/Meridian will no longer throw people in jail for unpaid fines

Meridian will no longer throw people in jail for unpaid fines

According to a press release by the MacArthur Justice Center, Meridian also agreed to no longer use money bail in misdemeanor cases. After an investigation, the Meridian City Council approved Tuesday’s agreement. The investigation found that the city’s court wasn’t complying with any federal or state laws or the court rules established by the Mississippi Supreme Court. Under threat of a lawsuit the agreement will require that the city establish payment plans to help people who cannot afford their fines or fees at sentencing, cancel any warrants against people who have not paid these fines or fees, or failed to appear before court, and forgive any court debts for those who were previously imprisoned for failing to pay. The Meridian Star reported that Meridian still owed $9.2million in outstanding fines dating back to 1985. Advocate groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the MacArthur Justice Center have reached settlements with Biloxi and Corinth over their practice of imposing bail and collecting fees. Cliff Johnson, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center Mississippi, attributed the need for reforms to elected judges, who must think about how their actions could impact their chances of re-election. Johnson stated in an interview that he was frustrated by judges who do not know the law, impose bail money and knowingly put poor people in prison out of fear about how the community will view the law. “Judges campaign on tougher-on-crime platforms, and I believe they feel immense pressure to show how tough they are after they have been elected. Mississippians are the ones who pay for this.”_x000D