Missouri Supreme Court Ends Debtors' Prisons

Missouri Supreme Court

On March 19, in a unanimous opinion written by Judge Mary Russell, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that judges in Missouri can no longer threaten indigent defendants with jail time if they are unable to pay board bills for incarceration in the county jail. "While persons are legally responsible for the cost of their board bills under (state law), if such responsibilities fall delinquent, the debts cannot be taxed as court costs and the failure to pay the debt cannot result in another incarceration," the court wrote. The ruling puts an end to the practice of turning county jails into de facto debtors' prisons.

HB 192, sponsored by Rep. Bruce DeGroot (R-Chesterfield), would put an end to the payment review hearings and require that board bills be collected through civil means. The bill passed the House by a vote of 156-1. Now Rep. DeGroot is considering amending his bill to ban the practice of charging for jail time altogether.

March 29, 2019 - 2:09pm
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