Debtors Prison Situation in TN and What you can do

Published: Friday, September 9th, 2016
Written by: Amanda Gentry


“A debtors’ prison is a prison for people who are unable to pay debt.”

In the state of TN, currently, state law provides that someone failing to pay child support debt can be held in this manner, but provides no other clear exceptions to this rule. Several TN counties however, have been holding people in jail over debts related to their systems of probation which is according to the Department of Justice, not legal. The county is appealing this injunction currently because apparently they believe they’re allowed to run a federally unconstitutional debtors prison because they passed laws at the state level which conflict with the federal. PCC has recently changed it’s name, which has happened numerous times in the past as they seem to change it whenever there is a scandal, from Providence Community Corrections to Pathways Community Corrections now. (Probably change it again now that they’re being attached to press statements it seems to be the pattern.)

The county’s attorney made these arguments published by the Murfreesboro Post:

Federal courts must abstain from getting involved in state criminal proceedings, including probation cases. Probationers involved the case have the opportunity to raise constitutional challenges but have not established they tried to make those claims.
Judges and probation officers are subject to judicial and quasi-judicial immunity and cannot be challenged in this situation.
Probationers involved in the case aren’t likely to prevail in the matter because the processes for private probation services and revocation of probation in Rutherford County are authorized by state law.

Failure to pay probation fees has been held under federal injunction in Murfreesboro TN now as a non valid means to hold you in jail. This means that if you are in another TN county, you should contact a lawyer (if you’re here already contact me) about how they can attach the federal injunction to your case if another county other than Rutherford has been holding you or a family member in jail over failure to pay probation fees. It is possible that this decision could be reversed, but for now, it’s the law.

The Department of Justice also strongly came out that failure to pay bail if the person is indigent and unable to pay is not grounds to hold them in jail. One of several cases occurred in Georgia and was found that the bail scheme was in fact illegal, the paperwork can be viewed here. The problem in these cases is that it is nearly impossible to find a lawyer to even file in their behalf. In the event you need an attorney to help you file the necessary paperwork to get bail reduced or suspended in a case involving yourself or a family member, I will do it for $50 dollar flat fee if you just get together the records of the person’s income and assets for me. I need to know what they have in the bank, what they own that is easily convertible to cash and what they make at work, and in cases where bail is so excessive that there is no way they’d be able to pay by DOJ order their bail has to be reduced or suspended, but it might be difficult to find the way to file this or get it into the proper court channel.

That’s where I come in. I’ll get the paperwork done correctly and filed, because I know that’s difficult to navigate and it might be hard to find someone to do it cheaply.

Fill out our form below and I will get back to you after review of it to let you know what is necessary to file.

Please give the law office of Amanda J Gentry a call at (615) 604-6263 for a free consultation, or fill out our contact form.