Texas Takes Steps To Stop Jailing People Who Are Too Poor To Pay Fines

If the bill passes, the legislation will prevent thousands of people from being imprisoned over simple fines.

Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/Policing The USA

When slapped with a fine for a parking or traffic violation, many low-income citizens in the U.S. worry about how they’ll pay it off. If they ignore it, the fine may increase. In some instances, a seemingly minor infraction could also land them in jail. It is for this reason Texas legislators in the House recently voted to stop incarcerating the state’s poorer residents who fail to pay off traffic tickets.

If approved by the Senate then signed off by Governor Greg Abbot, state judges in Texas can be more lenient with individuals who are unable to pay off their tickets. For instance, a judge could offer an alternative exchange – such as community service – or reduce or waive the fee altogether.

The Texas Tribune reports that if the bill passes, the legislation will prevent thousands of low-income individuals from being imprisoned over simple fines. Not only will it save taxpayers money, it will hopefully alleviate the amount of incarcerated bodies in the United States’ prison system. After all, the U.S. is 5% of the world’s population but has 25% of the world’s prisoners.

Commented Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, the bill’s House sponsor:

“They’re not getting off scot-free. We’re getting something for something. We are filling our jails up with people who should not be there.”

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