Proposed rule would strengthen ban on pay-or-jail sentences

Jan 1, 2016

The Michigan Supreme Court is proposing a rule that would strengthen the ban on sending poor people to jail if they can't afford to pay fines.

Some District Court judges continue to order so-called pay-or-stay sentences, although the U.S. Supreme Court banned the practice in the 1980s.

The proposed rule says a judge cannot send someone to jail for failing to pay a fine unless the defendant can afford it without significant hardship.

Judges could come up with a payment plan or waive all or part of the money owed.

Michael Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, says he's "thrilled."

A Detroit suburb, Hazel Park, opposes the rule. City officials say money could be hidden.