31 fathers in arrears let out of jail ANNE ARUNDEL

December 16, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel County judge has released 31 fathers jailed for nonsupport after two days of hearings in which the fathers complained they couldn't find work if they were stuck behind bars.

Circuit Judge Bruce C. Williams, who ruled last week that the county improperly jailed two fathers for nonsupport, released yesterday 20 of 23 other fathers jailed for the same charges over the past year. He released 11 of 13 others brought before him Monday.

The judge ordered all of those released to come back before him in the next several weeks with proof that they have either found work or have searched for it. He has scheduled hearings for 40 more jailed fathers over the next two days.

Judge Williams agreed last week with Alan R. Friedman, county public defender, who argued that defendants in child support cases were not properly informed of their rights to a lawyer before they were tried on civil contempt of court charges.

Mr. Friedman also said that county judges have been jailing an increasing number of fathers for nonsupport and imposing sentences not as an incentive for payment, but as a form of punishment.

In a string of hearings yesterday, the fathers testified that it is impossible to look for work, even if they are in the county Detention Center's live-in work-out program.

Most of the men said that jail policies make it difficult for them to hunt for work. The jail only permits collect telephone calls from the live-in work-out unit and prospective employers are reluctant to accept calls from applicants they don't know, the men said.

"It's not an employment agency out there," groused Mario Sanchez, 27, of Friendship, jailed Oct. 27 when he couldn't come up with $750. He told Judge Williams that he has no car, no job and no money, and spends his days sitting in a cell because he was cut from the work release program after his urine sample tested positive for marijuana use. "If I had the money I'd pay it," he said.

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