Give me blood, cash, or jail time, Alabama judge orders defendants

What's worse than courts demanding that poor people pay extortionate fines to the state for minor offense? Asking them to literally pay with their own blood.

In rural Alabama, Judge Marvin Wiggins told drug offenders and other minor criminals in his courtroom that if they cannot afford to pay fines, they can literally pay him in blood at the blood drive happening right outside. Go on, and get a receipt while you're at it.

From the New York Times:

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," began Judge Wiggins, a circuit judge here in rural Alabama since 1999. "For your consideration, there's a blood drive outside," he continued, according to a recording of the hearing. "If you don't have any money, go out there and give blood and bring in a receipt indicating you gave blood."

For those who had no money or did not want to give blood, the judge concluded: "The sheriff has enough handcuffs."

"Legal and health experts said they could not think of another modern example of a court all but ordering offenders to give blood in lieu of payment, or face jail time," continues Times reporter Campbell Robertson. "They all agreed that it was improper."

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed an ethics complaint against Judge Wiggins for an alleged "violation of bodily integrity." SPLC attorney Sara Zampierin says she reviewed the records of a few people who had given blood and none received the promised credit.

Also in Alabama, the SPLC is fighting a virtual "debtor's prison," where practices outlawed 200 years ago are used against the poor.

The judge has been in trouble with the law himself. He was not required to give blood in a case where he was found to have had a conflict of interest involving voter fraud, and his own family members.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in 2014 removed Wiggins from the Alabama State University board of trustees for conflict-of-interest violations.

From the ABA Journal's coverage:

Required blood donations for defendants was once common, particularly during World War II. Fears about the spread of hepatitis led to changes, however. Now blood given in exchange for compensation is labeled "paid" and hospitals generally refuse to use such blood for transfusions.