Woman put in jail for being poor
That fine, say cops in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, came about because Linda Ruggles had a messy yard.
Barely getting by in recent years, Ruggles, 53, has been stockpiling scraps to pawn off in order to make her bill payments. In her yard rests a pile of metal that she routinely cashes in to get by. Elsewhere outside her house is a shack of shingles. Paying to have her roof fixed, often a job that comes at a cost of several thousand dollars, has been out of the question.
So when cops ticketed her $480 for having a messy yard, Ruggles wasn’t exactly prepared to pay it.
“I told everyone, ‘If I had $480 to pay the fine, I'd fix the roof,’"' she told Charleston, South Carolina ‘s Post and Courier.
Ruggles couldn’t fix the roof, however, and she couldn’t pay the fine either. For being unable to do so, she was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail for failing to pay her “clean lot violation.”
“I feel like they want to make an example out of me,” Ms Ruggles tells the paper. “This should be an embarrassment for the town of Mount Pleasant. And it should be an embarrassment for my neighbors who called the code enforcement officer, because no one offered to help me – no one.”
Six days into her sentence, however, Ruggles was allowed home only to be greeted by an array of local residents who read about her plight and offered to help. That assistance came only after nearly a week in jail and legal complications which are surely only going to add onto the troubles (and scrap metal) which has already piled up.
“It didn’t change the situation,” she adds. “I just don’t think being handcuffed, photographed and fingerprinted is really a behavior-modification tool to keep me from being poor.”
On the bright side, the neighborhood grocery store that Ruggles works part-time at has allowed her to reclaim her position after her brief stint behind bars. On the bright side, that is, as long as she can forget about her last shift behind the register. It was on the job last month when the cops entered her place of business and hauled her off to jail.