Statements on Incarceration for Child Support Debt and Inability to Pay — in The Marshall Project, and the International Business Times

Author: CFFPP . Date: April 10, 2015

CFFPP has, for 20 years, forcefully advocated for ending the policy and practice of incarcerating parents who are unable to pay child support—especially when the money will be retained by the government to reimburse welfare benefits, effectively taking resources away from children and families.

In the aftermath of the killing of Walter Scott by a police officer following a routine traffic stop in South Carolina, Mr. Scott’s family speculated that he feared contact with the police due to child support debt—and the likelihood that he would be sent back to jail.

Jacquelyn Boggess and David Pate, CFFPP’s Co-Directors, were recently quoted in the media on the connections between the killing of Walter Scott and the impact that incarceration for child support debt has on the lives of black men—particularly fathers who are struggling to achieve economic security, and have no ability to pay:

“On top of all the other things that go through your head as a black man in an encounter with a police officer… you have to be thinking about your child support debt, because that’s one of the big reasons that black men spend time in jail. … This story is similar to Michael Brown’s in not only the one way—the shooting of a black man by a white policeman. It’s similar also in that it’s about the plunder of black men that these cities and states are engaged in, this kind of official looting that’s backed up by criminal-justice enforcement.”

– Jacquelyn Boggess, quoted in “Why Was Walter Scott Running?” at The Marshall Project.

“Black men live in constant fear, period. And I think the fear that Mr. Scott had was on different levels… There needs to be more uncovering of how the child support system works and whether it helps families who… are making less than $10,000 [a year], is it helping those children be in a better place when they know their parents are under constant stress of being locked up? … We’re operating a system off of the backs of very poor people who don’t have a lot of money but are giving whatever monies they do have… and it’s not helping their family.”

– David Pate, quoted in “Walter Scott And Child Support: Did The Threat Of Jail Contribute To His Death?” in International Business Times.

CFFPP has called on policymakers to: “Stop the practice of incarcerating poor and unemployed men who are unable to pay their child support debt.” This and other policy recommendations designed to improve the economic security of low-income families of color can be found in our recent publication “What We Want to Give Our Kids”.

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Jacquelyn Boggess in The Marshall Project

David Pate in the International Business Times

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