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Viewers respond to report on jail time for people unable to pay fines

January 3, 2015 at 2:31 PM EDT
Cities across the country are increasingly turning to what are known as private probation companies to collect unpaid fines. But are indigent people ending up in jail because they can't afford to pay? Hari Sreenivasan reads viewer comments to a recently aired story on NewsHour Weekend.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to Viewers Like You: Your feedback about some of our recent work.

Many of you commented about our updated signature segment last Sunday describing how some struggling towns have used for-profit companies to collect fines and that some poor people are being jailed when they can’t pay. This, even if the’ve been acquitted of the charges they faced.

Overwhelmingly, you thought the practice was wrong.

Angela Erichsen wrote us: Debtor’s prison — we’ve regressed 200 years.

From Linda Rummel Devendorf: Purely Dickensian times we’re entering.

Janice Friedman said: Ridiculous! Let them work it off with community service! 

And Patricia Evans added this: Due process requires an impartial decision maker; anytime a privatized system is used, by definition due process is gone.

Jeff Goldman wrote: Besides being obviously unconstitutional, what ever happened to fair play and treating people who are otherwise good people with respect and rational penalties for very minor offenses. Particularly since they were found innocent of the original charges. This is just another case of the poor or working poor getting the shaft, so to speak. This story makes me sick to my stomach. 

And Steven Mitchell had this to say: Our system is no longer based on justice. It is based on revenue… No longer is it protect and serve, it’s harass and extort.

Judith Harlan said: Prisons are very expensive and funds are provided by local and national government…taxpayers…self-defeating.

Finally, a few of you praised our reporting: Greg Childre wrote: Shining light on a system that is so broken.

As always, visit us online at newsour.pbs.org or Tweet us at @NewsHour or leave a comment on the NewsHour Facebook page.

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