Debtors jailed in Ohio despite laws against it

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Laura A. Bischoff
Dayton Daily News
October 5, 2010

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Mayors’ courts and municipal courts in Ohio routinely jail poor people who don’t have the money to pay court fines and fees — despite laws and legal rulings against the practice, according to a 92-page report by the ACLU to be released Monday, Oct. 4.

Ohio has some of the strongest statutory language and case law against debtors prisons, the report says, but “Ohio judges and lawyers are often unaware of, or simply do not follow, the relevant law. As a result, countless Ohioans languish in prisons and jails, facing a growing mountain of debt,” the American Civil Liberties Union said.

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Among the individual cases cited in the report involved a $7-an-hour dishwasher in Greene County. In 2006, Howard Webb owed $2,882.36 in fines and costs that had accumulated over a decade in various criminal and traffic cases. Xenia Municipal Court Judge Susan Goldie repeatedly issued arrest warrants for Webb because he had not made good on previous payment agreements.

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