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ACLU report: Nebraska court fees creating debtor's prison

Dec 15, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The ACLU of Nebraska says low-income offenders often can't pay fines and bail amounts assessed in the state's courts, effectively creating a debtor's prison.

The organization released a 72-page report Tuesday written after a study of Nebraska's criminal justice system and its impact on people, jails and communities. The ACLU focused on Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy and Hall counties in its investigation.

Other findings in the report include that over half of the people in county jails are in custody because they're waiting for trial and are unable to afford bail.

The group recommends that police issue citations in lieu of arrest whenever possible and that judges ensure attorneys are appointed before bail is set.

County jail officials say they're trying to avoid keeping people who can't afford fees and are associated with nonviolent crimes out of jail.

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