Prison Legal News sued the Berkeley County jail in SC a few years ago for censoring our books and magazine and it turned out that 50-60% of the prisoners in the 400 bed jail were imprisoned for being too poor to pay child support. I don't know about the racial breakdown of the prisoners.
Nationally no one knows how many people are imprisoned for being too poor to pay child support but the issue is largely ignored since the whole premise of child support is something that is supposedly good for children. In the absence of a social safety net the US offers a police state with no comment on the cost of collecting money from poor parents. One article stated that New Mexico spent $300 million a year to collect $100 million a year from parents for child support and nothing on how many are imprisoned for being too poor to pay.
While the war on drugs gets a lot of attention for filling prisons and jails the war on poor parents does not. Imprisoning parents for their poverty allows the imprisonment of people who are not even engaged in criminal activity.
This is likely to remain ignored. The conservatives like this status quo because it gives the appearance of keeping poor parents off welfare and allows for the imprisonment of poor men who are not engaged in criminal activity and liberals like it because they view it as somehow helping single mothers and their children.
The fact that no one even knows how many people are in prison and jail for being unable to pay child support on any given day says it all. And more importantly, no one seems to want to know. Its fair to say that Walter Scott is another family court success story.
Paul Wright Editor, Prison Legal News