ACLU Claims Punishment for Failure to Pay Fines is Debtor’s Prison

Merry Christmas!

I found this article interesting in that I generally oppose the idea of “Debtors Prison” but my personal experience leads me to neither believe this to be a real debtor’s prison, and to support a different kind of incarceration for a good deal of these folks.

Initially, it appears necessary to express my thoughts on incarceration in general.  There are two categories of crimes as I view them.  The first are crimes which are wrong because they create victims and harm people.  Second, there are crimes made of acts which have been prohibited in an effort to prevent the first class of crimes.  I don’t even think the second class of ‘crimes’ should exist, but to the extent that it does, it should be a fine with no possibility of incarceration, and standard civil means of collections.  My model, however, differs from the examples complained of in the article, which bemoans people not paying a fine for misdemeanor convictions (even if they relate to traffic) which are statutorily punishable by six months in jail, or a fine.  So, without further adieu…


First. I support perjurer’s prison. The article notes that 2/3rds of defendants are ‘indigent’ meaning they cannot pay. This is untrue. 2/3rd’s of defendants fill out a form which exonerates them from the burden of paying for an attorney or paying fines or costs, and which no one actually evaluates for truth. Probably 1/6th of defendants are actually indigent. The half of defendants who lie in order to steal public funds to pay their attorneys should be investigated and imprisoned for perjury, forgery and theft.

Second. I support imprisonment for obstinate refusal to conform to community-based sanctions, among which are the paying of fines and costs. For the greater part anyone incarcerated, as alleged, for not paying a fine could have been incarcerated outright. They were fined in lieu of incarceration. When they failed to pay their fine, they were incarcerated in lieu of their fine.  If they received incarceration time and a fine, and then were re-incarcerated for failing to pay the fine, that would be imprisonment for a public debt.


Third. Incarceration should never, ever, as implied by the ACLU, be motivated on the making of money. That is disgusting. You do not steal a citizen’s liberty in order to make revenue. It is a damn outrage even to say so.  Just fines, to the extent that they exist, are levied not to pad the public purse, but to create an economic incentive upon the defendant to comply with the law.  It should cost money to incarcerate criminals and people are happy to pay that money. That is why government exists, because we cannot punish criminals privately. Government does not exist to give money away to free to those who refuse to work.


Fourth. What of Child Support? Unlike the above examples, imprisoning someone for not paying their child support is debtor’s prison. They are being imprisoned not for committing a crime and incurring an alternative punishment between fine and incarceration, but instead for possessing a private debt. Worse, under the perverted laws of our country, these people are being incarcerated for a debt incurred 100% voluntarily on the part of the person owed over whom they have no control or influence. That’s right, in this country every child is born based solely on the choice of a woman, and therefore every man incarcerated for failing to pay for children is forced into a prison for a debt he did not choose and over which he had no say, owed to a private person.

Why isn’t the ACLU getting upset about that?

This has been your S/V Danneskjöld Christmas message.



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2 responses to “ACLU Claims Punishment for Failure to Pay Fines is Debtor’s Prison”

  1. David says :

    So they are going to punish me too? Unless the police dept individuals are going to finance their support out o ftheir own pockets. Incarceration is for ONE purpose. To house dangerous people that society agrees that are dangerous to society. This is worth Governmnet taking our money and supporting them. Not because Governmnet is upset about how they pay their bills. Incarceration is not for punishment, it is to protect the innocent people from the dangerous people.

  2. S/V Danneskjöld says :

    I agree only in part. Certainly incarceration is to be used to keep dangerous persons separate from society and those they seek to harm. But I get the impression that you are limiting such incarceration to violent criminals. With that I do not agree.

    The criminal justice system exists – and indeed we grant power to the government to forcibly take the liberty of some citizens – in order to supplant self-help and the provision of private justice. Thus, consequences handed down for the commission of crime must do justice to the victim.

    Suppose someone steals $1 million dollars from a man, spends all the money, and is then caught. He has no means or ability to repay the sum. Neither justice nor punishment can be effectuated without incarcerating him. Failure to do so makes a free gift of any money stolen and quickly spent, and encourages the man and those like him to commit the act again.

    Further, even if he can repay the sum, mere repayment without additional punishment makes a free loan of the stolen funds from an unwilling lender, and further encourages the criminal and those like him to seize such funds as they can, as often as they can, so as to make a profit from any thefts for which they are not caught.

    In both cases, justice demands that the criminal be incarcerated. Indeed, he is a danger to society, though perhaps not a physical danger as a violent criminal.

    On the other hand, I agree with you on myriad crimes as I mentioned in the first post. That is, crimes such as the possession of drugs, the possession of arms in violation of whatever niceties are laid out by government officials, the possession of criminal tools without an associated crime, speeding, etc. These should never carry a term of incarceration because the acts themselves have no victims, and the purpose to which they are prohibited is the questionable judgment of government officials that such prohibition will reduce other, actual, crimes.

    So, in the end, I believe that incarceration is both for the protection of society from a dangerous individual (and by that I mean a person likely to continue committing crimes), and for the punishment of those committing crimes (so as to do justice by ensuring the given consequence of the crime does not demean its seriousness), and for the deterrence of others inclined to commit the same crime (by ensuring they have access to the knowledge that their crime will be treated seriously).

    Liberty is a precious thing, not to be cast aside lightly, but liberty taken without process by a thief, rapist, robber, or murderer does a greater violence than liberty taken, after all due process, trial, and fair consideration by an impartial judge. Thus I believe that liberty can be forfeit, and as a punishment and deterrent as well as for the mere purpose of caging an animal.

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