Incarceration and Child Support

For men in prison, child support becomes a crushing debt, By Eli Hager, October 18, 2015, Washington Post: “Earl L. Harris did not owe child support when he was sent to prison in 1997 for selling marijuana. He now concedes that dealing drugs may have been a stupid move for a new father. But Harris, then 19, had grown up poor and dropped out of school, and the only legitimate work available to young, black men like him, he says, was a temp job without benefits. ‘Nobody was hiring,’ he said. ‘I got into hustling because I wanted to support my baby.’ The state of Missouri sent Harris to the penitentiary in Boonville, 250 miles from his home and baby daughter. His girlfriend moved on, later marrying someone else. After just two months in prison, Harris started getting the letters.  Child support. You owe: $168.  They came once a month, piling up debt.  Child support. You owe: $168. Arrears: $336. Arrears: $504. Arrears: $672. Plus interest and other fees. Of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about half are parents, and at least 1 in 5 has a child support obligation…”

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