FLINT, Michigan -- A floor installer had two choices Wednesday night -- fork over $4,000 in unpaid child support or take his chances with the judge. He chose the judge. "I'll just have to go to jail I guess ... I don't have any money," said the man as he was led away to a holding cell at the Genesee County Courthouse. The Flint man, 44, was among the deadbeat parents in Flint who got unexpected visitors this week as part of the Friend of the Court's night warrant sweep that has been traveling around the county this summer. "Some of these parents haven't paid in four of five years," said Friend of the Court Jack Battles. Since June, the Friend of the Court has partnered with local police departments to round up parents for unpaid support. This week's two-night operation in Flint added an extra twist as two judges gave up their evenings to arraign parents on the spot. Of the 18 arrested Tuesday night, five saw a judge and were given the choice of making a payment or spending 45 days in jail. One woman avoided jail when patrons at her local bar passed the hat to pay $500, Battles said. At one Flint locale, police didn't find the man they were looking for but discovered someone there who wasn't on the list but who did have a child support warrant. "So we grabbed him," said Battles. Police brought in more wanted parents Wednesday night, knocking on doors around the city in the hunt for about 700 parents -- a fraction of the 6,500 active warrants for unpaid support in Genesee County. Nearly $13,000 was collected before Wednesday night's sweep and Battles said his office is constantly working on new ways to collect the debts. The office is already looking at a plan that would allow them to seize vehicles from debtors.I'm glad they're seizing the "deadbeats" cars--that way they won't be able to get to work to pay their child support. I don't imagine this floor installer is one of those high-flying "deadbeats" in media mythology--it's a low-wage and unsteady trade and in a period of economic downturn, I imagine that his type of work is very much affected. This floor installer probably chose the judge over the $4,000 he didn't have anyway in part because he thought the judge would be reasonable. He probably thought that we don't imprison people for being poor or in debt. He was wrong. What's wondrous about this is that we hear a great deal about the punitive actions of child enforcement in Michigan. At the same time we hear a lot about the state's economic troubles--the lay-offs, the unemployment, etc. Hmmm--lots of "deadbeats," and lots of layoffs and unemployment--could there be a connection?
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He probably thought that we don't imprison people for being poor or in debt. He was wrong.
Flint, MI--From Friend of the Court nabbing parents who owe child support (Flint Journal, 8/13/08):