Our Benton County courts have been criticized locally and nationally for imposing financial penalties on people convicted of crimes and then for jailing the ones who are unable to pay those penalties. About 100 people every day are in our jail simply because they have not been able to pay their court-ordered fines and fees. We are the only county in Washington that jails people in large numbers for failure to pay fines.
I want to make four points about the debtors’ prison phenomenon our judges have created:
There is more to say, but I’ll stop. Please tell your city council member to stop your city paying the courts for debtor’s prison. Tell your county commissioner to stop approving budgets for debtors’ prison. When you vote for judgeships in November, write in your favorite attorney. “Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted.” Isaiah 11:4