Thursday, July 16, 2009

Innocent non-dad jailed for a year

I sometimes post stories about men who are jailed without a trial.

The Atlanta newspaper reports:
Frank Hatley has languished in a South Georgia jail for more than a year.

The reason? He failed to reimburse the state for all the public assistance his “son” received over the past two decades.

The problem? Hatley is not the biological father -- and a special assistant state attorney general and a judge knew it but jailed Hatley anyway.

“I feel bad for the man,” Cook County Sheriff Johnny Daughtrey said Tuesday. “Put yourself in that man’s shoes: If it wasn’t your child, would you want to be paying child support for him?” ...

Hatley’s lawyer, Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said two independent DNA tests -- one nine years ago and one just a few days ago -- prove he is not the biological father. ...

It may be difficult for Hatley to get out from under the court order, said Atlanta family lawyer Randall Kessler, who is not associated with the case. “It’s definitely unfair,” Kessler said. “But at the same time, he’s dealing with a valid court order.”

Russ Willard, a spokesman for the state attorney general, said if Hatley can show at the hearing that he is indigent, the state will not oppose his release.
So here are the facts, as I see them. The man is not the father. The child's mom is on welfare. The mom falsely named the man as the dad. The welfare agency made him money to the welfare agency, in lieu of child support. When the man ran out of money, the judge put him in jail. When the case got into the newspapers, the prosecutor agreed that he would not oppose the man's release if he could prove that he had no money. Everyone agrees that the man is on the wrong side of the law, and his only hope is to beg for mercy.

Get that? The man is not the child's dad. The man has no money. None of his money was going to be going to the child or the child's mom in any case. The man was jailed for year without a trial. The authorities say that the system is working properly in this case.

This is just crazy. It is wrong legally, morally, any other way you want to figure it. The system is evil.

Update: A reader reports that the man was released:
A South Georgia man who had been jailed for more than a year for not paying child support — even though he was not the biological father — was released from custody on Wednesday.
I still object to calling it "child support". There is no child of his involved, and there is no support involved. He was jailed for not making payments to a state welfare agency that had a record of paying welfare to a woman who had a child.

And while he is out of jail, he cannot escape the debt. It may plague him for the rest of his life, because the Bradley Amendment says that no such debt can be modified by a court, no matter how wrong it is.

Remember this story the next time you hear about some punitive measure being applied to some "deadbeat dad".

Update: A reader sends this amazing fact:
At the time of this story, there were 140 people in the Cook County Jail jail, which is licensed to hold 125 people. Of the 140 people, one-third (32 men and 13 women) were being held for child support.
Got that? The jail is overcrowded, and one third are in there for being unable to pay a child support debt.


Anonymous said...

orwellian, complete with Newspeak.

Anonymous said...

Correction: The man IS not the child's dad.

Followup story published the next day: