Colorado Cities Routinely Jail Individuals Because They Can’t Pay Fines, ACLU Finds

By Nicole Flatow

Jared Thornburg was ticketed for driving a defective vehicle in Westminster, Colorado. He didn’t pay the $165 fee he owed, because he couldn’t afford it. So the local court sent him to jail instead. Linda Roberts couldn’t pay the $371 in fines and fees for shoplifting $20 worth of food while she was out of work and homeless. When she didn’t pay, the fees ballooned to $746. While her initial punishment was a fine that she had explained at the time she couldn’t afford, her punishment for failure to pay was jail time.

Several Colorado cities are routinely sending individuals to jail for failure to pay fines and fees, according to an American Civil Liberties review. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that jailing someone because they cannot afford to pay a fine is unconstitutional. But these cities make these determinations for hundreds of individuals without any…

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