ACLU-NH: Indigent Mother Jailed ‘Illegally’ For Failing to Pay Court Fine

What happens when a 22-year-old single mother of two toddlers who can’t afford to pay a court fine fails to complete 62 hours of community service instead? For Alejandra Corro, it meant being sentenced to serve nine days in Valley Street Jail in Manchester by Judge Thomas E. Bamberger in the 9th Circuit Court, Nashua District Division, on March 4, 2014. That was after Public Defender Ryan Guptil told Bamberger that Corro had completed only 20 hours of the 62 hours of community service because of a significant fire in her home that forced her to move six weeks earlier.  (Click on story to hear court hearing audio.)

“How did that stop her from doing the community service?” Bamberger asked, according to a court transcript of the hearing. Corro wasn’t alone, according to an ACLU-NH’s report released Wednesday (Sept.

Listen to NH Judges Jail People For Inability To Pay Court Fines

The anguish comes through in people’s voices as they hear their fate for being unable to pay fines owed to the court in what the ACLU-NH says is an illegal and systemic practice by judges across New Hampshire. Click on headline to hear what it’s like in the words of Jayson Snow, Thomas Polito, Richard Vaughan and Bryan Sullivan to be sent to jail for failing to pay fines – and listen to the judges who sentenced them. Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU-NH, spoke of the harm to families when loved ones are jailed for failing to pay fines. “Incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay fines is both unconstitutional and cruel.  It takes a tremendous toll on precisely those families already struggling the most.”

“Being poor is not a crime in this country,” Chaffee said. These cases provide glimpses into courtroom across New Hampshire.