuit announced today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
When Francisco De Luna, now 18, got snared in a public intoxication charge, the whole pile of warrants came down on him. County Justice of the Peace Rosa Trevino tossed him in jail, prescribing a day’s hard time for each $100 he owed and could not pay. ACLU lawyers claim Francisco De Luna — now one of the plaintiffs in the group’s federal class action — was essentially sentenced to debtor’s prison, which violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The lawyers also claim it violates a Texas statute that requires courts to ensure a defendant, before being sentenced to jail for failure to pay, is not indigent and can’t perform community service in lieu of fines.