A Georgia town that allegedly threatened and held poor people "ransom" for not paying court fines will make reforms under a legal settlement announced Monday, NBC News reports.
The municipal court in Bainbridge, Georgia, had contracted with Red Hills Community Probation, a private company, to collect court fines and fees.
A lawsuit filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights claimed Red Hills employees routinely threatened indigent probationers with jail, detained them inside the courthouse to get them to make a payment, and urged them to pressure family and friends to come up with money to secure their freedom.
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In one of the cases cited, Bainbridge fined Vera Cheeks $135 for failing to fully stop at a stop sign last year. When she couldn't pay the full amount on her court date, she was assigned probation.
But when Cheeks walked into the probation room behind the courtroom, Red Hills employees allegedly told her she could not leave the building until she paid $50. According to the complaint, Cheeks' fiance pawned her engagement ring and his lawn equipment to set her free.