Pendleton, Oregon (Wikimedia Commons)

Oregon city stops jailing poor who can’t pay court debts

Anglea Minthorn spent nearly two months in jail in 2017 for owing about $1,000

The eastern Oregon city of Pendleton has stopped jailing people unable to pay fines, a city official said, following the settlement of a federal lawsuit contending city officials were running a debtors’ prison.

The East Oregonian reports in a story on Saturday that city attorney Nancy Kerns said city court officials recently adopted new policies that ban the use of jail time for fines arising from minor violations.

READ MORE: ‘Double-bunking’ still a problem for B.C. provincial jails

“No person shall be incarcerated for the inability and lack of financial resources to pay financial obligations to the Court, including fines, costs and restitution,” the policy states.

The policy also requires the city court to consider defendants’ ability to pay and appoint attorneys to indigent defendants who face jail time.

Anglea Minthorn spent nearly two months in jail in 2017 for owing about $1,000.

She sued in early 2018, contending the city was violating the U.S. Constitution by incarcerating a debtor unable to pay the debt.

Minthorn’s “experience is not unique,” the lawsuit said. “It is a reflection of how defendants operate a modern-day debtors’ prison in which people who cannot afford to pay court-imposed fines arising out of minor violations are arrested, incarcerated, and fined further.”

The lawsuit described Minthorn as a low-income person with disabilities who struggled to get stable housing, medical care and food. The lawsuit said she was hospitalized for 74 days in 2016 because of stroke-like symptoms.

Minthorn did not contest a 2014 judgment against her and afine for $873. The lawsuit questioned why the amount of that fine later rose to $2,493 with no reason given.

Ultimately, the city settled with Minthorn in April, agreeing to pay her $130,000.

Minthorn received about $80,000. Legal Aid Services of Oregon, a non-profit civil legal program that provides access to legal help, received $45,000. Some $4,300 went to a trust to administer the settlement payments, and the city received $1,033 for Minthorn’s outstanding fines.

“This lawsuit should put all of Oregon on notice to take a look at their practices on this,” said Sarah Armstrong of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

VIU leadership conference online for month of June

Students and community members can sign up for the speaker series and/or the excursion series

Cowichan grads to have creative graduation ceremonies

All district secondary schools are all at different stages in their planning.

Man found dead in his tent at Chemainus homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

CVRD reopening head office, playgrounds, washrooms and more

Move part of staged reopening plan for all district facilities

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read