debtors prisons, incarceration, Arkansas Statute, economy, enumeration, equity, criminal justice reform


The opposite of poverty is not wealth. It is justice. Beginning in the 1980s, a "trail of tax cuts" led to budget shortfalls and revenue gaps throughout the United States. These budgetary problems resulted in many cities and towns shifting their burden of funding courts and the justice system at large "to the 'users' of the courts, including those least equipped to pay." Although "jailing an indigent person for a fine-only, low-level offense is unconstitutional," it is still an ongoing practice in many states, including Arkansas. In 1995, Arkansas passed new legislation to govern its circuit courts' collection and enforcement of fines and fees. One subsection of this chapter explicitly provides that the "court shall inquire into the defendant's ability to pay and shall make a determination of the defendant's financial ability to pay the fine." Although this procedural safety net is embedded in the statue, it has not served its intended purpose for several reasons.