Child Support Imprisons the Poor

Child Support Imprisons the Poor→

I thought debtors’ prisons were unjust and barbaric. Little did I imagine that decades later we’d use real prison to serve the same purpose.

Walter Scott’s death has focused attention not just on police violence, but also on the use of jail to pressure parents to pay child support, a policy employed by many states today. Though the threat of jail is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay, many critics assert that punitive policies are trapping poor men in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.

The problem begins with child support orders that, at the outset, can exceed parents’ ability to pay. When parents fall short, the authorities escalate collection efforts, withholding up to 65 percent of a paycheck, seizing bank deposits and tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses and professional licenses, and then imposing jail time.

“Parents who are truly destitute go to jail over and over again for child support debt simply because they’re poor…”

Read the entire article. This is an under-appreciated justice issue—effectively criminalizing poverty—that deserves greater attention.