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If you ever wonder why ex-cons have such a hard time integrating back into society, maybe Ardell Shaw’s story will help you understand the obstacles put in place by the state to make it almost impossible for them to rebuilt their lives.
In a discussion with HuffPost Live on Wednesday, Shaw revealed that his arrest on drug charges in Washington state not only sent him to prison for 14 years, but also impoverished him.
Shaw explained that he was fined $600 for each of his three drug charges, amounting to a total fine of $1,800. The judge told Shaw that he didn’t have to pay the fees until after he was released from jail. Little did Shaw know, his fine was collecting interest while he was still behind bars and unable to pay. By the time Shaw was released he owed $21,000, making it hard for him to piece his life back together.
“When I go to apply for a job, when I go to try to get a vehicle, or when I try to do anything where I need to run credit, they see I owe $21,000, and that makes it hard,” he explained. He says he’s always forced with choosing between whether to make the required payment on his legal obligation or to buy food and gas.
And it’s not just felons who are being locked up and charged outrageous fees. In 2012, the New York Times reported that a judge in Alabama temporarily halted a system whereby private probation companies were basically robbing citizens. People were being fined for things like traffic viοlations and when they couldn’t pay, they were often jailed as additional feels piled up.