- Associated Press - Thursday, September 17, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal lawsuit filed in New Orleans against the city’s sheriff and nine criminal court judges says people are being illegally locked up for failing to pay court debts.

The lawsuit filed Thursday says the practice amounts to throwing impoverished people into an unconstitutional “debtor’s prison.”

It lists six people who say they have been locked up for owing court debts. It seeks “class action” status on behalf of all others affected by the policy.

The suit says hundreds of people have been jailed for non-payment of court debts over the past several years - without hearings on whether they are able to pay.

The Sheriff’s Office and court officials did not immediately respond to calls and emails for comment.

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