Sean Matthews is a homeless construction worker who was convicted of marijuana possession in 2007, and was assessed $498 in legal fines and costs. He was arrested two years later after being unable to pay that $498, and spent five months in jail at a cost of more than $3,000 to the City of New Orleans.
Gregory White, also a homeless man, was arrested for stealing $39 worth of food from a local grocery store. He was assessed $339 in fines and fees. Because he could not pay the $339, the City of New Orleans imprisoned Mr. White for 198 days at a cost of over $3,500 to the city.
You can see where this is going. In a time when states are laying off school teachers and firefighters, cities and counties are locking up people who can't pay legal fees, at costs that exceed the actual amount owed.