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Wednesday, January 4, 2012 - 2:34pm

Lawsuit Alleges Debtors' Prisons

Updated: 2 years ago.
The Georgia Supreme Court will be asked to decide a case involving parents jailed for not paying child support when they didn't have a lawyer representing them and the state did. (photo Brian Turner)

A Fulton County Superior Court judge has granted class-action status in a case alleging, Georgia is running modern-day debtors prisons.

The decision could cost millions of dollars to taxpayers.

Five parents put in jail for failing to pay child support filed the lawsuit.

They claim, they didn't have money to pay the support or a lawyer.

Georgia is one of the few states that doesn't provide attorneys in such cases.

Sarah Geraghty of Southern Center for Human Rights says, other states revoke drivers licenses or try other options before jail.

"In Georgia, often we see instances in which jail is used as a first resort," Geraghty sats. "And it's used against people who are not willfully failing to pay, but who are, in fact, destitute, poor and out of work."

Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled, a South Carolina man was not entitled to a lawyer in a similar case.

"Georgia is one of the few states that forces indigent parents who owe child support to plead for their liberty without a lawyer against an experienced state-funded lawyer," Geraghty says.

Plaintiffs in the Georgia case plan to argue, the circumstances were different.

If the suit prevails, the state would have to hire lawyers.

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