A Florida woman who was convicted of writing bad checks in 1996 once again faces jail time for failing to pay $240 in leftover court fees and fines. Across the state, courts are stepping up their collections efforts to make up for shrinking budgets.
Court clerks say the pressure is on them to ensure that the state gets every dollar it is owed. In the process, they’ve jailed thousands of people who failed to pay. According to state officials, some clerks use collection agents, and roughly a third use collections courts. In one county over 800 people were arrested last year because of court debts or failure to appear at collections court.
Several other states are looking to Florida as an example, but not everything thinks that squeezing defendants for court fees is a good idea. Rebekah Diller, deputy director of the justice program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law compared the focus on collecting from defendants “to [getting] blood from a stone.”