A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘poor father’

The Answer to US Child Support: Give Them An Ankle Bracelet

from the Desoto Times Tribune by Robert Lee Long

captiveA father thrown in jail for child support is unable to work to pay that debt and often loses his job. It’s a vicious cycle that is repeated time and time again. A recent New York Times article highlighted the issue of fathers who fall behind on child support, only to be incarcerated and unable to work, falling further and further behind in catching up.

For DeSoto County Jail Administrator Chad Wicker, the problem hits close to home. As a child of divorced parents, Wicker witnessed the problem firsthand. When his father fell behind in making child support payments, his mother could not collect on back child support because he lived in Texas. (Who knows how long ago this was? The Bradley Amendment is never discussed in these articles.)

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States do not have reciprocal agreements to detain or arrest so-called “deadbeat dads” for overdue child support, according to Wicker.

“The problem with the dads who owe back child support is they keep coming back time and time again,” Wicker said. “We have some guys in custody who owe $70,000 or $80,000 and they are never in a position to pay it off.”

welfare queenEx-spouses of so-called “dead-beat dads” are also at a disadvantage. “Many times, the state does not get involved unless the mother is on government assistance,” Wicker said. “She can hire a private attorney or a private investigator to help her, but 99 percent of the time when a father who owes back child support gets arrested it’s because the state has a compelling interest in its litigation.”

Wicker said at the DeSoto County jail, men who have been arrested and jailed for owing back child support comprise 5 percent of the total jail inmate population but make up 40 percent of the jail’s non-violent offenders who are incarcerated.

“We usually keep between 10 to 20 in custody at any given time and for instance, today (Friday) we had a jail inmate population of 306,” Wicker said, adding 62 inmates were released Thursday following court-imposed adjudications of their sentences. According to Wicker, it costs $49.37 cents a day to house and feed an inmate.

Men who owe back child support quickly fill up beds in the jail once they again fall behind, according to Wicker. “Typically what happens is that you can go to jail if you are $2,000 behind,” Wicker said. “When you pay $400 a month, it doesn’t take long to get further behind if you get arrested and put in jail.”

Though jail is considered an effective incentive for parents who are able to pay, critics say punitive policies do not work for those who are poor, as the New York Times article points out.

Scott-police-fatal-shootingA case in point was the South Carolina man, Walter L. Scott, an African-American man who was pulled over for a broken tail light by a white Charleston, S.C. police officer. It was discovered by the police officer that Scott owed more than $18,000 in back child support and was likely headed back to jail. Scott bolted and ran and was shot in the back several times as he fled by the police officer, an event which touched off riots and protests in several American cities.

According to Sarah Geraghty, who was quoted in the New York Times article on the subject, poor people are often jailed over and over again in greater numbers for back child support in disproportionate numbers than those who have an ability to pay. “Parents who are truly destitute go to jail over and over again for child support debt simply because they are poor,” Geraghty was quoted in the New York Times article as saying.

According to the New York Times, a 2007 Urban Institute study of child support debt in nine large states found that 70 percent of people in arrears were “owed by people who reported less than $10,000 a year in income.”

tombstoneIn Scott’s case, he spent two weeks in jail and lost his $35,000-a-year job at a filmmaking company, in addition to sending him into an emotional and psychological spiral. Scott is now dead and obviously unable to pay not only any debt to his second wife and their children but any supposed debt to society.

DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said he would like to see these incarcerated fathers out working than taking up badly needed jail beds in his facility. “If they have a job, I would like to see them on an ankle bracelet and keep them on the job,” Rasco said. “It would help them and their families and help us keep our numbers down. If they lose their job, they’ll never catch up.”

———-

It’s bad enough to be labeled a ‘deadbeat’ or actually be dead, but the US has become so legally radicalized that ‘authorities’ believe that ankle bracelets are an answer, as if jail has ever been an answer. Coercion and fear are obviously what this is about, not about any pretense at a solution. It all about corporation exploitation by the state.  Imagine – the US considers itself superior in the battle for ‘human rights.’ Fathers are little more than a paycheck, and that’s the way the state likes it. Surely, the founding fathers of this nation would turn over in their graves, that is, if they were able. – MJR

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Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat.

captiveBy his own telling, the first time Walter L. Scott went to jail for failure to pay child support, it sent his life into a tailspin. He lost what he called “the best job I ever had” when he spent two weeks in jail. Some years he paid. More recently, he had not. Two years ago, when his debt reached nearly $8,000 and he missed a court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. By last month, the amount had more than doubled, to just over $18,000.

That warrant, his family now speculates, loomed large in Mr. Scott’s death. On April 4, he was pulled over for a broken taillight, fled on foot and, after a scuffle with a police officer, was fatally shot in the back.

The warrant, the threat of another stay behind bars and the potential loss of yet another job caused him to run, a brother, Rodney Scott, said.

Scott-police-fatal-shooting“Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support,” said Mr. Scott, whose brother was working as a forklift operator when he died. “He got to the point where he felt like it defeated the purpose.”

Walter Scott’s death has focused attention not just on police violence, but also on the use of jail to pressure parents to pay child support, a policy employed by many states today. Though the threat of jail is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay, many critics assert that punitive policies are trapping poor men in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.

all about the greenbacksThe problem begins with child support orders that, at the outset, can exceed parents’ ability to pay. When parents fall short, the authorities escalate collection efforts, withholding up to 65 percent of a paycheck, seizing bank deposits and tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses and professional licenses, and then imposing jail time.

“Parents who are truly destitute go to jail over and over again for child support debt simply because they’re poor,” said Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed a class-action lawsuit in Georgia on behalf of parents incarcerated without legal representation for failure to pay. “We see many cases in which the person is released, they’re given three months to pay a large amount of money, and then if they can’t do that they’re tossed right back in the county jail.”

There is no national count of how many parents are incarcerated for failure to pay child support, and enforcement tactics vary from state to state, as do policies such as whether parents facing jail are given court-appointed lawyers. But in 2009, a survey in South Carolina found that one in eight inmates had been jailed for failure to pay child support. In Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010. The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported last year that 1,800 parents had been jailed or given ankle monitors in two New Jersey counties in 2013. (The majority of noncustodial parents nationwide are men.)

rich guyUnpaid child support became a big concern in the 1980s and ’90s as public hostility grew toward the archetypal “deadbeat dad” who lived comfortably while his children suffered. Child support collections were so spotty that in the late 1990s, new enforcement tools such as automatic paycheck deductions were used. As a result, child support collections increased significantly, and some parents rely heavily on aggressive enforcement by the authorities.

But experts said problems could arise when such tactics were used against people who had little money, and the vast majority of unpaid child support is owed by the very poor. A 2007 Urban Institute study of child support debt in nine large states found that 70 percent of the arrears were owed by people who reported less than $10,000 a year in income. They were expected to pay, on average, 83 percent of their income in child support — a percentage that declined precipitously in higher income brackets.

dollar bondageIn many jurisdictions, support orders are based not on the parent’s actual income but on “imputed income” — what they would be expected to earn if they had a full-time, minimum wage or median wage job. In South Carolina, the unemployment rate for black men is 12 percent.

The Obama administration is trying to change some of these policies, proposing to rewrite enforcement rules to require that child support orders be based on actual income and consider the “subsistence needs” of the noncustodial parent, to bar states from allowing child support debt to accrue while parents are incarcerated and to finance more job placement services for them.

“While every parent has a responsibility to support their kids to the best of their ability, the tools developed in the 1990s are designed for people who have money,” said Vicki Turetsky, the commissioner of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. “Jail is appropriate for someone who is actively hiding assets, not appropriate for someone who couldn’t pay the order in the first place.”

kangaroo courtUnder a 2011 Supreme Court ruling, courts are not supposed to jail a defendant without a specific finding that he or she has the ability to pay. But that process does not always work as intended, especially when the client does not have a lawyer, advocates for the poor say.

In the Georgia class-action case, the plaintiffs were jailed in civil contempt-of-court proceedings in which they did not have lawyers. They included three veterans — one who had paid $75,000 in child support but fell behind when he lost his civilian job because of combat-related stress and family deaths; a second who was mentally ill and had a letter from a Veterans Affairs doctor saying he was unable to work; and a third who was incarcerated despite having paid $3,796 toward his debt by working odd jobs.

But the Georgia Supreme Court ruled against them, saying they did not have a categorical right to a lawyer.

Walter Scott

Walter Scott

Walter Scott had four children, two in the early 1990s outside of marriage, and two in the late 1990s with a woman to whom he was married. The marriage crumbled when one of the children was still a toddler, and Lisa Scott, his estranged wife, began writing letters to family court asking for help.

“My husband bears no responsibility for his family,” she wrote in 2000.

In an article about a parenting program published in The Post and Courier of Charleston in 2003, Mr. Scott said that he had fallen behind when the checks he sent to a state agency for his ex-wife were mistakenly directed to the mother of his first children. (The South Carolina Department of Social Services, citing privacy laws, said it could not verify his account.)

Mr. Scott eventually spent two weeks in jail — a stint that cost him a $35,000-a-year job at a filmmaking company and sent him into isolation and alcohol abuse, he told The Post and Courier.

“I got mad at everybody in the whole world because I just lost the best job I ever had,” he said. “I just stopped doing everything.”

In 2002, Mr. Scott, further behind on his payments, agreed to participate in a parenting program called Father to Father and pay $350 a month. Mr. Scott reunited with his family, turned himself in for the unpaid child support and served another five months in jail.

burning the constitutionStill, Charleston County Family Court records show that he remained in a cycle of unpaid child support debt, stints in jail and more threats of time behind bars. The records also show that when Mr. Scott was working in 2011, $125.76 was deducted from his check each week. He paid $11,411 that year, which included a lump-sum payment. But he was behind again in July 2012, and he paid $3,500, his last recorded payment, to avoid jail. The money came from his parents, Mr. Scott’s brother Rodney said.

Rodney Scott said his brother resented that his ex-wife was not required to work and that the pressure was always on him to pay support. Critics of the child support system say this imbalance is reflected in rules that say that if a mother receives public assistance, the father must pay it back, even if he is also poor. In many cases, though not in Mr. Scott’s, child support actions are brought by state officials seeking welfare reimbursement.

Lisa Scott could not be reached at addresses or phone numbers listed in her name. Samantha Scott, a daughter from Mr. Scott’s first relationship, said she had never heard her own mother complain about a lack of support. “If he had money, he would give it to us,” she said.

Ms. Turetsky, the head of the federal child support office, said the system should be based on the expectation that both parents would contribute toward their children’s needs. “It’s nuts,” she said of the policy of making destitute fathers repay welfare. “She gets the assistance; he gets charged with the bill.”

image of dadJahmal Holmes, 28, is a current participant in the Father to Father program in North Charleston. He has two children, 4 and 8, and said he had agreed to court-ordered child support because he had been told that it was a requirement for their mother to receive Medicaid. The two have since broken up and share custody of the younger child, but he is still required to pay support for both.

Mr. Holmes said he did not realize that if he fell behind on payments, he would face jail. “I am behind now, and they are threatening to suspend my driver’s license — and I’m a truck driver,” he said. “When I saw that Walter Scott died, and he was in this program, that touched me emotionally. I see myself trying to get out of that situation.”

Scott-happier-timesRodney Scott said that he sometimes thought his brother did not do everything he could to catch up, but that Walter seemed to consider it a hopeless cause. He recalled seeing his brother plead to a judge that he just did not make enough money.

“He asked the judge, ‘How am I supposed to live?’ ” Mr. Scott said. “And the judge said something like, ‘That’s your problem. You figure it out.’ ”

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