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City Will Pay People Sent to Jail Over Court Fines

The mostly homeless individuals will get $125 per day in jail
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 6, 2016 6:25 PM CDT
City Will Pay People Sent to Jail Over Court Fines

In a rare move, Colorado Springs has agreed to pay dozens of people, most of them homeless, who were sent to jail because they couldn't afford to pay fines for minor offenses like panhandling and jaywalking, the AP reports. The $103,000 deal requires the city to pay up to 66 people $125 for each day they spent behind bars. The city said municipal courts stopped imposing "pay or serve" sentences by the end of 2015 and the ordinances that allowed the practice have been changed. It also provided jail and court records of people who were jailed because they could not pay fines so they could be tracked down and paid.

The settlement comes as several other cities are facing federal lawsuits claiming authorities use jail or the threat of it to get people to pay court fees or fines. The US Supreme Court has ruled that people cannot be jailed if they do not have the money to pay. In Colorado Springs, people who told judges they could not afford to pay fines were sentenced to serve a day for every $50 they owed, with some sentenced to multiple terms for multiple offenses. The ACLU said one of four people it represents in Colorado Springs, Shawn Hardman, served a total of more than three months in jail after being sentenced on four occasions for allegedly violating panhandling restrictions. People eligible to be paid under the deal were also ticketed for violations like staying in parks after hours and having an open container of alcohol. (More fines stories.)

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