In the United States, debtors' prisons were banned under federal law in 1833. A century and a half later, in 1983, the Supreme Court affirmed that incarcerating indigent debtors was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
Feb 24, 2015
Debtors' Prisons, Then and Now: FAQ | The Marshall Project
Justice system shouldn't punish poverty
Dec 5, 2018 Updated 8 hrs ago
The criminal justice system shouldn't distribute punishments that fall heavier on an individual not because of their offense but because of how much money they have.
Debtors prisons are supposed to be a thing of the past, something relegated to dusty Charles Dickens novels about Victorian England. But 21st century America’s legal system has its own ways of punishing people simply for being poor.
Last month, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in Montgomery federal court on behalf of three Alabama residents who had their driver’s licenses suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets, the Associated Press reported. According to the suit, nearly 23,000 Alabamians have suspended licenses because of the nonpayment of tickets.
“A suspended driver’s license has disastrous implications for individuals living in poverty,” said Micah West, a senior staff attorney with the SPLC. “The U.S. Constitution prohibits the state from suspending a person’s driver’s license without first determining their ability to pay. Through this lawsuit, we hope to end this illegal practice in Alabama.”