Updated: Jul 9, 2021
This post is part three of an ongoing series.
Part 1: Ponder This
Part 2: Harmless Error
You’ve now read about how many people are incarcerated in the U.S.
You’ve seen how easy it is to get a death sentence in the country claiming to have the best system of justice in the entire world.
You’ve seen just some of the ineptitude of the judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and lawyers one and all, but are they really inept? After all they, and their brethren, are the ones who design, legislate and enact the laws that keep them in business. Some judges do not know the law, but others know it well and apply it harshly nonetheless. Constitutional violations on the part of the courts are plentiful, and go on because of the ineffectiveness of public defenders, the corrupted police departments who violate Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force while making arrests without probable cause or reasonable suspicion to begin with. First Amendment rights are violated when suppressing cell phone cameras filming police activity in a public setting. Fourteenth Amendment rights are violated when judges, police and other officials discriminate and disregard due process and equal protection under the law.
Money bail is the key to the entire system and processes that imprison so many. People arrested are held pending trial unless they can pay bail. If they cannot make bail they're held an indefinite amount of time while under pressure by their public defender to plead guilty so they can either get out and back to their jobs and family, or go to prison, this while also being sentenced to expensive fees and fines.
In North Carolina defendants have to pay a “court fee” and the full value of the defense services “provided” to them, (if you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided for you.”) During the 1990’s, the need for more revenue prompted public officials to increase amounts for fines and come up with new expensive fees. Police were subsequently required to up their quotes for arrests, which continue to increase.
Florida, in 1996, added more than twenty sets of fees to the existing ones and has added even more since. The state repealed most of the exemptions for those unable to pay, and tacked on a mandate that defendants pay for the costs of their own prosecutions and public defenders regardless of their ability to do so.
Jonathan Smith, a former head of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Dept. was quoted as saying, “In New Orleans the bail system is what makes the whole corrupt system work”. The bondsmen went to the states legislators and convinced them to apply a 3 percent increase to the already existing 10 percent bail fee which is then divided among the prosecutor, public defender and jailer.
The size of the convicted's debt increases while they are in prison or on parole. National Public Radio reported that there were forty one states that charged for room and board while in prison and jail.
In California, one county charged almost 150 dollars per day to stay in their jail. Los Angeles County jail alone, holds over 10,000 people and California has a prison population of over 130,000. Not only is it just room and board charged but persons convicted are charged for criminal lab fees, funds for criminal construction, prosecution reimbursement and even fees associated with the emergency response to the crime.
Prisoners are charged for medical expenses even though states, by law, must see to their healthcare. An example of this is one prisoner in Texas was found unresponsive in solitary confinement and then taken to a hospital where he was pronounced deceased. The City of Dallas sent his parent a bill for more than a thousand dollars for the ambulance ride.
The State of Georgia is the biggest in the for-profit world of probation with around 250,000 cases in 2018. With it’s courts issuing close to 125,000 arrest warrants for unpaid fees that year alone. The private companies in Georgia collected 900 million in fines, court costs and restitution. There are 49 other states.
The number of people on probation rose from around 800,000 adults in 1997 to more than 4 million in 2010. I regretfully cannot access the number of juveniles on probation. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington State, and Columbia Legal Services conducted a four county study, finding, that included with the state imposed 500 dollar victim penalty assessment, a required 100 dollar DNA database fee, and a 12 percent interest rate on the initial amount owed, each court can impose a 100 dollar collection fee, annually, along with the twenty other fees, a few of which are having a jury trial or serving a warrant.
Many such scenarios exist all around this country, and they all add up to this: prosecuting people, taking their money, jailing them for non-payment or sending them to prison so that the tax payers have to pay for them while also paying to build more and more prisons to ‘house’ them.
One judge was heard as saying, “you have a choice- pay now or go to jail and get daily interest charged against what is owed for the State to prosecute you”.
Judges take into account financial resources, employment, criminal record and ties to the community. Unions lobby with great success for the increase in prison construction, and bail bondsmen help to make certain that the newly erected and ever bigger jails remain full. Close to 15,000 bail bond agents write approximately 14 billion in bonds nationally each year. Jail and prison populations continue to grow.
If you have gotten this far into this particular post, it means you care about something, or maybe you are just appalled by the depths to which the ’good’ morally superior law enforcing citizens of this country have sank.
Fyodor Dostoevasky was insightful when he said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”.
It’s all a huge problem, and a bit daunting, Never think that you cannot possibly make a difference. You can.
Write me, get to know me better. Look deeper into this site and my story. Ask yourself; How can I at least help one…..