Unfair Probation Collection

Learn more about Ralph Mark Gilbert, Father of the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia


Debtors' Prisons

Contrary to what many people may believe, there are debtors’ prisons throughout the United States where people are imprisoned because they are too poor to pay fines and fees.


The United States Supreme Court in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983), held that courts cannot imprison a person for failure to pay a criminal fine unless the failure to pay was “willful.” However, this constitutionaledictis often ignored.


Courts impose substantial fines as punishment for petty crimes as well as more serious ones. Besides the fines, the courts are assessing more and more fees to help meet the costs of the ever-increasing size of the criminal justice system: fees for anklebraceletsfor monitoring; anger management classes; drug tests, crime victims’ funds, crime laboratories, court clerks, legal representation, various retirement funds, and private probation companies that do nothing more than collect a checkeverymonth.


People who cannot afford the total amount assessed may be allowed to pay in monthly installments, but in many jurisdictions those paymentsareaccompanied by fees to a private probation company that collects them. A typical fee is $40 per month. People who lose their jobs or encounter unexpected family hardships and are unable to maintain payments may be jailed without any inquiry into their ability to pay.


There are more fees for those in jails or prisons. There are high costs for telephone calls.Inmatesare charged fees for medical services. A new trend is “room and board” fees in prisons and jails.



After receiving multiple complaints from citizens who have been evicted, fired from employment, and even been threatened to have their children removed from their custody by Child Welfare workers because they could not get essential utilities in their name due to an unpaid criminal fine attached to their accounts; the Georgia NAACP along with a coalition of other civil and human rights organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU of Georgia) and the Southern Center for Human Rights are working to end this practice used in the City of LaGrange and other towns/cities across Georgia.


Those impacted by these unjust practices are encouraged to not be afraid and come forward.


  • Has the city of LaGrange ever added your court fines or probation fees to your light bill? 

  • Has the city of LaGrange ever added the court fines or probation fees of a friend or family member to your utility bill? 

  • Have you ever had your water, gas, and/or heat disconnected by the city of LaGrange because you couldn't pay yours or someone else's court fines or probation fees? 

  • Are you now unable to get the lights on in your name because you still owe the city of LaGrange for court fines or probation fees?




Contact Governor Nathan Deal at (404) 656-1776 
Erin Hames, Deputy Chief of Staff of Policy (404) 656-1784

Contact Your State Representative or State Senator through the Switchboard



For more information on the NAACP's work to end these practices, call Ernest Ward at 706.302.0345.


What you can do to help end this practice.

  • Join the NAACP.  Membership is power!

  • Post this story to your social media sites immediately

  • Ask your friends, pastor, co-workers and neighbors to do the same













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