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ACLU Report Says People Shouldn't Be Jailed For Their Debt

A followup to a story we brought to you two weeks ago: the ACLU issues a report Monday that condemns the practice of jailing people in legal trouble because of their debts. Washington is cited in the report because its attorneys can seek arrest warrants for people who ignore orders to show up in court to face their creditors. KPLU's Doug Nadvornick reports.

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The ACLU decries what it calls the "Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons."

The report cites cases in five states, including Washington, where people spent days or weeks in jail. Some initially had small debts that ballooned because of court costs and other fees. They ended up in jail, not directly for their debts, but because they didn't answer calls to appear in court.

Regardless, Doug Honig from the ACLU of Washington says the practice of jailing debtors has a devastating effect on them.

"We're working with other social justice organizations and calling upon the state legislature to pass something that would ban incarceration for failure to pay a legal system fine when the individual clearly lacks the ability to pay."

The report says legal authorities often spend more money arresting and jailing people than creditors ultimately collect.

I'm Doug Nadvornick reporting.