Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons: Race and Revenue Generation in Courts Across America
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
doors open, 4 p.m.
72 East Concord Street
More than Concepts, a Lived Reality
Prison Without Bars
Fines to Fit the Crime–and the Person
Nearly two centuries ago, the United States formally abolished the incarceration of people who failed to pay off debts. Yet, recent years have witnessed the rise of modern-day debtors’ prisons—the jailing of poor people for failure to pay legal debts they can never hope to afford—along with other draconian sanctions imposed on poor and low-income people who cannot pay fines and fees to courts. The ACLU Racial Justice Program and allies across the country are bringing lawsuits and advocacy to expose and challenge these practices. This talk will explore how modern-day debtors’ prisons push people—predominantly people of color—into cycles of poverty, debt, and the criminal legal system and will examine promising solutions.
Nusrat Choudhury, Deputy Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program
Nusrat’s litigation and advocacy against debtors’ prisons has exposed and reformed practices in Georgia, Mississippi, Washington, and South Carolina, and has led to the development of national guidance promoting the fair and equal treatment of rich and poor in courts. As lead counsel in Kennedy v. The City of Biloxi, Mississippi, she helped secure model reforms to advance equal treatment of rich and poor and to enforce the right to counsel in the criminal justice system. Nusrat has advocated against racial profiling and unlawful stop-and-frisk practices in numerous cities, including through Collins v. The City of Milwaukee, a federal lawsuit that resulted in a landmark 2018 court-ordered settlement agreement requiring sweeping reforms
Previously, Nusrat served as a staff attorney in the ACLU’s National Security Project, where she conducted litigation and advocacy against post-9/11 discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities.
Nusrat clerked for Judge Barrington D. Parker in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and for Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York. She completed her J.D. at Yale Law School, her M.P.A. at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and her B.A. at Columbia University. Nusrat is a recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of New York Access to Justice Award, the Edward Bullard Distinguished Alumnus Award of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, and the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.