"Deadbeat dads" get plenty of scorn, and many deserve it.
The responsibilities that come with having a child are vast. Among those responsibilities is the financial obligation to maintain the child.
The good news in Morgan County is that child-support collections are at an all-time high. So far this year, the county has collected $6.1 million in delinquent child support. Officials credit job placement and education programs for the increase.
Especially in times of high unemployment, there is a risk that county jails will become a debtors' prison for those parents unable to meet child-support obligations. Even for parents who deserve punishment, the primary victim often is the child.
Morgan County uses a work-release program to give those jailed for being delinquent the ability to catch up. While this and harsher punishments sometimes are necessary to get the attention of the non-custodial parent, state law needs to provide great flexibility to the courts.
Throwing a "deadbeat dad" in jail should be a last resort. Even with work-release programs, it reduces his ability to generate the money needed for his child's support. It also costs taxpayer money and crowds jails. The threat of placing a non-custodial parent in jail is important, but doing so rarely benefits the child.
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