The documentary, “To Prison for Poverty,” shows the unfairness of the justice system for those who are living in poverty. People in poverty receive tickets and then they accrue fines because they are unable to pay the ticket in time or because third party companies hired by the courts step in and start extracting fines.
People living in poverty are unable to pay the ticket because any money they send in is first put toward the fine. They do this is in less wealthy towns or states because they know that they cannot fight it and they have a better chance at collecting their money. They threaten them with jail time if they aren’t paid in time, which in turn collects more money. It’s a constant cycle.
In these cases, profit is the driving factor, so civil rights are thrown away. In the documentary, you can see a young girl trying to pay off her ticket, but she’s unemployed in a small town, so every time she goes to pay the ticket, the money goes towards the fine instead, which means her ticket still goes unpaid. She then gets a ticket that says payment is needed or a warrant for her arrest will go out. JCS, one of the outside companies hired by these courts, operates in about 320 courts in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. They lock up hundreds and thousands of people because they are unable to pay court fines and fees. They collect roughly $40 million annually in fines from those who are issued tickets.
By Nikki Iannace