Justice Department: States Should Not Jail Poor People Over Fine Nonpayment

Tennessee trial court judges are the best paid in the nation after a cost of living adjustment while the taxpaying people of Tennessee don’t fare so well.  The General Sessions Courts in Blount County have the highest collection rate in the state for court costs.  Should court costs and fines collections be the standard measure of success?

A criminal justice system assessment look at Blount County’s use for the jail as a debtors prison.

From page 87 of the report:
“The answers to these two questions will be an indicator of how often the Blount Jail is being used as a debtors prison. Although federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833, this relic of the past has returned in a modern guise: probation violation. ILPP strongly finds that Blount Jail’s probation violation numbers are substantial enough, and the release of these people would ease or eliminate crowding and/or the need to build.

The federal government is taking a stronger stand on debtors prisons.


The Blount County Corrections Partnership should be looking more in depth into the use of the jail to see if anything like this may be going on.

5 thoughts on “Justice Department: States Should Not Jail Poor People Over Fine Nonpayment

  1. A young man who has special needs had an unpaid fine at the Blount Co Jail.
    He lives with his mother and they did not have money to pay his fine. This young man would mow your gras ofr $25 you furnished the gas and mower. One day he was unable to mow he ended up jail time for his failure to show up at the jail he served 6 months. His mother suffered as he was not helping the household finances and he was kept out of the private market mowing grass.
    His mother and him are very poor it takes all her income to pay household
    bills, prescriptions and of course food. Too bad the poor folks are treated bad by the sheriff department. There wa a rumor from the folks who word at the jail were told to” go out and arrest all yoiu can we need this jail to be overcrowded. ” Does not suprise me because it is a determined polcy who you know and who you are.

  2. That is a fantastic story. But probably just a story. It’s missing a few details that would indicate validity. Details like:

    -Officer name
    -Judges name
    -Offense alleged

    Those details are omitted because it might indicate there is more to the story than the writer wants known, or the writer merely wants to join in throwing rocks at shadows rather than substance.

    Tona says she is I one of only a few that has the courage to fight the machine. I wonder if she has the courage to publish a view that dissents with hers.

    • Floyd Lawson

      Tona is protecting her constitutent who confides in her. I applaud her
      to help and work for the constitutents that voted her in , wish she were
      my representative. I have three on the commission and ony one will
      answer my calls. There are about 75% of the commissioners one can
      predict how they vote as they all vote the same . They are not
      concerned about the folks who voted for them they only care to
      play a game with taxpayers money and give as much away as they can.
      Tona does represent the taxpayers but gets treated like garbage from
      the “good ol boys”.

  3. Sorry to hear that the GOPe and some commissioners are still acting like children. Their misogynistic attitudes concerning the ladies of the commission will soon be their undoing.

    I suppose you have come not expect anything better of their behavior.

    In my opinion, all pretend judges AND real judges should be subjected to periodic drug tests. I will never forget the horror that the Knoxville family had to face when the brutal murderers of their children had to be retried, because of a drugged-out judge presiding over their first trial.

    Charges against King George III in the U.S. Constitution:

    “…He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.”

    Odd, how new pressures to develop or restore additional acts of the judiciary coincides with the appearance of Dave Bennett again in our county government

  4. CCW

    Enjoyed your comment made sense of todays problems of King George III charges mean a lot but folks pay no mind to history. Dave Bennett to the commission is an insult to the people of Blount Co. as it was his poor advice
    he gave the commissioners years back when he was the Financial Director that has resulted in todays debt of two hundred million dollars plus all the interst that is being paid don’t know how some people sleep at night. Mr. Bennett remark at the commission meeting” he is going to take out the trash” he should start with himself. All the millions of dollars the people of Blount Co owe is reprehensible. BTW he is only there due to ! vote an honest person could have been there that truly loves the county and wants it for the people not for the Blount Partnership….someday they will pay for their sinful deals

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