Nebraska senators: Don't jail people for being poor

Mar 17, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Two Nebraska state senators say judges should take defendants' ability to pay into account when they set bail or impose punishments for unpaid fines.

Bills heard in a legislative committee Thursday would require courts to do everything they can to avoid jailing low-income people before their trial or because they can't pay fines.

Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, the bail measure's sponsor, says courts need to make sure people jailed before trial are supposed to be there and not just unable to pay bonds. Lancaster County Public Defender Joe Nigro says the current bond system criminalizes and punishes poverty.

A measure sponsored by Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln would allow people who cannot afford to pay fines to do community service or pay in installments instead.

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