Debtors' Prisons

In Texas, tens of thousands of people are jailed each year for failure to pay tickets, fines and court costs. Many of the people jailed simply did not have the money to pay, despite the fact that it’s unconstitutional to jail a person for failure to pay fines that they are unable to pay. Courts routinely fail to ask about defendants’ ability to pay fines or costs, or to offer them alternative sentences like community service to resolve the amount that they owe. Texas Appleseed is working to ensure that low-income people are treated fairly in courts across the state and that the justice people receive in Texas courts does not depend on how much money they have.

Highlights

  • Gov. Abbott Signs SB 1913 (Sen. Judith Zaffirini) and HB 351 (Rep. Terry Canales) Into Law - The nearly identical bills are designed to help Texans resolve tickets without destroying their livelihoods, through alternatives such as payment plans, fee waivers, and community service. The laws go into effect September 1, 2017.
  • Pay or Stay - Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project release Pay or Stay: The High Cost of Jailing Texans for Fines and Feesrevealing how tens of thousands of Texans are spending time in jail for non-jailable offenses. Also view the press release here.
  • Know Your Rights Resource - Texas Appleseed has collaborated with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) to publish a resource for those facing potential jail time for traffic tickets & low level violations.