Reforming Ferguson-style “debtors’ prisons” here in Washington State

The most shocking news out of Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of Michael Brown wasn’t about police violence or racism. It was the way Ferguson and neighboring cities balanced their budgets by operating what are widely called “modern-day debtors’ prisons.” Courts there routinely jailed poor people for failing to pay traffic tickets and other minor infractions, then charged them a never-ending series of court fees and jail costs, and then more fines when they failed to pay those fees and costs, and so on and on and on.