BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Biloxi is running a modern-day debtors’ prison by jailing people who cannot afford to pay fines, The American Civil Liberties Union argues in a lawsuit.
The group filed suit on behalf of several people including Joseph Anderson, a disabled man who spent eight nights in jail over an unpaid speeding ticket, The Sun-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1MKX68e ).
Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. has placed a hold on the suit pending settlement negotiations, with a joint status report due Jan. 15.
City attorneys are “involved in good-faith discussions with the ACLU. We want to be fair to everyone,” said Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel.
He said the city implemented a community service program and legal counsel for defendants in 2005.
“We believe the lawsuit is a good thing and good will come from it,” he said.
According to the the lawsuit, Biloxi should have known better than to violate people’s rights, since neighboring Gulfport, was sued over a debtors prison complaint 10 years ago.
A similar lawsuit was filed in September against the City of New Orleans, with trial scheduled in August 2016.
The SCHR dropped the lawsuit against Gulfport in 2007 after settlement discussions.
The city bought a new court filing system, though John Kelly, chief administrative officer, said the purchase was unrelated to the lawsuit.