By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – A Wyandotte man is among five Michigan people with jail sentences being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which alleges the defendants were jailed for being too poor to pay court fines.
The ACLU announced Aug. 4 that they were challenging the jail sentence of resident David Clark, 30, who, according to court documents, was sentenced July 5 to 90 days in jail by 27th District Court Judge Randy Kalmbach after Clark failed to immediately pay $1,250 in court fees and costs stemming from charges for spanking his girlfriend’s son.
According to a press release from the group, judges in each of the five cases failed to hold a hearing regarding the individual’s ability to pay or give the option of a payment plan or community service.
“Long thought to be a relic of the 19th century, debtors’ prisons are still alive and well in Michigan,” ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss said in a release. “Jailing our clients because they are poor is not only unconstitutional, it’s unconscionable and a shameful waste of resources.”
According to court documents, at the time of his sentence Clark was working part-time at Meijer and taking home approximately $150 per week. He was the only breadwinner in a house with four young children and also supported three young children from a previous relationship.
Clark’s girlfriend, Debra Powell-Boura, was charged with the same offense and given the same fine but borrowed the money from her parents and paid the fees.
The ACLU of Michigan also is challenging sentences from people jailed after failing to pay fines in Livonia and Ferndale and two women were released as a result of the ACLU filings in Ionia prior to the date of the press release.
Court officials said Kalmbach would be unavailable until Monday.