Thousands of arrest warrants for low-level offenders have been recalled under a directive from South Carolina’s top judge.
The Charleston Post and Courier reports the move means tens of thousands of low-level offenders wanted for arrest for not appearing for court dates or not paying fines will not be jailed.
Previously when people did not pay fines or failed to show up for trial on certain misdemeanors or traffic tickets were put in jail. And sometimes held until their fines were paid or their maximum jail terms are served. But advocates said the practice turned jails into debtors’ prisons. THE ACLU sued earlier this year, claiming the practice effectively denies a poor individual’s civil rights.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty took steps to address those concerns, particularly when impoverished people are convicted and incarcerated without ever being told of their right to have an attorney defend them.
However, the paper reports the move is creating fear that a longer chance at freedom will put victims of their crimes, which include domestic violence, in danger.
Some judges also reportedly feel a jail sentence of their own if they do not follow the new directive. Others worry that the move will encourage people to skip their court dates altogether.