The landmark settlement of this federal class action against the City of Jackson, Mississippi, brought an end to that city’s self-described “pay or stay” system that sent hundreds of people to jail each year because they could not pay fines and fees in misdemeanor cases.
The City has agreed to give indigent defendants the choice of paying off their fines at the rate of $25 per month or performing community service and receiving credit toward their unpaid fines at the rate of $9 per hour.
In addition, Jackson no longer will require people arrested for misdemeanors to post a money bond in order to avoid pre-trial detention. Rather than releasing only those people who can afford to pay a bond and detaining those presumptively innocent people who are too poor to pay their way out of jail, the city will release all people arrested for misdemeanors upon their written promise to appear in court on a specified date for a trial or other hearing. As an alternative to money bond, the city’s judges will have the option to place non-monetary pre-trial conditions on people arrested for misdemeanor offenses. For example, a judge might order a person accused of shoplifting to stay away from the location of the alleged misdemeanor until after the resolution of that person’s case.