Alexes Harris briefly addressed only some of the financial hardship criminal defendants in California face. In fact, the penalty assessment in California is more than 290%. ("Yes, America, we have returned to debtor's prisons," Opinion, June 6)

For example, a base DUI fine in California of $390 can easily rise to more than $1,400, causing many to opt for jail in lieu of paying the fine. Others choose community service, the homeless among them. But they often can't come up with the registration fee needed before beginning to work.

Every week in Los Angeles County, many working poor who support children go to jail not because they don't want to comply with probation but because they can't afford the fees related to community service or substance abuse, anger management or domestic violence counseling.

If the county could find a way to front these costs for those who can't afford them (much as is done with the costs of probation services), jails would be available to house dangerous suspects and criminals rather than people doing time for their poverty and not crime.

Lloyd Handler

Los Angeles

The writer is a Los Angeles County deputy public defender; the views expressed are his own.