People being locked up for failure to pay court fees from old traffic and misdemeanor cases is being called a modern-day "Debtors' Prison". A class action lawsuit has been filed against the city of Jackson by Equal Justice Under Law - a law firm in Washington, D.C., and the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
MacArthur Center Director Cliff Johnson says poverty should be taken into consideration when talking about "paying or staying".
"We live in a community and a state with a substantial number of people who live below the poverty level. This makes it hard for cities to collect fines, and it makes it hard for people to pay fines. All we're asking Jackson to do is top sending people to jail and undertake a serious analysis of people's ability to pay," says Johnson.
Johnson says asking questions is the answer to this problem.
"The court should gather evidence - What is your income? What is your rent? Do you owe child support? What other obligations do you have? What assets do you have? Look at all the information and then determine whether the person is actually able to pay," Johnson says.
Jackson spokesperson, Shelia Byrd, says in a statement - "The City of Jackson does not imprison any citizen without statutory authority and the weighting of all factors, unlike surrounding municipalities who make it a practice to imprison individuals who cannot pay immediately".
The City of Jackson says they are working with the plaintiffs to resolve the issue.