The study found that from 2008-2013, 9,277 individuals did some jail time for failing to pay their municipal citations, with judgments totaling $6.5 million. The majority of those detained for failing to pay their fines—78 percent—were African American, and 84 percent of the detainees were men. Almost half of them live in the city’s five poorest zip codes. The majority are unemployed, while those who are employed work at low-wage jobs.
The idea of charging these predominantly poor people millions of dollars in fines is, by itself, quite disturbing. But it becomes all the more dismaying when their failure to pay results results in imprisonment. The study found the average person incarcerated had spent an average of 8 days in jail, for a total of 98,824 days spent in jail by the population studied.