Last month, the Maryland House of Representatives voted to pass a measure that would excuse prisoners who are serving long sentences from having to make child support payments. This month, the Maryland Senate approved the bill as well.
The bill passed despite bipartisan opposition, with most republican senators and 10 of 34 democratic senators voting against it.
When the bill takes effect, most inmates who are in jail for 18 months or more will no longer have to make child support payments for the duration of their sentences. Those who participate in work-release programs or who commit a crime for the purpose of evading child support payments would not qualify for the exemption.
The lawmakers reason that because incarcerated people have no real source of income, they are unable to pay child support. If the amount of money owed accumulates over a long period of time, prisoners facing large back payments are less likely to live up to their child support obligations.
This bill is supposed to encourage prisoners to pay child support once they exit the penal system. Currently, many former convicts who owe large sums of money in child support hide from authorities instead of attempting to start making payments once they are no longer in prison.
About half of the nation’s inmates owe some sort of child support.
Critics of this bill say that it sends the wrong message by allowing prisoners to escape from their responsibilities. Prior to this bill, inmates could already apply for reduced child support obligations for the duration of their sentence.
Source: The Washington Times, “Bill to relieve Maryland inmates of child support passes,” David Hill, April 4, 2012