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.

Just Posted

RED Mountain resort delays opening day

Lack of snow puts damper on start of season

Body found in car at bottom of lake near Needles ferry

Police say at this time no foul play is suspected

West Kootenay traffic officers catch 21 impaired drivers Saturday

Checks in Nelson, Castlegar and Trail were set up as part of a national enforcement campaign

Fast response buoys electric rickshaw plan for Rossland

More than half of fundraising goal met in a few days

CP Holiday Train headed to Castlegar

The festive food bank fundraiser will take place December 12.

B.C. woman charged in connection to stolen vehicle smash-up in Kamloops

Kersten Ina Peters was arrested in the Fraser Valley on Friday, Dec. 6

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

VIDEO: Calgary man narrowly escapes from avalanche while running at Lake Louise

Bryon Howard caught the entire wild experience on camera

PHOTOS: Competitive Christmas light display takes sarcastic turn in Princeton

Heather King of Princeton took a creative and stress-free approach to her holiday display this year

RCMP asks Kootenay cannabis shop to remove image of famous Mountie from storefront

Owner happy to comply with RCMP, but wants more information first

BC Ferries adds 170 extra sailings for the holidays

6 a.m. and 10 p.m. sailings added for busy season

Anti-money laundering agency warns casinos to watch gamers playing with bank drafts

Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, issues operational alert

Strata rental bans escape B.C. speculation tax through 2021, Carole James says

Vacant home tax won’t apply to cabins accessible only by water

Most Read