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Colorado Legislature Approves Ban on Debtors’ Prisons

DENVER -The Colorado Senate today overwhelmingly passed a ban on the practice of jailing people for being too poor to pay fines.   The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the House earlier this month, follows an in-depth investigation by the ACLU of Colorado that found that many Colorado cities and some county courts order the arrest and imprisonment of poor persons who miss payments of fines and court fees without a process to determine whether a person has the ability to pay, as the U.S. Supreme Court has required.

Statement of ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes

“The ACLU of Colorado commends the state legislature, especially Representative Joe Salazar and Senator Lucia Guzman, for putting an end to the unconstitutional, inefficient, and inhumane practice of jailing people who are too poor to pay fines.

“Colorado’s lawmakers have overwhelmingly agreed that our judicial system, which prides itself on equal justice for all, cannot maintain a structure in which people with means pay their fines and move on with their lives, while the poor go to jail.

“There is also vast bipartisan agreement among legislators that jailing the poor for unpaid fines is fiscally unwise.  Throwing a person in jail because they owe a debt to the court not only means that the court will never collect that debt, it also costs the taxpayer significant money to arrest and imprison a person who does not deserve to be there.

“We look forward to the Governor’s approval of this legislation and its immediate implementation by all courts around the state.”

Learn more about the ACLU of Colorado’s campaign to end debtors’ prisons: https://aclu-co.org/campaigns/end-debtors-prisons/



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