Jailing over child support creates modern-day debtors prison

Published 7:58 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dear Editor,

On Dec. 17, 1821, Kentucky became the first state to abolish debtors prisons in the country — hurrah, hurrah! These institutions were abhorrent to even the crudest of sensibilities. But wait — hold on a sec — something’s amiss here.

Today, and almost every day here in Boyle County, there are between 30 to 35 individuals (estimated) incarcerated at the Boyle County Detention Center for nothing more than owing money. And not money for reimbursement on stolen items, not unpaid fines nor unpaid bills. But money due for child support.

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In amounts of indebtedness of as little as a couple of hundred dollars. At $30 a day, times 35 individuals, times 30 days in a month, times 12 months in a year, that cost to us approximates $378,000. And while these poor and destitute individuals have no means to pay (why else would they be there?), they certainly cannot pay while in jail — no jobs.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s do a comparison. A comparison with no political agenda save as a simple example. Our new president, Donald Trump, has filed bankruptcy four times in his lifetime and walked away from millions upon millions of dollars of indebtedness without ever spending a day in any jail anywhere for this debt.

But an unemployed young mother who is unable to pay on as little as a couple of hundred dollars of child support is sentenced to six months in jail here in Boyle County.


And you and I pay for it.

Roger Hartner