Man, too poor to pay fishing fine, sent to jail

A story about a modern debtors' prison in Michigan.
Fish-FineKyle Dewitt spent three days in jail because he was too poor to pay a fishing fine. Last spring, Dewitt was ticketed and fined $215 for fishing smallmouth bass out of season (Dewitt disputes the charge).

But Dewitt, 19 years old with a fiancée and a nine-month-old son, lost his job at a grocery store in 2010 and has been out of work ever since. He couldn’t afford the $215 fine. Instead he offered to pay $100 up front, and repay the rest in a month. But Judge Raymond Voet of Ionia, Mich., refused. The judge sentenced Dewitt to three days in jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union paid to break Dewitt out. Now the group is suing on behalf of Dewitt and four others in Michigan who were jailed because they were too poor to pay misdemeanor fines.

“Long thought to be a relic of the 19th century, debtors’ prisons are still alive and well in Michigan,” Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU, said in a press release. “Jailing our clients because they are poor is not only unconstitutional, it’s unconscionable and a shameful waste of resources.”

Man Jailed For Not Paying Fishing Fine (Image: Fish, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from jmsmith000's photostream)


  1. It is only a waste of resources if you don’t view the poor as a commodity to ship into the prison-industrial complex!  If you DO view the poor as a way for the prison-industrial complex to bilk government money, then this is super efficient!

  2. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and — provided it’s the right season, he has the proper licensing, he is engaging in said activity in a sanctioned location and doesn’t take more than he is allotted — you’ll feed him for a lifetime. (As long as he keeps the license current.)

    1. All smallmouth bass are sunfish, but not all sunfish are smallmouth bass.  Sunfish refers to the family, Centrarchidae.

  3. The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread fish out of season.

    1. He deserves to be punished. Conservation laws are generally a good thing. Jail is an absurd result, but not more absurd than your mockery.

      1. Just pointing out that someone who is unemployed and fishing for food has a slightly different set of priorities and trade-offs than someone who is fishing recreationally. I realize that mercy is terribly out of fashion these days, though.

      2. Sure conservation laws are a good thing. I’d say conserving smallmouth bass is at least as important as letting a human being eat.

      3. and he was punished. by being given a $215 ticket. which he offered to pay within a month. would you rather have his child not have diapers or food for the month in lieu of paying on the spot? .

      4. So you think that the offer to pay half up front and the rest over time was deserving of jail? 
        I see how America has gotten into this mess.

    2. unless the rich happen to be a part of the political elite or LEO communities… in which case they are free to fish during any season they like, for any fish they wish without repercussion. because the law, in its majestic equality, seemingly does not apply, and looks the other way, as if there was no infraction in the first place.

  4. Looks more like a bluegill to me.

    -abs admits the line is fuzzy, but he thinks he sees blue in that there fish (admittedly being red/green colorblind does “color” *ahem* his perceptions, but blue is a color he does usually see)

  5. “Silly, poor person.  You’re doing it wrong.  You and you family are supposed to starve to death”

    The real tragedy is that he got fed for those three days, while his wife and child didn’t.

    What’s that old saying about teaching someone to fish?

    1. His wife and child didn’t get fed because women are helpless? For all we know, the guy was living off his wife’s breadwinnings and was just fishing like a bum instead of out looking for work.

      1. Assumptions are great tools to a logical discussion. I could maybe
        understand people’s difficulty in seeing that this man was trying to do
        something, anything, and somehow still doing something wrong to put food on the table if say he was street
        racing for money in a $40,000 dollar car (or something like that). But he was fishing. Which even if his intent was less than admirable (which seems a stretch) the result would still be something to eat. Perhaps you think he should have sold his rod and reel at the pawn shop instead. A very short term solution but at least he would have been neatly within the confines, letter and lines of the ‘law’.

        ‘Fishing like a bum’ yeah because only bums fish. And while we are at it, what is your assumption regarding what she was doing? Something befitting the wife of a bum no doubt.

        In all seriousness, people in hard positions do what they can. And I for one am thankful that the one person we do know anything about tried to do something constructive (not exactly legal but it’s better than what others would have done), would we have preferred that he attempt to rob a 7-11 instead? I think not.

      2. His wife and child didn’t get fed because women are helpless? For all we know, the guy was living off his wife’s breadwinnings and was just fishing like a bum instead of out looking for work.

        We really have to start making up stories in order to justify why the court not splitting a $215 fine nto two payments and ordering him to jail for three days was a model of jurisprudence?

        For all I care, he could be the heir to the Scary Off-Brand Snack Cake Fortune, and his wife couldn’t attend the hearing because she was having her twice-weekly unicorn fur skin treatment. Any judge with half a functioning heart and brain would answer this request with “Approved, clerk, please note the record. Next case, please, and let’s get someone who actually did something seriously wrong for the next one, ‘K.”

  6. I can’t count the number of times I slipped through the iron grip of our keepers because in ye olde dayes your social security number wasn’t used to track you. Now kids who make even the smallest mistake are tagged for the rest of their lives.

    Shame on those of you with the “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” attitude! Do you save up your empathy only for rich people who fall from grace?

  7. The man offered a reasonable alternative that should have appeased both parties. It’s no different than working out a payment plan for taxes, which the government often does. 

    This man was sentenced to spend 3 more days in jail than many white collar criminals who commit far worse crimes. 3 days that likely cost the state of Michigan far more than $215.

    1. Oh, it gets better. I’d be willing to bet that Michigan is one of the states which bills you for time spent in their jails. So his family will be getting another notice in the mail soon.

      Wanna guess what happens after that?

  8. It’s phenomenally easy to catch an out of season fish or mis-identify a fish, which makes this all the sillier. In most jurisdictions, some fish are in season while others are out. I do know which of my lures certain varieties of fish seemingly prefer, but I have no control over which fish actually bites. I caught fish that were out of season as recently as this spring. The right thing to do when that happens is immediately return them to the water and change your fishing spot.

    So he got caught, this would imply he kept the out of season fish rather than returning them to the water. Since we know the fish species, it’s a relatively safe assumption that the fish was kept in an identifiable manner. If he had the intent to catch and keep out of season fish, why did he not take 2 minutes to fillet the catch thereby rendering it unidentifiable as out of season?

    Coloration on fish varies a great deal based on conditions. A chart I have to sort out Muskie from Pike has 6 illustrations of the possible color combinations that exist just for adult males in my region. Even the names are confusing! Rock bass is in-season all year, but smallmouth and largemouth bass have seasons.

    And of course, on top of it all, he did offer to pay. As much as he could right now, and the rest on a reasonable timeframe. The judge was a total juicebox in handing down the punishment he did.

  9.  Should he be treated differently than defendants who have more money?

    He was fined. He offered to pay the fine. The judge, instead, decided to fuck up his life and waste government resources by throwing him in jail. I’m having difficulty seeing the defendant as the bad guy.

    Aren’t you effectively penalizing those people who can pay their fines in the timeframe required by the court?

    I have no problem with someone who makes $250,000/year asking to pay $100 now and $115 in a month.

  10. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and his is going to have to pay!

  11. To be filed under “the one that got away”, our intrepid justice had a run in with Dr. Death.

    From the WWZM ABC 13 website reports:pneumonia Friday in a Detroit hospital.
    He was 83 years old.
    IONIA, Mich. (WZZM)– If he had to do it over again, former Ionia
    County Prosecutor Raymond Voet says he would not have asked for a
    mistrial 14 years ago in the Dr. Jack Kevorkian case.

    “It’s the only regret I have,” says Voet, who is now an Ionia County Judge.

    Kevorkian,also known as “Dr. Death” because of his work helping
    people commit suicide, died from pneumonia Friday in a Detroit hospital.
    He was 83 years old.

    In 1997, Kevorkian went on trial in Ionia for helping 54 year old
    Loretta Peabody commit suicide.  Peabody suffered from Multiple
    Sclerosis. After inflammatory opening remarks by defense attorney
    Geoffrey Fieger, Voet convinced the judge to declare a mistrial.

    “You know, hindsight is always 20/20,” says Voet. “In retrospect, if I
    have a regret, it’s not finishing the trial and bringing Dr. Kevorkian
    to a resolution in Ionia County.”

  12. Yes, yes, yes, blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc.
    But speaking for all of the small-mouthed bass of Michigan: JUSTICE AT LAST!

  13. I thought the entire point of having a Judge was so that they can make a “Judgement”.  If their job is just to arbitrarily follow the letter of some random law regardless of real life gray areas,   we can just replace them with a cop and an iphone app

  14. And the whole “you are poor because you are lazy or stupid” thing… It always seems to kick-in just below the pay grade of the one who says it.

  15. Debtor prisons are not an entirely terrible idea. We could have sent a lot of Wall Street to prison that way in 2008…

  16. If anyone had told me this morning that today’s angry thread would be about smallmouth bass, I would have laughed.

  17. how about those of us who think this is bullshit pay the remainder of the man’s fine?

    1. how about those of us who think this is bullshit pay the remainder of the man’s fine?

      I already did. I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU.

  18. So what we are saying here is –
    If your poor you get jail time.
    If your rich you can pay a fine and walk.

    So the concept of equal justice for all is officially done for.

    Because a poor person having to pay a $20 fine holds that $20 dearly and will avoid loosing that in the future.
    A rich person will not care about a $20 fine, and most likely will continue to break that law as long as they have $20’s handy.

    Justice is blind blah blah blah…. The point of Justice is to punish those who break the law.

    A poor person out a $20 might not eat for a week, a rich person out a $20 won’t miss a single meal.
    Not exactly the same result by a long shot.

    There is inequity in these laws, and a core belief in this country is all men are created equal.  But sometimes you need to make sure it actually is equal to every man.

    1.  ethical judges, or a sliding scale fine system based on annual income, might fix this- though ethical judges seems a wee far fetched

  19. Don’t hunting and fishing laws originally come from anti-poaching measures to keep the poor from depleting the reserves of the landed wealthy?

    1. The licensing fees certainly do, but is the particular fish endangered or threatened in that area?

      Edit: Species Health/Conservation Status is classified LC, so nix to that.

    2. Sure, but aren’t most “laws” originally in place to protect the interest of the wealthy? Regardless of why they were originally created, there are good reasons for many of them today. There is not a good reason to throw this guy in jail, but there is a good reason to regulate fishing and hunting.

      1. Sure, but aren’t most “laws” originally in place to protect the interest of the wealthy?

        Roman law largely evolved as a mechanism to protect the plebs from the patricians, although the latter were rather good at manipulating it to the opposite end.

    3. Fishing and hunting laws in the US have vastly different origins from those of Europe. Laws emerged here to prevent, or in response to the effects of, market hunting. Game laws in the US can be considered to be without a class bias.

  20. Poor people are going to jail in Michigan for more than just fishing.

    Kristen Preston, a 19 year old mother, was unable to pay a $125 fine for underage drinking. Judge Voet sentenced her to 30 days in jail.

    David Clark, 30, was ordered to complete a six-week parenting class
    and pay a $1,250 fine for spanking his girlfriend’s child. Clark took
    the class, but he couldn’t afford the fine as a part-time grocery store
    worker who brings home $150 a week. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and lost his job. Clark’s girlfriend was charged with the same misdemeanor offense;
    however, her parents paid her costs, and she was therefore not jailed.

    Dorian Bellinger, 22, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana
    possession and couldn’t afford the $425 in fees he was sentenced to 13 days in jail.

  21. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here but again, I have not seen this go by yet… Was he fishing for food or sport? I think this makes an incredible difference. 

  22. But Judge Raymond Voet of Ionia, Mich., refused. The judge sentenced Dewitt to three days in jail.

    Fish without a license and go to jail.
    Defraud and crash economies and get bailed out by taxpayers.

  23. Wasn’t there a president who was caught fishing without a license during a fishing vacation photo op? I want to say GHW Bush, but maybe it was Clinton? Or a senator?

  24. Oh FFS, some of you here are heartless bastards. The man was put in jail for fishing, FOR FUCKING FISHING!

    To the guy who wonders if he was doing this for sport of for food, I would have to assume (though I suppose I could be wrong) that he was doing this for food. You know, to feed is family.

    To the people on about the forced labour vs. forced fine. It’s typically like this, the number of community service hours far out weighs what somebody could reasonable earn even at above minimum wage. Therefore, it’s a fairly stiff penalty but if you haven’t got the money then maybe that would still be a better option. From the states point of view it should be better. Free work, fine payed off, sentence served.

    The class warfare angle is a little more than important. Poor people are shit on all the time by the so-called justice system. And then all the privileged and ignorant (or mean) people come out to say craptastic things like ‘well that’s what you get for being poor,’ or ‘he broke the law and should be punished,’ or ‘get a job you slob!’ ETC.! For all you jerks that think this guy got what was coming to him for putting a tiny little toe across the line of the law in order to support himself and his; and to those that think this is a fair punishment for this very minor transgression (which the cop should have been able to exercise a little discretion/judgment on in the first place) I have to say this… can any of you armchair judgement passers truly say that you have not committed equal or greater mistakes, intentional or not in order to survive? If you have then think about what you are saying. If you have not then think about the privilege and luck that life has afforded you and be thankful you haven’t had to wonder where your next meal would come from.

    Finally, this is not a system of ‘code law’ it is a system of common law. What that means is that the judge/state/administration/enforcement system has leeway and can contemplate other circumstances outside of just the letter of the law. And in this case they damn well should have. As it stands this judge and everybody else down the line just look like huge jerks with no compassion or sense of what is actually right or wrong.

  25. “But Dewitt, 19 years old with a fiancée and a nine-month-old son,” the most worrisome part of the story for me.  Tells me all I need to know of the person.

    1. You must be a very perceptive individual. All that tells me is that he had sex at some point after becoming a legal adult and that he didn’t force his girlfriend to have an abortion. Anything else would be conjecture.

    2. Yep, it tells me that rather than just abandon the kid and skip town, he is committed to being a husband and father. That reads “stand-up guy” to me.

      Wait, isn’t that what you meant, too?

      1. My viewpoint is coming as someone who had a kid at 17 due to a lovely contraception failure.  Both the mother and I knew that A. we were too young (in high school) to take care of him properly B. coming from a separated parents my self, didn’t want him to grow up in an environment like that (her father took a job out of state and had to move). C. we both wanted the best for him so we opted for adoption.  He, now being 12, lives with a great family in the New England area and is doing wonderfully.  While you can saying it was a cop out to “give him up” or what ever, for all involved it was the best decision.  There are a large amount of couples that can’t for some reason have children themselves.  Adoption is a good alternative to a potential life of hardship that is unnecessary for the child.  I don’t condone it as an option to just go crazy and have unprotected sex and be stupid.  I also don’t condone “doing the right thing” for the sake of doing it. 18 working at a grocery store (then out of a job) isn’t exactly the best situation to be raising a child either.

        1. I can’t argue with your life choices, but judging him simply because they haven’t put the kid up for adoption seems… harsh. My wife’s parents had their first child under similar circumstances, and he’s a great guy; I don’t think it’s destiny.

        2. Isn’t it great that you guys were able to make a CHOICE that felt right to you!? How fortunate. Too bad you don’t seem to think other people should have that.

        3. Things being relative….if an upper class family with millions in assets  takes a shine to a bright middle class kid – is it unethical for the parents of that kid not to accept the offer of the richer parents to adopt their child. Perhaps there should be legal levers in place to ‘encourage’ the less-well-off parents to surrender their child in this situation?

          After all, an Ivy League education for college and a Mercedes as  a sixteenth birthday gift is better than a ‘ghetto education’ at a state university and having to work summer jobs to buy an old Ford or Toyota, right? 

          1. No one said anything about Ivy League and Mercedes until I did. 

            I would also like to say that your initial comment is probably at least kinda what a lot of people thought, me included. Your second (well-written) comment added context to your first and given that you’ve been in that situation, you certainly do have the right to pass comment, if not judgement, on our nineteen-year-old fisherman. At least more of a right than most us us commenting on this dude’s crime and punishment.

            I was just pointing out there is a spectrum and sometimes a bit of hyperbole can help make a point. No offence meant to you, sorry if I came off that way.Cheers!

        4. Newsflash! Not every child in the world is born and raised “in the best situation”. My parents worked damn hard to make sure I had everything I needed even though they weren’t married until after I was born and didn’t have stable careers. 30 years later they are still happily married and I even turned out alright. And you know what? Fuck anyone that would try and look down on someone for that!

  26. TL:DR

    We (the U.S.) are just begging for a Judge Dredd approach.

    Three days in jail and no way to provide for his family.  Should have just called in social services while we were at it.  Could have thrown mom in jail too for being a substandard mother.  (At least she’d have something to eat then.)   *sarcasm*

  27. I think one of the great victories (ahem) over the last thirty years is turning the application of justice from, “Let us see that the interests of justice are done with due regard to the needs of society, tempered with mercy” to “Let us make absolutely sure that *no one gets away with something*.” It’s court-approved road rage.

  28. It has been said a great many times, but it bears repeating to note that n order to ‘get away’ with a crime, it appears necessary to steal millions or billions in the US at least. 

    This poor schmuck goes to jail for 3 days, which is exactly 3 days more than the vast majority of the Wall Street maniacs who have so successfully destroyed the US economy.  

  29. “We don’t look to poor people and go, “Oh it’s okay if you robbed that store, you’re poor!”

    Nah, but we do tend to say “Oh it’s ok you robbed the economy and we’re headed for a massive depression; you’re rich!!!”

  30. Do we think it’s just this one judge, or is this a statewide policy? I had to pay a court in New Jersey a chunk of cash, and they were completely fine with a payment plan. All I did was say I couldn’t pay it all at once, and I’m two years older than this guy. Scary.

  31. BTW, I encourage everyone to follow the link given above:

    I really do not see how the interests of the state or the causes of justice are being served by the state’s behavior in these cases.

  32. Let me go on record with saying Ionia has at very least 4 correctional facilities.  It is a popular common joke amongst the prison population there that Ionia is pronounced “I OWN YA”.  Not surprised at all that the county isn’t letting this slide.

  33. The law is the law.  Cut the baby in half and if either mother protests cut her in half as well.  Anything less would undermine our system of laws and sense of justice. If you want to play in our society you had better not fall on hard times or you will pay the price. (sarcasm or satire, I forget which)

  34. The judge was a total tool for not allowing the guy to pay the fine in installations.  I believe I’d make sure to post a huge sign on my car telling all about the judge’s unwillingness to meet a penitent lawbreaker halfway at a reasonable and resource-friendly solution.

    But on the upside of this absurd situation, at least the judge arranged free room & meals for 3 days for the guy – paid for by us fine taxpayers.

    1. As Chief District Court Judge, Raymond P. Voet is an elected official. I’m not sure of the precinct boundaries (just Ionia County?), but Michigan residents may want to review this decision and Judge Voet’s other actions, and make a decision of their own about replacing him at the next election.

  35. Perhaps the biggest mistake this poor shlub made was that he only stole a fish…

    Had he bilked dozens or hundreds of people out of millions of dollars, he’d be sitting pretty in a posh hotel room for months during the sham of a trial that would eventually fail to convict.

  36. If you google the judge’s name it has a phone number.  I guess the old saying is right, “You can give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, or you can teach a man to fish and then lock him up in jail and pay thousands of dollars to feed him for a week.”

    1. Refusing to collaborate with your former partner to help feed your kid is several levels higher on the heinous scale than catching a fish out of season.  If you have wages, they’ll garnish them first, and likely would agree to a payment plan.  A congressman, Joe Walsh, allegedly owes 100k in back child support.  He took international vacations with a girlfriend during the time he said he had no income and was refusing to pay.  If you think he’s getting the same type of treatment Kyle here is, I’ve a bridge to sell you.

    2. Well, you sir, I believe, win the Friedman Award for most backward, insensitive, gross-misunderstanding-of-a-situation-possible comment. Congratulations, your prize is a big bag of horseshit. It should look nice on the huge pile you already have.

  37. Shame on Michigan.  Too bad that poor fella & his family aren’t in Alaska.  In Alaska we allow subsistence fishing.  Of course, we’ve got whole villages full of families who live the subsistence lifestyle.

  38. Does anyone else want to say this judge is in the pockets of the commercial fishing industry?

    Seriously though, he actually jailed a man for trying to provide for his family the only way he could, because the food he provided was out-of-season? That’s easy for a judge to do when he has job security putting other people in jail that don’t have a job at all!

  39. This reminds me of a Boston Legal episode where a Vietnam veteran was also not able to pay his fishing fines (he fished to fend off starvation). In the TV series it was a plot device to talk about the treatment of US veterans. In this case, reality is way ahead of fiction.
    (Boston Legal, “Tabloid Nation” #4.15,

  40. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.

    Teach him to fish and the Right Wing Nazi Cops will throw him in jail
    which will feed him for years with the higher taxes on the middle class?

    In some places in Europe you are fined based on your income.

    Poor pay less than a rich fat cat.

  41. Jean Valjean (also referred to as “Monsieur Madeleine,” “Ultime Fauchelevent,” “Monsieur Leblanc,” “Urbain Fabre,” “24601” and “9430”; c. 1769-1833) is the protagonist of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel Les Misérables. Hugo depicts the character’s nineteen year-long struggle with the law for stealing bread so he could feed his sister’s children (5 years for the theft, 12 years for four attempted escapes and 2 years for fighting back during one escape attempt) during a time of economic and social depression. Valjean, along with his nemesis, Police Inspector Javert, who relentlessly pursues Valjean, have become archetypal characters in literary culture. Wikipedia quote.

    Judge Javert, meet Michigan’s Jean Valjean.

    1. Great idea! Even better we should just stop having kids altogether*. Please take my advice and don’t add more crap to the gene pool. If you already have goofed up and have kids, you might consider offing them and of course while you’re at it you might as well follow after them. Seriously, trolls shouldn’t breed because we reached and breached our quota of jerks, idiots, ignoramuses and asshats quite some time ago.

      Or, things are always so simple for people up in the clouds looking down on all of the poor unwashed masses aren’t they.

      *I actually support this idea since it seems population explosion is one of the root causes of many hardships on this little rock. One example being increasing scarcity of food.

    2. Davina, how about not passing laws that make it more difficult for people to feed their children? You do understand that the Social Security and Medicare benefits that I’m sure you haven’t opted out of and are planning on cashing in eventually will have to be paid by taxing the labor of future generations? So y’all better get breeding right away!

  42. This is nothing new. Judges have been putting the poor in jail for not paying fines for as long as I can remember. I had this happen to me when I was younger(1985). These days, if you can not pay a bill, they lock you up. If you do not show up for your ‘trial’ the non judge person in charge of the ‘court’ issues a contempt of court order and you are jailed. Not showing up used to just be an automatic default and you were guilty of owing the money due . Now automatic jail time.

  43. Legally, does the Judge even have the option to accept a payment plan for legal fines?

    Just how big of a crime can he commit before people stop thinking being poor is a valid excuse?

    Just how big of a crime can he commit before people stop saying “people committing worse crimes aren’t punished as badly” (proportionately speaking)?

    The levied fine was either (a) $215, or (b) three days in jail.  He got option b.

    Debtors Prison is where they lock you up *UNTIL* somebody pays your debt for you; not for a period of time *INSTEAD* of paying a fine.

    He’s unemployed.  Three days in the klink should be a vast improvement over the option of giving up a bunch of money that you absolutely cannot afford to lose.  The $100 he already had can feed his wife and child in the meantime, and his meals are free.

    I do applaud the kid for a provider ethic though, a lovely refresher over the more typical justification of theft.  I would like to know more about the fish in question.  In many (most?) states it’s acknowledged that you can’t be blamed for the type of fish that bites your hook, and the illegality lies in not throwing the unlawful fish back in the water right away.

  44. …what does his fiance’ do for employment?

    If she’s close to his age then odds are that she’d have a hard time finding a job that would even cover the cost of childcare, much less support a family of three. At the very least she’s caring for a nine-month-old infant, and I can assure you from personal experience that’s much more work than most teens will ever do.

    1. I very much agree with you, but in a family/group situation when there is more than one individual capable of obtaining employment, then whoever finds a job first goes to work and the other stays home and takes care of the kid(s).

  45. I am actually curious to find out whether or not he was fishing for recreation of as a needed food source. The article does not mention this and I’ve already seen a few comments of people hot under the collar about him just trying to survive. Just curious about his original intent. Whether of not this fish meant eating tonight for him and his family.

  46. By saying this guy was punished for being poor is down right ridiculous. He was fined for breaking the law not being poor. Also, everyone is jumping to conclusions about the judge and the not so wise fisherman. Instead of jumping on his side saying they should have given this guy a line of credit (which is the obvious, decent thing to do in this, our welfare society), why not ask “Was this the guy’s first offense?” “Had he been warned and didn’t heed the warnings?” I’m sorry but I come from an area that takes pride in their hunting and fishing and any capture or killing of an animal outside of the established law is poaching, plain and simple.
    Also, why was he fishing when he could have been looking for a job?
    And that’s a sunfish, or a brim, closely related to (but not) a blue gill.

    1. I know everyone wants desperately to correct everyone else on the damn fish but there’s no freshwater “sunfish”. Sunfish is a common name for a genus of fish which contain bluegill. So you’re all right.

  47. That judge needs to go to jail for 3 days and give 3 days worth of his pay to that fisherman.  Or be fired.

  48. I don’t have an hour to read thru all the comments, just want to say:

    I sure wish this was the only way that poverty became a crime.  

    Auto insurance and registration seem like particularly common hardships on the poor to me.  If people are on food stamps (or could be), cut all government fees and fines in half, or whatever.  Otherwise, all punitive fines are regressive.

    1. I’m with you on fines, but a fee is fundamentally different from a fine. The former covers costs for an (ideally non-critical) activity, the latter is a punitive measure. It may be hard for a poor person to afford car insurance, but if you get hit by a poor driver you deserve compensation for damage and injuries just as much as if you get hit by a rich one.

  49. By saying this guy was punished for being poor is down right ridiculous.
    He was fined for breaking the law not being poor.

    I think that everyone agrees that the fine was for breaking the law.  The “punishment for being poor” was being jailed when he couldn’t pay the $250 fine up front. 

    Also, everyone is
    jumping to conclusions about the judge and the not so wise fisherman.
    Instead of jumping on his side saying they should have given this guy a
    line of credit (which is the obvious, decent thing to do in this, our
    welfare society), why not ask “Was this the guy’s first offense?” “Had
    he been warned and didn’t heed the warnings?”

    This is really silly.  Your little quip about the “welfare society” suggests you’re one of those anti-statist libertarian types, but at the same time you’re cooing about how important it is for the state to interfere with people trying to feed themselves the way human beings have been feeding themselves for hundreds of thousands of years.  If you’re opposed to “welfare society” then why do you think the solution is to pay to jail him for 3 days instead of trying to recoup the money by say…letting the guy delay payment until he actually has the money?  Instead the state spends money and law enforcement man hours that would have been better spent on violent offenders and this guy loses three days of his life he could have spent looking for a job.  Not only that, but now that he’s gone to jail it’s even tougher for him to get a job.

    I bet you even think of yourself as a steely-eyed pragmatist despite the fact that you can’t see the judge ordered the worst outcome for the man, the wife, the child, the taxpayers, and society in general.

    I’m sorry but I come from
    an area that takes pride in their hunting and fishing and any capture or
    killing of an animal outside of the established law is poaching, plain
    and simple.

    OK, and a fine was levied for fishing out of season — fair.  And the guy was jailed for not being able to pay it — not fair.  This is a relatively plain and simple distinction to make.

    You root for the Sheriff of Nottingham when you watch Robin Hood movies, don’t you?

  50. My boyfriend spent 9 1/2 weeks in jail only for being too poor to make bail. Caring for a loved one in jail is ruinously expensive on top of losing one wage: commissary money, mail-order books, visiting regularly (transportation and time off work), etc. put us in a hole we still haven’t gotten out of. The cost of phone conversations would be a scandal if people cared about prisoners at all. 

    He was not convicted, so I suppose a lot of law and order people would say “See! The system works!”, but he’s never been the same. Our family is still wounded with him. Even if you believe that bad people should have no rights or comforts, think about how many people sitting at that jail have been convicted of truly petty offenses like fishing out of season or haven’t been convicted at all, and then think about what it does to them and their families.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your boy friend.

      The police have a lock em up attitude and use that to intimidate people into plea bargaining so they don’t have to do their jobs

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