Year in which the Orleans Parish, La. municipal court system settled a lawsuit by agreeing to put a stop to “fines or time” sentencing: 2007
Number of such sentences handed down by that same court in March 2010 alone: at least 32
Estimated percent of people charged with criminal offenses in the U.S. who qualify for indigent defense: 80 to 90 percent
Percentage by which African-American defendants are more likely than white defendants to rely on indigent defense counsel: almost 500
Decade through which many Southern states were still using criminal justice debt collection to effectively re-enslave African-Americans by allowing landowners and companies to “lease” black convicts unable to pay on their own: 1930s
Year in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that imprisoning someone merely because of his inability to pay a fine or restitution was fundamentally unfair: 1983
* The states studied in order of number of persons in prison (Southern states bolded) were California, Texas, Florida, New York, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia, Alabama and Missouri.
Sue Sturgis is an investigative reporter and editorial director of Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies, where this story first appeared.