On Friday, the Brennan Center for Justice, the ACLU of Michigan, and the Michigan State Planning Body filed an amicus brief appealing the prison sentence of Joseph Bailey, who was jailed because of his inability to pay court-ordered restitution. The brief argues that jailing Bailey for being poor is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and the Michigan constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that indigent people may not be incarcerated based on their inability to pay criminal justice-related debt.
“Imprisoning defendants who are too poor to pay court-related fees is more than just a violation of their constitutional rights,” said Jessica Eaglin, counsel at the Brennan Center. “It perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and punishment that worsens the growing costs of unnecessary incarceration. The court needs to create a system that imposes suitable penalties for criminal action while protecting defendants, their families and the economy.”
- Read the amicus brief
- Read Criminal Justice Debt: A Toolkit for Action (July 2012)
- Read Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry (October 2010)