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What’s Wrong with a Little Blood?
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Summary: A rural Alabama judge tried to give everyone a break from paying fines, but failed to consider the consequences of requiring everyone in his courtroom to give blood.

Halloween is approaching, and the creepy-crawlies are out to get your blood. Or at least one Alabama judge is.


Judge Wiggins thought he was doing everyone a favor by giving offenders the option to donate blood in exchange for credit that month. The courtroom had hundreds of people that owed money for a variety of offenses such as assault, passing bad checks, hunting after dark, or drug possession. The judge offered their pocketbooks a reprieve if they were willing to open up their veins.

Judge Wiggins has been a circuit judge in rural Alabama since 1999. Those packing his courtroom on that September morning were surprised by the following announcement: “For your consideration, there’s a blood drive outside. If you don’t have any money, go out there and give blood and bring in a receipt indicating you gave blood.”

This may seem like a very considerate motion by a judge. Blood donations save lives. Moreover, in an area where many are unable to afford their court-mandated fees without extreme hardship, some were grateful for the opportunity. However, Judge Wiggins failed to clearly explain the situation, leaving many to feel they had to donate blood or go to jail.

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Several attendees had the money to pay their tickets but were under the impression that they had to give blood anyway. And of course there are always circumstances where some individuals are unable to give blood for medical, personal, or religious reasons. Some individuals are claiming they felt obligated to donate or face jail time.

Unsurprisingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a complaint against the judge. SPLC claims the demand for blood was unethical. Additionally, it says Alabama has placed a greater effort in collecting money from offenses by holding payment-due hearings regardless of the financial situation of the offender.

The practice of requiring offenders to donate blood is not unheard of. In Honolulu, after the Pearl Harbor attack, judges ordered traffic offenders to give blood. A more recent incident from 2008 offered traffic offenders the choice to pay the fine, do community service, or make a blood donation.

Perhaps the biggest concern surrounding this practice is the safety of the blood. While blood is screened, there is still a chance of tainted blood getting through. The American Red Cross currently tests for multiple infectious disease markers like HIV, West Nile, Hepatitis, and more. They also ask screening questions before donation to help reduce the risks. When offenders are threatened with jail, there is a chance they may lie to avoid prison time.

No one ended up serving any jail time in Judge Wiggins’ courtroom because everyone opted to donate blood. However, most of the donated blood has been discarded.





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