Lawsuits condemn 'debtors' prisons'
Published: Jan. 24, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/01/24/Lawsuits-condemn-debtors-prisons/UPI-23431295891038/#ixzz1CA2u1R7d
ATLANTA, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Jailing people who have no ability to pay for failure to meet child support obligations is creating modern-day debtors' prisons, lawsuits in Georgia say.
While some "deadbeats" are jailed for repeatedly refusing to make child support payments, refusing to try to find work or concealing income and assets, many indigent parents are also caught up in the system and unable to afford a lawyer to help them, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday.
"There are a lot of kids out there with parents who just don't pay, and for every dollar they're not paying someone else has to pay," said Leah Ward Sears, former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. "Too often it's the taxpayer."
However, incarcerating someone who has no ability to pay is illegal, she said.
"We don't believe in debtors' prisons in this country, and that's what we're doing here in some cases."
Lawsuits filed in Georgia courts say the state should provide lawyers for indigent parents for their civil-contempt hearings to ensure due process.
Georgia, along with a few other sates, does not provide lawyers for indigent parents facing contempt hearings for failure to pay support.
Everyone agrees that parents must support their children, said Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta.
"But we can't go around locking up indigent parents because they are too poor to pay the full amount owed."
"The people we see in jail are not wealthy 'deadbeat dads," Geraghty said. "They are often working people who have lost jobs and become totally indigent."
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/01/24/Lawsuits-condemn-debtors-prisons/UPI-23431295891038/#ixzz1CA32g4n2