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Community leaders seek to break cycle of crime's heavy cost
Newtown Florist Club meeting discusses reform of modern debtors prisons
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Rose Johnson marks off items on a list as members of a panel speak Thursday night as the Newtown Florist Club hosts a community meeting at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center. - photo by Erin O. Smith
Fines and fees resulting from misdemeanor traffic and probation violations has led the U.S. Justice Department to warn local courts about the emergence of so-called “debtors’ prisons.” “Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape,” reads a Justice Department memo from March. A community meeting in Gainesville last week convened by the local Newtown Florist Club civil rights organization gathered Hall County judges, criminal defense attorneys, public defenders and law enforcement officials to define the issue locally and pointedly address where reform can be made.