ACLU: South Carolina county of operating debtors prison - - Columbia, South Carolina

ACLU accuses Lexington Co. of operating debtors prison

Lexington County Detention Center (Source: WIS) Lexington County Detention Center (Source: WIS)

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Lexington County is accused of violating constitutional rights of people who can't afford to pay fines and fees for low-level offenses, landing them in jail for weeks on end.

A lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union accuses Lexington County of throwing people who can't pay misdemeanor court costs into a modern-day debtors' prison.

The suit was filed on behalf of five people, although the ACLU is seeking class-action status.

The named plaintiffs spent as much as two months in jail because they couldn't pay their fines and fees. One woman was jailed for three weeks over unpaid court costs of $647.

The ACLU says a decades-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling says courts must consider people's ability to pay fines before jailing them due to nonpayment.

WIS has reached out to the Lexington County Administration for a comment. 

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