They’re not “almost like” debtor’s prisons, retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher of Rome, Georgia. They’re exactly that – debtor’s prisons, which despite being outlawed in the United States of America – are still alive and well when it comes to indigent parents, almost exclusively men, who fall behind in child support payments.

From an article in the Rome News-Tribune: Law Center Questions Debtors’ Prisons – the stark reality of the punitive measures taken by Family Court and Civil Courts against people who are unable to meet court ordered child support obligations should have every United States citizen angry. These are not people who are willfully avoiding payment of child support, but those who are literally no longer in a financial position to pay child support orders which are already inflated and based upon income that no longer exists. It’s an increasingly common problem in our worst economy in half-a-century and hundreds upon hundreds of Georgia citizens alone are incarcerated under similar circumstances.

An excerpt:

Randy Miller is serving a sentence in the Floyd County work release center for falling more than $3,000 behind on his child support payments.

A petition for his release is slated for a Jan. 10 hearing in Floyd County Superior Court.

“He should never have been incarcerated,” said Sarah Geraghty, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. “In this country, we don’t put people in jail just because they’re poor.”

In America, we most certainly do. We do it with increasing frequency. We do so despite the fact that debtors’ prisons were long ago declared illegal. We do so despite the fact that imprisoning people who are unable to meet their child support obligations is the very definition of “counter-intuitive.” One cannot continue to work hard to meet their outrageous child support orders which are calculated based upon income that no longer exists if they are in prison. They cannot find jobs, go to interviews, and get to work if their licenses have been revoked. It’s a vicious cycle of unnecessary punishment that drives otherwise stand-up men into the depths of horrible depression, homelessness, financial destruction, and far too many to commit suicide.

Why is it that so few people who are American citizens, who by their very citizenship should be working hard to put an end to such unconstitutional behaviors in our court systems – are not?

I encourage you to read the above linked article and dare you to come away feeling something other than extremely upset and unsettled by what the child support “machine” does to families and individuals alike.

Here is a summary of Randy Miller’s chain of events, which were accelerated by the Family Court process:

  1. Ralph Miller has a child support order calculated on his gainful employment and salary.
  2. Ralph Miller loses his job in July 2009.
  3. Ralph Miller, for the first time, falls behind in child support while finding sporadic employment and sending what he could.
  4. A mere 5 months later, the state of Georgia files contempt charges against him for being only $1,000 behind in child support payments.
  5. Case dismissed in January of 2010.
  6. The state of Georgia refiles charges against Ralph Miller and in June 2010 he was found guilty.  His child support obligation was then increased!
  7. In October 2010, Ralph Miller lost his and his children’s home to foreclosure.
  8. On November 11th, 2010, Ralph Miller obtained a part-time job and some steady income.
  9. On November 15th, 2010, Ralph Miller was arrested and put in prison for failure to pay a civil debt – illegal in the United States of America.
  10. He was ordered to pay $3,000 immediately or serve up to 120-days in a work-release detention center.

So, the state, through its barbaric child support collection tactics, has helped to accelerate the financial devastation occurring to Ralph Miller and his family.  I ask you, the reader – exactly how are the best interests of Ralph Miller’s children served by any one of the state of Georgia’s actions in this specific case?  Here’s a short answer: they’re not.  Of course, child support enforcement is rarely about the best interests of the children, but the best interests of the state – no matter how much the statutes, the judges, the legislature, or any of the employees who make a living working for this system try to convince you otherwise.

Unfortunately, due to his financial situation, Ralph Miller had to represent himself against this well-oiled machine.  Ralph Miller lost and continues to lose.  That’s another pitfall of the system – when accosted civilly by the state, you’re not entitled to a public defender, leaving people floundering against well educated attorney’s employed by the state to facilitate an indigent person’s demise, financially and sometimes physically.

So now the state has put his part-time job in serious jeopardy and further deepened Ralph Miller’s financial obligation to the state.  That work release center?  In addition to the $135/week he is being garnished for child support, they garnish him the following charges to pay the state-run center:

  • $140/week room and board.
  • $35/month for parking.
  • $10/month for mandatory drug testing even though he apparently has no history of drug abuse, so his rights are violated even further.

A sobering thought also from the article:

“Before he was incarcerated, he had the ability to pay a greater portion of his earnings to child support,” Geraghty said. “Now he has to pay fees that are all deducted first.”

The Family Court Cartel doesn’t operate on logic, love, or the best interests of the children.  These court systems and all of the connected entities feeding at the money trough have to get paid for somehow – and these are the types of measures that they take to do it.

See also: Georgia Child Support Employment Programs – Making Fathers State’s Slaves?