Ga. City Faces Lawsuit For Jailing People Too Poor To Pay

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The city of Calhoun is being challenged for its practice of jailing people because they are too poor to pay for bail.

The Southern Center for Human Rights filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of people charged with minor crimes who are too poor to pay their bail fees.

According to court filings, plaintiff Maurice Walker, 54, was arrested last week for allegedly being a pedestrian under the influence. He’s still at the Gordon County Jail because he couldn’t pay his bail of $160, said Sarah Geraghty, an attorney with the Southern Center For Human Rights.  

“Anyone who can pay gets out, anyone who can’t get out is held in jail up to seven days, sometimes more, before the city brings people before the court,” Geraghty said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice weighed in on a similar practice in Clanton, Alabama, saying that setting bail this way without regards to someone’s indigence “not only violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, but also constitutes poor public policy.”

Calhoun’s mayor and its city attorney could not be reached for comment.