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How Local Governments Lock Up and Extort Poor People over Petty BS

In this installment of our web series 'Justice,' VICE examines how small municipalities turn policing into profit to create modern-day debtors' prisons.

Throwing people in prison for being poor has technically been illegal in the United States, at least at the federal level, for nearly 200 years. But that hasn't stopped some small municipalities across the country from issuing minor "quality of life" violations and traffic fines against low-income populations with correspondingly low tax bases to pay government salaries and pad their budgets. When people can't pay, they're often sent to jail, creating a cycle that keeps low-income families poor and out of work.

In this installment of Justice—VICE's web series that investigates the winners and losers of the for-profit criminal justice system—we examine how local governments turn policing into profit to create modern-day debtors' prisons, and meet some of the people fighting back.