Media Contact

Rita Sklar, [email protected]

June 8, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas issued the following statement after a federal judge dismissed its lawsuit against the city of Sherwood on procedural grounds.

“We are disappointed that the victims of Sherwood’s unconstitutional debtors’ prison are being denied their day in court on procedural grounds, and not on the substance of our clients’ complaints,” said Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “Our justice system should provide equal treatment to the rich and poor.  But, for years, the Sherwood court system has criminalized and profited from poor and vulnerable citizens – trapping them in a never-ending spiral of court fees, debt and even jail simply for bouncing a single check. We are analyzing the ruling and will be visiting with our clients to determine our next steps.”

Last year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with Morrison & Foerster LLP and the ACLU of Arkansas filed a class action civil rights lawsuit challenging the modern-day debtors’ prison in Sherwood, Arkansas. The suit was filed on behalf of a concerned taxpayer and four individuals who allege their constitutional rights were violated by the Hot Check Division of the Sherwood District Court when they were jailed for their inability to pay court fines and fees in violation of longstanding law forbidding the incarceration of people for their failure to pay debts.