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Debtor's Prison

It’s like something out of Dickens: Poor people being jailed for failing to pay debts they can never hope to afford. Court-ordered debts impose unfair burdens on poor people in Washington. The ACLU of Washington is exposing this counterproductive system and calling for reform.
Download the ACLU of Washington report, Modern Day Debtor's Prisons. How court-imposed debts push people deeper into poverty and prolong their time in the justice system
Settlement brings reform to Benton County
Courts should not demand LFOs from people eking out a living
FAQs about Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs)


The American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC have filed a class-action lawsuit against Benton County in central Washington over its unconstitutional system for collecting court-imposed debts.

In 2010, a court rule was adopted (with the support of the ACLU and numerous access to justice organizations) authorizing waiver of all filing fees and surcharges for indigent litigants (GR 34).

The ACLU of Washington and the co-amici urge the WA Supreme Court to grant review based on the important constitutional issues at stake and because LFOs cre ate and perpetuate poverty for numerous individuals in WA who are already struggling financially.
The ACLU of Washington has filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals who have had their driver’s licenses suspended by the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) because they were unable to pay fines and fees for moving violations.
Amicus brief addressing the practice of requiring individuals whose only income is needs-based public assistance to pay legal financial obligations from extremely limited monthly benefits
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