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Hundreds Of Thousands Of Texans Go To Jail Every Year Because They Can’t Pay Fines


Ever get hit with a fine? Maybe you let your dog run around without a leash where it wasn’t allowed. Maybe you got caught with an invalid license or drank one too many beers in public. Well, these are all finable offenses. No jail time attached. That is unless, you can’t pay the fine.

Around 640,000 people in Texas are sent to jail every year because they can’t pay their fines. Despite the fact that the Texas Constitution says:

“No person shall ever be imprisoned for debt.”

Jailing someone who isn’t able to pay their fine is illegal not only on the state level, but on the federal level as well.

“Being poor isn’t a crime,” Representative Diego Bernal ( D-San Antonio) said in a statement to the Observer. “People shouldn’t be put in jail for their inability to pay fines. That’s not justice; that’s a debtors’ prison.”

In case you are under the impression that having people sit in jail to “pay their fine” is a good idea, let this sink in. It costs about $60 per day to hold someone in jail. So if 640,000 people were held in jail for just one day, that would cost the tax payers of Texas $38 million.

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