(NBC News) – A growing movement against the jailing of poor offenders who cannot pay fines has hit New Hampshire, where the local American Civil Liberties Union says it has uncovered a pattern of unconstitutional moves by judges.
The state ACLU chapter said in a report released Wednesday morning that it found cases in almost every county of indigent defendants who were incarcerated without any attempt to determine why they couldn’t pay and were denied an opportunity to be assigned a lawyer. “The judges simply put them in jail,” the report says.
That’s illegal, and resembles methods used to throw people into debtors prisons, which were abolished in the mid-1800s, the ACLU of New Hampshire said.
The state judiciary says it agrees that no one should go to jail for failing to pay a fine, but disputed the report’s conclusions, saying it made it seem as though the problem was worse than it really was.