How—and Why—America Criminalizes Poverty

Tony Messenger in Literary Hub:

Nearly every state in the country has a statute—often called a “board bill” or “pay-to-stay” bill—that charges people for time served. In Missouri and Oklahoma—and in states on both coasts and in the Deep South—these pay-to-stay bills follow defendants arrested initially for small offenses like petty theft or falling behind in child support. Nearly 80 percent of these defendants live below the federal poverty line, meaning they make less than $12,880 a year if they are single, or $21,960 if they are a family of three.

They are the working poor: getting by on minimum wage jobs at the local dollar store; seasonal construction workers who get roofing jobs after tornado season; or, like Bergen, they are unemployed, unable to escape the combination of drug offenses and a criminal justice system that follows them everywhere. In some places, like Rapid City, South Dakota, the charges for jail time are small, $6 a day; in other places, like Riverside County, California, they have been as high as $142 a day. For people of little means, these court debts are an albatross they cannot escape or ignore.

More here.