Probation Fees Rise, Firms Profit and the Poor Go to Jail

Richard Earl Garrett is the lead plaintiff in the class actionsuit against the town of Harpersville, Ala. Mr. Garrett has spent a total of 24 months in jail and owes $10,000, all for traffic and license violations that began a decade ago.

CHILDERSBURG, Ala. — Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked. When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars. (New York Times)