Corporate Greed Destroy Poor People
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Nota del Editor del Blog (Dr. Gaston Saint Martin (email@example.com) Si alguien debe MUCHISIMO, y NO puede pagar, aunque sea “culpable de avaricia o aun peor culpable de fraude ilegal, es: “TOO BIG TO FALL y le sobraran abogados corporativos a U$A 1,000.00 la hora o mucho mas: (Casos de la crisis inmobiliaria de Wall Street en el 2008) / Si alguien es de clase media, tiene educacion un trabajo remunerado y DEBE MUCHO porque esta atrapado en el sistema de intereses usureros de sistemas prestamistas, existen muchos abogados (de a pie) que viven de eso: de rescatarlos y reabilitarlos legalmente… PERO si alguien es pobre, joven, recien comienza, esta estudiando y tiene la mala suerte de recibir un estupido ticket de transito, no solo deberá elegir entre comer o pagar a credito con intereses cada vez mas y mas altos, hasta perder todo, incluida su libertad, su vida y su futuro Nadie lo ayudara pues esos abogados viven del porcentaje de lo que le que puedan sacarles a los perejiles, con toda impunidad, sin trabas ni frenos morales de ningun tipo. ¿Que estoy hablando de barbaridades historicas ya superadas? … ¡NO … ESTOY HABLANDO del presente! año 2015) Lea bien los dos articulos que siguen y NO SE PIERDA LOS de gente simple como Ud. mismo, estan al final de todo…
For teenager Kevin Thompson, a traffic ticket ended up costing him not only his driver’s license, but also his freedom.
In his account of the experience, Thompson says he was ordered to pay $810 in fines by Georgia’s DeKalb Recorders Court, an amount that was out of reach for the low-income auto shop and tow truck worker. Instead of working with Thompson to find another way to pay, such as through community service, the court handed off Thompson to a for-profit probation company called Judicial Correction Services (JCS). JCS told Thompson he had 30 days to pay the fine, but also gave him erroneous legal information, such as overestimating the cost of a public defender.
Thompson notes that the court later took up a JCS officer’s recommendation to incarcerate him, resulting in a five-day stint in jail for failing to pay the fine.
Thompson, whose case was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, is just one of the poor Americans ending up in a modern-day version of the debtors’ prison, an antiquated punishment that was eliminated by the U.S. in the 1830s. A rash of new cases are coming to light as municipal courts increasingly outsource probation to for-profit companies like JCS, which make their money by tacking on their own fees to traffic violations. They typically don’t charge the courts or municipalities for their services.
“Since 2009, we have been hearing increasing reports that people are being jailed for a failure to pay fines and fees,” Nusrat Choudhury, staff attorney in the ACLU Racial Justice Program, told CBS MoneyWatch. “We’ve observed that for-profit corrections companies are proliferating. They offer what appears to be a win-win to local governments because they offer to generate revenue from people who are too poor to pay on probation day.”
Thirteen states rely on for-profit probation companies such as JCS, Choudhury said. It’s difficult to get a sense if the municipalities that hire for-profit probation companies are poorer or in deeper financial straits because they are scattered across the country, she added. What’s clear, however, is that Thompson’s case isn’t an anomaly.
More than 1,000 courts using private companies sentence hundreds of thousands of Americans to probation each year, according to a report published last year by the Human Rights Watch, which called the trend an “offender-funded” model of privatized probation. In Georgia alone, 30 probation companies are working in more than 600 courts throughout the state, allowing them to collect almost $100 million in fines, court costs and restitution for those courts, and collections in 2012, the report noted.
Although these companies often provide a needed service, there are a range of potential pitfalls, especially as more towns and counties turn to for-profit models. For one, jailing people for being unable to pay court fines violates a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 1983 that prohibits imprisoning people who are too poor to pay their legal debts. Judges must first consider a person’s ability to pay a fine, the efforts to acquire the money and alternatives to incarceration.
Because for-profit probation companies tack on their own fees to the original municipal fines, that adds to the hurdles that people must jump over to try to erase the debt.
That’s landed JCS and other probation companies, as well as the municipalities that hire them, in legal hot water. The Southern Poverty Law Center earlier this month filed suit against JCS and Clanton, Alabama, on behalf of assembly-line worker Roxanne Reynolds, who wasn’t able to pay her traffic ticket fines and ended up in the hands of JCS.
Because JCS added its own fees to the traffic fines, it compounded Reynolds’ difficulties in paying down the fine. According to the lawsuit, the for-profit probation company charges $40 for each month of probation, which means that the initial amount of a person’s traffic fine can end up snowballing into a much greater sum.
The lawsuit states that Reynolds skipped buying groceries and paying other bills to save up money to make the payments, while JCS allegedly never told her that she could have asked to have the company’s fee waived because of her poverty. The lawsuit claims that JCS violated federal racketeering laws by allegedly extorting monthly payments and the company’s fees from probationers.
“JCS operates within the boundaries of transparent, publicly accessed contracts, which have been executed by municipal leadership,” the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “For municipalities that are unable to fund the service we provide on their own, we see our contribution as a necessary component for enforcing fines that might otherwise be neglected.”
In the ACLU’s view, the relationship between municipalities and for-profit probation companies creates a financial incentive to generate profits at the expense of probationers’ rights.
“The profit incentive pushes the private probation companies away from identifying indigent people,” Choudhury said. “Because indigent people must by law have their fines waived, that cuts into company profit. The profit motive is distorting the proper functioning of the system.”
In some cases, it may be the municipalities themselves that are seeking to drive up revenue collection from residents. The Justice Department issued a scathing report about Ferguson, Missouri, which was the focus of protests and civil unrest last year over the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. The DOJ uncovered a pattern of emphasizing revenue collection by its police officers and municipal court.
“The court primarily uses its judicial authority as the means to compel the payment of fines and fees that advance the city’s financial interest,” the report noted.
It’s not only failure to pay traffic tickets that are landing Americans in jail. Across the country, there are at any moment 730,000 people who are locked up in a local jail because they’re too poor to post bail, according to a report issued last month by the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice. A 2010 report from the ACLU also found that municipalities in states from Washington to Ohio were jailing people too poor to pay their legal debts.
For-profit probation companies aren’t responsible for deciding who goes to jail for paying a fine, it’s worth noting. Said JCS: “That decision is made by the court. We are retained to serve the court and to report on activity of those individuals who have outstanding fines. We do not make the decision as to whether their offense or lack of payment warrants incarceration.”
While a judge makes decisions about incarceration, Choudhury notes that the introduction of a for-profit company into the system can lead to “incomplete and incorrect information from probation officers who aren’t trained about constitutional rights.” The Human Rights Watch report noted that for-profit probation companies, while unable to send people to jail, “routinely threatened to have them jailed for failing to make payments or for falling into arrears.” The companies end up with “a great deal of coercive power,” it added.
In Thompson’s case, the lawsuit was settled earlier this month, with JCS and DeKalb County denying unlawful conduct. The ACLU and Thompson also received a monetary settlement of $70,000. The DeKalb County Recorder’s Court agreed to some changes as well, such as training personnel on probationers’ rights to counsel in revocation proceedings and the right to an indigency hearing before jailing for failure to pay fines.
Of the settlement, Choudhury noted that Thompson “was emotional and grateful, both because of the monetary award and because he was able to secure change for other people.”
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Contrary to what many people may believe, there are debtors’ prisons throughout the United States where people are imprisoned because they are too poor to pay fines and fees.
The United States Supreme Court inBearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983), held that courts cannot imprison a person for failure to pay a criminal fine unless the failure to pay was “willful.” However, this constitutional edict is often ignored.
Courts impose substantial fines as punishment for petty crimes as well as more serious ones. Besides the fines, the courts are assessing more and more fees to help meet the costs of the ever-increasing size of the criminal justice system: fees for anklebraceletsfor monitoring; anger management classes; drug tests, crime victims’ funds, crime laboratories, court clerks, legal representation, various retirement funds, and private probation companies that do nothing more than collect a checkeverymonth.
People who cannot afford the total amount assessed may be allowed to pay in monthly installments, but in many jurisdictions those paymentsareaccompanied by fees to a private probation company that collects them. A typical fee is $40 per month. People who lose their jobs or encounter unexpected family hardships and are unable to maintain payments may be jailed without any inquiry into their ability to pay.
There are more fees for those in jails or prisons. There are high costs for telephone calls.Inmatesare charged fees for medical services. A new trend is “room and board” fees in prisons and jails.
SCHR Files on Behalf of Detainees who cannot pay
Ora Lee Hurley spent nearly a year at the Georgia Department of Corrections, Atlanta Diversion Center due to her inability to pay a $705 fine from a 15-year-old drug conviction because she was charged for staying there. A court had ordered Ms. Hurley imprisoned until her fine was paid. While held at the Diversion Center, Ms. Hurley was employed full-time at arestaurant thatsent her paycheck directly to the Department of Corrections. Although Ms. Hurley never missed a day of work and earned over $7,000, the Department took nearly every penny of her earnings. Left with only $23 per month to buy food, toiletries, and pay her fine, Ms. Hurley was being confined in perpetuity. She was released only after SCHR filed a habeas petition on her behalf. For a copy of the habeas petition, click here.To view the Atlanta Journal Constitution article, click here.
SCHR is working to secure lawyers for Indigent Parents
In 2011, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) filed Miller, et al. v. Deal, et al., a civil rights class action lawsuit that seeks to secure lawyers for indigent parents who have been jailed or are in danger of being jailed without counsel for being too poor to fulfill their child support obligations.
In Georgia, aggressive efforts to incarcerate parents for child support debt are often focused on the poorest of the poor, rather than on well-to-do parents who willfully dodge their child support obligations. Georgia is also one of the few states that forces indigent parents who owe child support debt to plead for their liberty, without counsel, against an experienced, state-funded lawyer who is trying to send them to jail.
In the past two years, Georgia has jailed over 3,500 unrepresented parents for child support debt. Many of these parents are held for months-some for over a year-even though they have no money to pay and no way to earn money while in jail. You can read more about this case, here.
SCHR Ends Jail Fees for Pre-Trial Detainees
In some cases, jails have even charged room and board fees for people detained on charges but not convicted of any crime. For 17 years, the Clinch County Jail in Homerville charged those in its custody a daily room and board fee. Even though Georgia law did not authorize – and in fact prohibited – such charges, the County Sheriff charged inmates $18 per day. Many people were too poor to pay the fees upon their release. The Sheriff and his deputies required them to sign notes promising to pay the fees in installments, or return to jail. On several occasions, the Sheriff charged people thousands of dollars, failing to return the money even when criminal charges were dismissed. A lawsuit filed by SCHR, ultimately settled, required the Sheriff to return the illegal fees. For a copy of the Complaint, click here. For a copy of the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, click here. For a copy of newspaper articles related to the case, click here. To hear a report by National Public Radio on Clinch County Jails, click here.
SCHR ends Debtors’ Prison in Gulfport, Mississippi
In an effort to crack down on people who owed misdemeanor fines, the City of Gulfport employed a fine collection task force. The task force trolled through predominately African-American neighborhoods, rounding up people who had outstanding court fines. After arresting and jailing them, the City of Gulfport processed these people through a court proceeding at which no defense attorney was present or even offered. Many people were jailed for months after hearings lasting just seconds. While the City collected money, it also packed the jail with hundreds of people who couldn’t pay, including people who were sick, physically disabled, and/or limited by mental disabilities. SCHR filed suit to stop these illegal practices. For a copy of the Complaint, click here. For related news coverage, click here.
Other financial distortions
Debtors prisons are but one example of financial incentives that have a distorting effect on the criminal justice system. Criminal justice policies – how many prison beds to build, whether to arrest someone or cite them, what sentences to impose – should be primarily concerned with making us safer. But the profit motive is increasingly distorting the system.
Many counties throughout the South, for example, are committing scarce dollars to building larger jails in anticipation of securing a lucrative contract with the federal government to house detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the United States Marshals Service or even prisoners from other counties or other states. One example would be the importation of incarcerated women from Connecticut to a private prison in Aliceville, AL. As another example, the design of work release programs – something that should be focused on developing skills and reducing recidivism – is often driven primarily by an interest in collecting as much money as possible from the prisoner-workers. The privatization of probation, imprisonment, and other parts of the criminal justice system create incentives for expanding the criminalization of poor people.
85 Comments (Poor Debtors Prisons Across The USA)
JAKESHUMAN March 25, 2015 9:9PM
Folks, this is fascism; when there is very little demarcation between government and business. When corporations actually direct what the government does by first, buying it, then taking over government’s services for profit and then becoming it. Imagine what would have happened if we had privatized social security when Bush wanted to do it. A lot of people’s only source of retirement would have gone down in flames in 2008.
6QCKSLVR9 March 25, 2015 8:8PM
This is almost as shameful as for-profit prisons! Sieg Heil!
CHRIS3DOG March 25, 2015 7:7PM
Poor folks being introduced to the new world order…….Corporate America
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 7:7PM
Rome shall burn… History will repeat when the GOP Voters wake up to what the Democrat voters have been trying to tell them for decades.
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 7:7PM
Many of the Florida Red Light Cameras trigger when a vehicle makes a ‘right hand turn’ on the Red, even after the person stopped, and then proceeded legally to make the ‘right hand turn’. Many Jerkwater GOP states do things like this, and it is usually a poor person that get nailed for the fines and the jail terms.., the rich have other transport or professional drivers or political pull.
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 7:7PM
Check new laws being passed in GOP states, especially in OHIO.. The laws for getting license plates and driver’s licenses are changing so that military personnel and college students will have to pay hundreds when in the state as a ‘Temporary Resident’, the GOP’s purpose, to stop all the ‘illegal voting’, yeh right.
ASKAGAIN March 25, 2015 7:7PM
So what is the answer to collecting from deadbeats? Take it from the taxpayers, of course. Given that choice, go after the deadbeats.
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 7:7PM
No, just set up a payment schedule that makes sense and is affordable, or make part of the payment some sort of community service..
ASKAGAIN March 25, 2015 7:7PM
@Mac2jr @askagain – Sounds great but what happens when deadbeats fail to honor the payment schedule? I own a business and it happens often.
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 7:7PM
Most that fail to honor the payment schedule do so because the court ordered payment were not within the person’s wage and expense ranges.
Or, the schedule fails to fully inform the person paying of the actual payments, or the ‘extras’ that are tacked on to the Principal payment.
My court ordered divorce payments forgot to ‘add’ the 6% interest to the court ordered monthly payment, and although I had fully paid the ‘stated’ payments, I ended up with over a hundred thousand in ‘interest’ charges that were NOT included on the ‘Payment Stubs’..
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 6:6PM
The private prison system is set up to have ‘X’ number of Beds in each facility, and the contract with the governments is usually set-up to guarantee a 90% or more occupancy, therefore, if the jail is only 80% full, the township still pays for a 90% full jail, so it behooves the authorities to find a way to fill that 90%, which is to put more people in jail..
STEALYERTHUNDER March 25, 2015 5:5PM
Started under Bush. Obama bears some responsibility too, but southern Rightwing wacko jurisdictions are hard to stop. – – – Oh, unless people one day stop voting republican.
LASERWIZARD March 25, 2015 5:5PM
I don’t see an issue here – if Government is owed money, it is owed money. Fines and interest will accrue regardless. This situation is not a surprise – if your elected officials whom you voted for approved this setup, then you only have yourselves to blame. The solution is simple – don’t violate the law – and if you do, pay the fine or contest it in court. The poor and lazy have no excuse for violating the law. Perhaps when adults start taking responsibility for their actions, we won’t have to privatize what Government doesn’t want to deal with.
The poor don’t get an exemption from paying the fines (and interest) on the penalties they accrue from violating the law. If we can be compelled to buy health insurance that covers us for the wrong gender and we can be fined for not having it, then I feel nothing for the poor who get a taste of their own leftist government they voted in.
BENJAMINDOVER666 March 25, 2015 6:6PM
@laserwizard I’m glad that you don’t see an issue.
By the way, there may come a day when your city is having a major budget crunch, and they ask the police department to increase the funds. When this happens, there is a chance that an officer will pull you over for speeding, even though you were not speeding.
If you have a lawyer to fight it, then good luck for you.
If not, then see you in jail.
Never, ever, ever assume that you have to do something wrong in order for the police to ticket you, arrest you, or even kill you. Innocent people die on death row, you know.
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 7:7PM
City needs a new court House, and therefore will order the police to increase tickets, where up to 50% or more of each ticket goes to the ‘Building fund’…
MAC2JR March 25, 2015 7:7PM
Got into an intersection making a left hand turn, the light was 15 feet behind the ‘Red Light’ senors, and was not red when entering the intersection, but the car immediately in front did not turn left, but made a full-stop, and then a ‘U’ turn, thus bring me to a stop with the rear wheel in the senor’s trap. the ticket was $250, to fight it would mean a day at court, and if I loss the argument, which I was informed would happen, a boost in the fine to over $550. The alternative was to take a ‘course’ at a PRIVATE FLORIDA Company’s website or local location for $225.00 plus $40 for the State…
Thus the “American Safety Council” got a ‘gift’ from the state and me.. for a legal turn that turned illegal after it was in process.
INMCLEANNOVA March 25, 2015 5:5PM
Welcome to the United Corporations of America, Inc.
Pay up or go straight to jail and do not collect 200 dollars.