Too Poor To Fine? Town Forced To Pay $680K For "Running Debtor's Prison"

Tyler Durden's picture

The state has turned its people into serfs once again, and, as's Mac Slavo points out, through petty fines and regulations, everyone has once again come under the thumb. For the corporeally liberated, it is primarily a form of debt servitude, but for the poorest, who have nothing left to lose, it can mean jail time, sometimes for literally nothing more than getting caught up in a system of bureaucracy and unable to fork over more and more money for the process.

Town Busted Running “Debtor’s Prison” Must Pay $680K, Sheriff Told to Resign

Authored by Jack Burns via The Free Thought Project,

The Southern Poverty Law Center has reached a $680,000 settlement in its lawsuit against the Alabama city of Alexander and its police chief Willie Robinson. The settlement was for depriving 190 of its residents their rights to due process (6th Amendment) and the unlawful seizure of their property (4th Amendment). Sheriff Robinson has even been asked to resign by lawyers representing their client.

Each one of the 190 individuals will receive $500 cash from the city for jailing them for being too poor to pay the fines imposed on them by the town. As reported by,

“Hundreds of impoverished residents have faced unconstitutional and unjust treatment in Alexander City simply because they were too poor to pay fines and fees,” said Sam Brooke, in a press release. Brooke is the SPLC’s deputy legal director.


He added, “The shuttering of this modern-day debtors’ prison, along with the monetary award, brings justice to many of the people who were unfairly targeted for being poor.”

The way the injustice flourished was as follows. A resident would receive a speeding ticket, for example. If they were unable to pay, they were arrested, taken to jail, and forced to remain there. While in jail, they would earn $20 a day for just being in jail, and $40 a day for doing laundry, cleaning, or washing police cruisers, until the total sum of the fine was paid in full. Each person was not allowed to go before a judge, nor to have a lawyer present to help in aid in their defense.

Around 30 percent of Alexander inhabitants live below the poverty line. Plaintiff Amanda Underwood is one such person, who was jailed twice for not being able to pay her fines. Underwood previously earned $8 an hour and has two young children, according to the SPLC release. After not being able to pay a fine of $205 for a traffic violation, Underwood had to borrow money to secure her release. On a separate occasion, Underwood was fined $250 for driving without a license. She spent five days in jail working off her debt.”

What may have seemed like a quick way for the town to punish offenders — and settle long-standing fines, fees, and court costs — turned out to be a complete violation of Alexander’s residents’ civil rights. Underwood reveled in the victory saying, “I am glad the city is going to pay everyone who they jailed, to try to undo some of the harm they caused…I am so proud that this lawsuit has made a difference. I hope it will help many others, especially those like me who have been unfairly punished for being poor.”

Brooke said Alexander’s settlement out of court is just the latest in a string of successful lawsuits in Alabama which have made a positive impact on civil rights. “Courts are being sued and forced to change their procedures, and judges have been censured and suspended,” Brooke said. “And now a municipality has been forced to pay those it illegally jailed. We hope and believe all courts are now getting the message: It is unacceptable to punish the poor just because of their poverty.”

There’s very little difference between jailing someone to work off a fine, and selling one’s property to pay for such fines. One is a debtor’s prison and the other results in a debtor’s auction. In both cases, the police benefit from free labor and free revenue generation. Civil Asset Forfeiture (CAF) has been used for years to punish citizens accused of crimes such as drunk driving, driving with too much cash on hand, or being in possession of marijuana. Hopefully, with wins such as what the SPLC has been able to achieve in Alabama, more progress can likewise be made in CAF cases across the country as well.

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I'll bet her car and cell phone are going to be okay. Poor, my ass. 

Ambulance chasing lawyers to the rescue.  

xythras's picture
xythras (not verified) SILVERGEDDON Mar 20, 2017 1:52 PM

Forced labour anyone?

WTF, make them pay what they owe with their sweat.

Snowflakes like communism, so lets put them to work at the wall with no pay. Just as communist regimes do with their citizens.

Trump Admin to Review over 600 Border Wall Design Submissions, Including one From Mexico


KimAsa's picture

Strangely enough, all these "dailywesterner" spam-linked articles are written by Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse blog and Most Important News blog (which is just a copy of the Economic Collapse blog).

macholatte's picture


Southern Poverty Law Center has reached a $680,000 settlement ...
Each one of the 190 individuals will receive $500 cash

190 x $500 = $95,000 = 14% of settlement
SPLC gets $585,000 = 86% of settlement

now tell me again who is taking advantage of the poor sheeple.

exi1ed0ne's picture

They also put out a watchlist of extremist organizations that is as complete bullshit as thier name.  Those fuckers are a big part of the problem.

beemasters's picture

When are we jailing Soros and selling off his properties???

MarsInScorpio's picture


Thank you for doing the math. Because of that, I sent the following email just now to the person who wrote the original article about the settlement:

I just read your article about the Southern Poverty Law Center's out-of-court settlement with Alexander City. ( )

While I'm happy to see the city punished for taking advantage of poor individuals without the financial resources to fight this themselves, may I ask you this question: Did you do the math to see how the settlement was split between the people and SPLC?


190 x $500 = $95,000 = 14% of settlement
SPLC gets $585,000 = 86% of settlement


Most attorneys in contingency cases get between 33% - 50% of the settlement. That means SPLC ripped these people off for somewhere between $245,000 - $360,600.


You may be on to a massive case of Virtue Signaling Fraud, in which a firm looks like they are doing good, when the truth is that they are stealing people blind with unconscionable fees. It would be interesting to track other cases they handled and see how they split up the money.


However, at the very least, you have a great story about greed masquerading as virtue.


Please let me know if you do anything with this story.

No Time for Fishing's picture

It's very rare when the biggest winner in a Class Action is not the attorney's by a wide wide margin. But the Class did a little better here than you think the settlement netted them $500 PER DAY they were jailed. 

MarsInScorpio's picture

Well, here is an important "little something that didn't make it into the original article; this is the reply I just received from the person who wrote the sotry about the settlement, and it really changes things:

Hi XXXXXX,  It's a good point, but it's $500 for each day spent in jail for each of the 190 people. Many of them spent between 4 and 5 days in prison. So the calculation looks very different if we are to consider that. I will ask how many days the plaintiffs are being compensated for.  Thanks for writing in.  Regards,  Chris 
Dugald's picture


How in hell did this ever get started, who turned their heads and looked the other way...

                  HOME OF THE FREE........BOLLOCKS!!!!!!!

JRobby's picture

Cut and pasted no doubt.

xythras or whatever his name is is a spamming troll 

summerof71's picture

-This message was sent from my subsidized 100% free smart phone device!

Erek's picture

It's hard to sympathize with someone so full of shit. Is your bunghole jealous of all the crap coming out of your mouth?

City_Of_Champyinz's picture

What a shocker, more link spam dipshittery from a perfect loser.  BAN THIS TROLL TYLER!

TwelveOhOne's picture

They aren't listening here, generally, but they do listen at -- I reported a spammer who was clogging up an article and the spam was removed (not sure about the user).

Chuck Walla's picture

They got 3 hots and a cot. They livin' large on the taxpayer inside and out. What more dey want? 

seek's picture

Missed the part about due process, seeing a judge or a lawyer, did you?

Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, once the government starts bypassing even the most limited, basic safeguards on power, you're fucked.

Bill of Rights's picture

Hows that 40 plus years of Democratic rule treating you serfs?

ZD1's picture

"The Southern Poverty Law Center has reached a $680,000 settlement in its lawsuit against the Alabama city of Alexander and its police chief Willie Robinson."

How much of that settlement did SPLC's leftists and Tribe members skim off? 

SPLC's president, Richard Cohen, refuses to label BLM as a hate group despite BLM leadership calling for the lynching of white people and endorsing racial segregation.

Take a look at the motley crew at SPLC:



Erek's picture

" Civil Asset Forfeiture (CAF) has been used for years to punish citizens accused of crimes such as drunk driving, driving with too much cash on hand, or being in possession of marijuana."

Used to punish citizens?!? WTF? That's not "punishment" - that's outright theft. A serious crime.

XqWretch's picture

Yep. Had my brand new, $20k toyotta carolla taken from me for a DUI I got like 5 years ago. It just happened to be my second DUI within 10 years so it was considered fair game. No accident, no property damage, no one was hurt... I'm sure they auctioned it off for 6k or something digusting. Of course I never saw a dime of that. Oh and I still had to serve out my entire sentence

kenny500c's picture

It is a good idea to have a lien on your car or truck, even if it is a small loan because then they can't sieze it.

Erek's picture

Your right. They won't seize it. They'll just take it away from you.

XqWretch's picture

Yep. And youd still be on the line for the lien

Dark Space's picture

Great news. I'm all for second chances, but once you go out on the road and get caught AGAIN for driving in a manner that so callously and arrogantly puts everyone else's life at risk who just happens to be on the road with you, should be the end of driving for you. Best case scenario you should have to drive with a sword affixed to your steering wheel and pointed at your heart the rest of your days - then you can drive as carelessly as you want. I'm all for less government, and generally side against the overwhelming deluge of laws forced upon citizens, but drunk drivers who are repeat offenders deserve zero sympathy.

XqWretch's picture

Fine. But why do the cops keep the car AND the money they auction it for? That is for profit policing blue and true. Can't argue with me on that. They suspended my license, I did some jail time, paid some fines AND they jacked my car, sold it and kept the profit. How is that right? It at least could have gone towards my fines, maybe a reduced sentence, my lawyer fees, anything right? Nope, straight profit policing. Fuckin pirates of the road

serotonindumptruck's picture

I admit it. I was arrested for DUI in Texas back in '98. I was fully cooperative and submitted to field sobriety and breathalyzer tests (blew a .091). The .40 caliber Sig Sauer in my back pocket didn't help the situation (valid CCL).

Long story short, I spent two days in jail and pled no contest. Guilty as charged. I consider myself lucky to have had my pistol returned.

I told myself at that time that it would NEVER happen again, and it hasn't. If I want to drink, I buy the alcohol and bring it home or someplace where I won't be leaving for the night.

First offense is a very hard lesson. There's no excuse to allow it to happen again.

Lonewar's picture

And meanwhile, according to Liberty, a Drunk Driver should NOT be arrested or charged with ANYTHING unless and until they actually cause harm to another. And increasing ones risk of harm is NOT enough.

There should be NO laws against drunk driving, however, the laws for Getting into an Accident, or Causing Property Damage while Drunk should be EXTREMELY harsh, to the point that being drunk while causing Harm is considered a Pre-Meditated Offense. But drinking and driving itself, if NO harm is caused, should NOT be against the law.

The above is what a FREE society is all about. Doing whatever you want, but having concequences for any harm it may do, and people paying those concequences when they happen. NOT this nanny state bullshit telling you what you may or may not do. Those are the first steps on the road of authoritarianism.

As for Civil Asset Forfieture, that is flat Unconstitutional, period. And I dont give a flying fuck WHAT anyone else says about it. If you are siezing Property from an individual prior to that Individual being convicted of a crime, that is a violation of the 4th Amendment. And NO, suing the property does NOT make it right as property is a fucking In-animate Object and therefore can NOT have the mens rea needed to commit a crime. Hell, most of what they seize doesnt even have any motivating power to accidently commit a crime (Like a car left in neutral might).

Bring back a FREE society please.

PS. And I say this as someone who literally can NOT drink a drop of alcohol as it causes me extreme migraines when I do.

swmnguy's picture

I got one in the wee hours of New Year's Day, 1985.  I was 18 years old and drunk as a skunk.  I was very seriously injured in the one-car crash; nobody else hurt nor property damaged (though the car probably should have been towed around to frighten high-school kids).

I was in the hospital for a few weeks, in a back brace for months, and have to see a chiropractor monthly to keep things working right. I pleaded guilty and got 30 days suspended, license revoked (I could get a new one in a year), and $100 fine.  About a minute later all those penalties got a lot more serious.

Lucky as hell, I am. 

And I've never driven drunk again.  I do advocate for better transportation options.  In the crappy rural area I grew up in, there's one guy who is a taxicab, and he won't go outside city limits.  In the winter a couple-mile walk at night would be dangerous.  Everyone drives drunk, all the time, and they do kill themselves and each other so doing.

Regardless, I didn't have any excuse the first time.  Sure as hell wouldn't have any excuse a second time.

338's picture



DUI is precrime, no victim no crime.


I guess Orwell was right, spout shit enough even a human will believe the Ministry of Information.


No Victim, No Crime



Yukon Cornholius's picture

No sympathy for drunk drivers. You should be prevented from driving for the rest of your life. Hopefully your next DUI will end in a fiery, one car crash. 

TwelveOhOne's picture

One can envision scenarios in which a life can be saved, but only by driving drunk (helping someone to the hospital, etc).  Thus, I'd prefer methods of mitigating harm.

Such as: determine which is your dominant eye, by holding your index finger up at arm's length in front of you.  Close one eye at a time, and note for which open eye your finger "jumps" a little.  That's your non-dominant eye.

Then, if you do need to drive while intoxicated, close your non-dominant eye.

You won't see double, you'll just see blurry edges.  Your chances of avoiding the edges increase greatly over your chances of avoiding the "two objects."  It also helps to practice driving like this while sober, so it's less jarring.

I am in no way an advocate of impaired driving of any sort.  I do like to see people alive though, and this method can save lives when such driving is unavoidable.

Bemused Observer's picture

I'm not sure it matters which eye you close. I'm aware of that trick from when I was young...closing one eye eliminates the double-vision, but you lose the depth perception.

But if I recall correctly, it was more the switching from one eye to two and back again that kept the double-vision from getting out of hand. I think your eyes just get 'drunk' too, and you tend to get 'starey' if you don't keep forcing them to refocus.

Sometimes pressing the heels of your hands in giving them a good rub gives you a momentary readjustment too. Alcohol likely causes some pressure changes in the eyes, it is known to cause blindness in extreme cases. But all 'fixes' are only temporary, because your vision issues will last at least as long as your drunk does.

TwelveOhOne's picture

No idea how that works, as one eye is broken from birth -- so I have this "fix" built-in.

You're right that it eliminates depth perception, but my experience is that driving isn't even fully "2D" -- you never move the car up or down (so not "3D"), and you almost never go backwards, so it's something like "1.5D".  As long as you can detect that something is in front of something else because it's blocking part of the image of the something else, you should be okay.

But that's just my experience.  Hopefully by sharing it, it can save lives.

XqWretch's picture

How bout texting and driving? It's essentially the same thing. Guess we should just kill anyone that makes a mistake.

Kprime's picture

PRECISELY, anyone caught driving with a cell phone in the car, not in the trunk, should be pulled out of the vehicle and shot right there on the side of the road.


of course, there is no mystery to the fact that more and more cops are being, and going to be, shot while giving traffic tickets.  They've earned it.


Barney Fife's picture

You're a bit of an extremist douchebag. 

shimmy's picture

While I don't think throwing people in jail to then work there is the correct way to deal with this, I also don't think poor people should be able to break laws without punishment when I can't so I sure hope they are required to pay their fine in some way outside of being thrown in jail.


NoDebt's picture

Take it off their EBT payments.


crossroaddemon's picture

Y;know, not everyone is OK with the pigs being basically a revenue collection service with guns. So long as there is a single unsolved murder case, I shouldn't see a single side of bacon writing speeding tickets. 

TwelveOhOne's picture

See what Rod Class is doing in NC, regarding getting to the bottom of whether such ticketing agencies are operating under "constitutional authority" or "private authority".

crossroaddemon's picture

I'll Google that when I get time. I doubt anything will come of it but it's good to hear sombody is trying. Seriously, the only reason most cops are on traffic duty is $$$.

BidnessMan's picture

This is why Ferguson, MO blew up.  A big percentage of the city residents were at risk of being arrested and thrown in jail at any moment for unpaid parking tickets and such.  Fees were piled on top for not showing up for court appearances.  A $50 parking ticket became $500 pretty quickly.  

The city and the almost all white police force were using their poorest residents as an ATM machine, and laughing about it.  Just shameful.

BarkingCat's picture

The problem is that these people and not given a chance to appear before a judge and get a lawyer. It was simply put in jail in compelled to work.... oh maybe this story is inaccurate. Maybe they were given a choice to work or face the judge.

No Time for Fishing's picture

No decent answer. $200 fine for me is no punishment whatsoever the inconvenience of having to deal with it is a bigger punishment. $200 fine for someone who can't pay the rent is a huge deal. 5 days in jail for the never employed ward of the state is not that big of a deal for me it would be a nightmare. 

Jeepers Creepers's picture

Regardless, the  Southern Poverty Law Center is still an evil hate group as far as I'm concerned.

Ignatius's picture

Same thought.  I guess they have to toss a bone now and again to maintain the illusion.

mkhs's picture

14% pay out to the serfs is some bone.  May I have some more, sir?